“This is unbelievable, this is not happening”
says Jacob Sapochnick, an immigration attorney based in San Diego, California. Thousands of employers, visa applicants and their family members couldn’t agree more. Attorney Sapochnick was describing the federal government’s Scary-tight restrictions on visas released each year to highly skilled foreign workers needed by technology firms.
This year, as in the past, 65,000 of these H-1B visas are available. On April 2, the first day on which applications were accepted for 2007, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received more than 180,000 petitions from companies needing them to hire scientists, engineers, architects, computer programmers, researchers and other highly trained employees. It’s clear that a lot of skilled workers wishing to live and work here are out of luck and employers are in big trouble.
The current H-1B limit of 65,000 is an arbitrary number that needs to be revised upward to fit current demands. It may once have made some political (if not economic) sense when tech was slumping and U.S.-born workers were scrambling for scarce jobs, but no more.
Two House members, Democrat Louis Gutierrez of Illinois and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona, have offered a bill that would raise the cap to 115,000, with possible further hikes to 180,000. It would provide further slots for people who have earned advanced degrees in the U.S.
Whatever else it does on the immigration front this year, Congress should at least stir itself to pass this bill or something similar. And we have a hunch that most lawmakers see the need for more H-1B visas.
Whatever else it does on the immigration front this year, Congress should at least direct itself to pass this bill or something similar. And we have a feeling that most lawmakers see the need for more H-1B visas.
The real threat to H-1B reform may be the pressure for a “comprehensive” immigration reform that deals with all the hard issues in one package. But the need for skilled workers is too urgent to justify putting a good H-1B bill on hold until Congress can hash out agreements on amnesty, guest workers, or residency path.
There’s just no excuse for keeping the door closed to so many of the world’s best and brightest.