Visa Shortage Leaves U.S. Firms Competing for Foreign Talent

May 18, 2008 11:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
With work visas scarce, businesses are pushing Congress to expand access to highly skilled foreign workers. Critics say American workers could fill the gap.

30-Second Summary

On April 2, the day this year’s application season opened, the U.S. government received an estimated 200,000 requests for H-1B temporary work visas allowing companies to hire highly skilled foreign employees.

Less than a third will be granted.

A annual lottery is held for the coveted visas, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates predicted this year’s allotment of 65,000 would likely be gone in just one day, for the fifth year in a row.

“The unfortunate reality is that two countries alone, China and India, produce 10 times as many engineers as the United States does,” said CEO Tod Loofbourrow of Authoria Talent Management, who applied for two software architects.

Many companies say without visas, jobs will go unfilled, slowing growth in promising U.S. economic sectors, such as the technology industry.

But critics say U.S. companies are more interested in hiring relatively low-wage overseas workers than investing in better education for Americans.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley argues there is a “dire need to better train American students and workers.”

Others are concerned foreign workers may swell the ranks of those seeking permanent residence, and worry that below-market wages paid to visa workers could lower overall technology workforce income.

But after Gates testified before Congress for an increase in the cap on H-1B visas, Congress introduced two bills to expand the program. The legislation has broad support.

“Allowing the cap to stay so low effectively exiles not only the world's best and brightest but also the U.S. companies that employ them,” The Washington Post wrote.

Headline Links: ‘U.S. Tech Companies Roll the Dice for Worker Visas’

Related Topics: Congress considers raising visa lottery cap

Opinion & Analysis: Tech growth slows, debate over visa expansion

Background: Number of applications keeps growing

Reference: History of highly skilled worker visas and who qualifies


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