H-1B Cap Shows Urgent Need for High-Skilled Immigration Reform

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013, 12:00am

by Semiconductor Industry Association

This week, the U.S. government began accepting applications from employers for H-1B visas for highly educated workers who want to fill open jobs in the U.S. Unfortunately, the demand for skilled immigrant workers far exceeds the current cap of 65,000 H-1B visas (plus an additional 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities), so the limit likely will be reached by the end of this week.

The short window for H-1B applications is emblematic of one of the critical challenges facing our economy: many U.S. tech companies have key job openings that they simply cannot fill.  There are far fewer U.S.-born graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees than there are job openings in STEM fields.  To fill the void, employers often look to hire qualified and skilled immigrants, many of whom have been educated in the U.S. and have utilized research programs that receive billions of dollars annually in federal funds. Yet due to our outdated immigration system, these entrepreneurs are forced to leave the U.S. after graduating, taking with them critical jobs and forfeiting the return on taxpayers’ investment.

For years, SIA has been a strong advocate for reforming our high-skilled immigration system so the best and brightest minds from around the world can stay in the U.S., create jobs, spur innovation and drive economic growth. Unfortunately, the overall immigration reform debate in Washington has been deadlocked for years, essentially blocking high-skilled immigration reform.  But there are recent signs of headway in achieving comprehensive immigration reform, possibly opening the door for the enactment of high-skilled immigration provisions.

Several bipartisan plans for comprehensive immigration reform have been proposed in recent weeks, and the Senate is expected to begin consideration of immigration reform legislation later this month. One plan, the Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared), would increase the number of high-skilled visas and green cards while also creating a STEM Education fund supported by employer fee increases. The added revenue from these fees would be dispersed to states to strengthen STEM education programs across America, with the goal of increasing the number of STEM graduates in the U.S.

SIA will continue to promote domestic STEM education programs as well as high-skilled immigration reform in order to boost American competitiveness and ensure that the U.S. remains at the forefront of innovation.