Congress Debates Over H-1B Visa Applications

By Dylan Walko,
Tech & Innovation Writer

Contrary to popular belief, we no longer have the most talented and technologically savvy workers in the world. Silicon Valley does not churn out the brightest minds and the United States has recognized that the rest of the world has a substantially high supply of highly skilled workers.  Hence, the dramatic increase in H-1B working visa applications.

H-1B visas are the most common high-skilled visas for foreign workers, this year 236,000 foreigners applied to put their names into the lottery, that is 3,000 more than 2015 and in 2014 the United States only received 172,500 applications.

The visas are assigned via lottery and 20,000 of the positions are already reserved for individuals holding masters degrees or higher.

CNN Money explained how states such as Massachusetts, Colorado and New York (mostly in the city) have pushed for higher caps on the annual quotas.

Silicon Valley tech companies have realized that the greatest talent in the world comes from the Middle East and Eastern Asia for the most part and these workers are not only coming over here to work, but 28% of tech start-ups are founded by a foreign worker.

This has been statistically backed as well by a study done by the National Foundation for American Policy.  It showed that more than 50% of the US companies that are worth more than $1 billion were started by at least one foreign worker.

United States residents do not have the skills to work in these high intensity sectors that require a great deal of analytic critical thinking. STEM is the acronym used for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

These are the fields that more than 40% of foreign students are enrolled in within United States institutions. An even greater percentage of these students hold doctrines in engineering and computer science, hovering right around 57 percent, reported The Chicago Tribune. The talent pool is small in terms of naturalized citizens.

Some congress members are a fan of an increased cap, as well as a simpler path to obtaining these visas.  It not only supplies the demand, but also brings about economic gain in terms of state income taxes.

These foreign workers also get the same treatment as a US citizen working the same job.  The H-1B programs require employers to pay foreign workers the prevailing wage based on the job.

If they try to treat the immigrant as an outsourced employee they could be barred from the program as well as monetary penalties.

Yet even with these set rules and regulations employers have found loopholes to work the system. Chicago Tribune also stated that more than 40% of the workers who came into the US last year received salaries substantially lower than the prevailing wage based on the job.

It is a fine line that needs to be resolved before companies can fully utilize these H-1B programs.

Overall, these programs in the future can do two major things for the US technology private sector.  One being, bringing in the brightest minds in the world and advancing technological research. Secondly, raising the bar for US citizens to go after degrees in the STEM fields.

Competition is higher than ever before, we no longer simply see our job competition sitting next to us in class, but rather it can be someone thousands of miles away.  The world is one, and the US population is a small fish in a very large pond.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 26th print edition.

Contact Dylan at
dylan.walko@student.shu.edu

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