The New York Times is currently featuring a series on skilled foreign-born workers and their limited access to H-1B visas. The Times raises the question whether these highly skilled foreign-born workers plus foreign students who have finished their degrees in US colleges should get some kind of permanent work status or have to leave and go back home?
In theory, this would give job openings to US citizens. However, because the US is not keeping up with the Indians, for example, in Math and Computer Science, can Americans fill the jobs that the high tech sector needs to stay not only competitive, but also ahead of the curve?
We need immigrant expertise to keep Silicon Valley moving forward; as the Times says: Many innovators in Silicon Valley come from overseas; 42 percent of engineers with master’s degrees and 60 percent of those with engineering Ph.D.’s in the United States are foreign-born.
Do we want these trained professionals to go home to their native countries, or do we want to share in their success with them – benefiting not only from their contributions to our tech sector (and other sectors, of course) but even in the taxes they are paying once they have made it in their fields.
The limit on H1-B visas was raised from 65,000 two times as the technology sector boomed, to 115,000 in 1999 and to 195,000 in 2001. But the number of H-1B visas reverted to 65,000 in 2004. (There are an additional 20,000 H1-B’s for people with graduate degrees from American universities.)
However, since the year 2004, there has been a growing gap between the number of H-1B visas companies look to get and those that are assigned to them through a lottery.
In 2008, companies made 163,000 applications for the 65,000 available visas. And, if I remember correctly, those were gone within a day.
Can we afford to limit the number of H 1-B visas or would we, the US, not benefit from giving qualified, highly educated immigrants the visas they need to help keep this country in the forefront of high tech and economic development?
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