Starting April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting new H-1B visa petitions for 2015. In general, H-1B visas allow companies to “create a new job for a highly-educated foreigner in the U.S. for at least three years.” In reality, this program accounts for almost all of the country's skilled immigration. However, there is an annual cap of 85,000 new visas and of those, 65,000 are given to those with at least a bachelor's degree and the other 20,000 are obtained by those with at least a master's degree.
Although 85,000 visas may sound like a high number, the demand for these visas has actually exceeded supply over the years. In fact, in 2013, the U.S. government received approximately 124,000 applications in just four days! At that point, they were forced to stop accepting applications for that year. There's no indication that this year will be any different.
Unfortunately, as an article recently published on The Wall Street Journal website pointed out, this limited amount of H-1B visas given out each year is doing the U.S. more harm than good. Wall Street Journal reporters, Gordon Hanson and Matthew J. Slaughter, had prepared a report last year for an organization known as Compete America and found that “immigrants have long been a key part of America's talent pool, helping drive the innovation that creates jobs and higher standards of living.”
It has long been reported that immigrants have been influential in certain areas. These areas include science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Currently, immigrants make up approximately 20% of STEM workers in the U.S. with bachelor's degrees and 40% of those with advanced degrees. These numbers have continued to increase over the decades.
There is a true cost to the U.S. economy “of allocating far fewer skilled-immigrant visas than companies need.” This leads to short-term problems related to lost jobs, along with long-term issues regarding “forgone ideas, innovation and connections to the world.”
There is more to the equation than simply thinking about the visa applications that get pushed aside because that year's quota has already been met. First, companies hire new talent at all times during the year, not just during the first part of April. If petitions were capable of being filed year-round, there would undoubtedly be more applications each year. This means that the U.S. is losing top talent just because the job is required during the fall, rather than the spring.
Further, there is the misconception that hiring foreign-born workers means taking jobs away from U.S.-born workers. This is simply not true. In fact, Bill Gates testified to Congress back in 2008 and said that, in reality, “for every immigrant hired at technology companies, an average of five additional employees are added as well.”
So, how can the H-1B visa process be revised? What new procedures could be put in place to help make this program better? What are your thoughts?