Tomorrow, employers may begin filing applications for the 65,000 H-1B visas that are available for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins October 1. Those that are successful will be able to hire skilled foreigners—many of whom are graduating from U.S. universities with degrees in science, mathematics, and engineering—to help their companies remain cutting-edge and create jobs for Americans. If history is a guide, these visas will be snapped up within days, and many highly qualified individuals from other countries will be forced to take their skills, their drive, and their entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere.
As America and the world fall deeper into recession, it is important to break free of the rhetoric of the political debate and refocus on the fundamentals. One fundamental is that talent is always a scarce resource. There is not enough of it to go around, and every country needs more of it. Talent is also, in today’s world, highly mobile. Our economy is part of a global economy, and our job market is part of a global job market. In such a market, employers look for the talent they need wherever they can find it, and students and skilled workers look for the places to study and work that offer them the most opportunity.
To turn away individuals with skills that we need, who want to live and work in America, under the illusion that by doing so we are protecting our economy, is to deny ourselves a resource that we need to help pull us out of the recession and put our economy on a sound footing for the future. It will cost jobs, not save them.
This association is dedicated to promoting the mobility of students and scholars across borders. The advantages of attracting these individuals to our country are well known: they are a key part of the pipeline of skilled talent from outside our borders that fuels our economy; they help our universities prepare the next generation of American college graduates for the jobs of tomorrow; and they connect us to leadership and innovation around the world. Yet we cannot be successful in the competition for these students and scholars if they know that the only way they will be able to accept jobs after graduation—with employers who need them and want to hire them—is to win the H-1B lottery.
People the world over—people with big dreams and the entrepreneurial spirit to pursue them—want to come to the United States because they know it is here that they can realize their dreams. So it has been since the first Pilgrims sailed—and so it must continue to be. Skilled immigrants fuel innovation in America. The H-1B visa system is one path for them to get here; that path needs to be open. Yes, H-1B visas are sometimes abused, and where abuses exist, they must be stopped. No one supports measures to protect the program’s integrity more strongly than its proponents. But a cap on talent is self-defeating.
We call on the 111th Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Such reform should include the removal or adjustment of unrealistic caps on temporary and permanent employment-based visa categories, which include H-1B visas and green cards. If Congress chooses not to address immigration reform comprehensively, these measures must be enacted separately. Unclogging the path to permanent residency for skilled immigrants will relieve the pressure on H-1B visas. However, these visas will still be necessary for those for whom temporary status is appropriate. Either way, America wins.
Many thanks to Andy Amsler at NAFSA for this information which was also sent to all NAFSA members via NAFSA.news.