H-1Bs Are Simply Too Difficult to Get
The American economy is losing out on people who could launch whole new companies and product lines
December 28, 2011
Cris Conde came from Chile to study astronomy and physics at Yale. Instead of going home after he graduated in 1981, he stayed in this country because he was able to obtain an H-1B visa with relative ease. That was lucky for us, because SunGard, the company he founded and later led as CEO, grew into one of the world's leading technology and software companies and now employs more than 21,000 people.
But today, we are losing the next generation of Cris Condes because H-1Bs are simply too difficult to get. The 65,000 annual allotment of H-1B visas is woefully inadequate, and it has been exhausted every year since 2004, often within days. As a result, the American economy is losing out on the scientists and engineers who could launch whole new companies and product lines, creating thousands of jobs for Americans.
Last week, the American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy released a report finding that each additional H-1B visa would create 1.83 additional American jobs. Other studies have shown that cities—like New York—that have experienced the greatest influx of immigrants have also experienced the strongest levels of job growth.
The future of the American economy is in our ability to innovate. The U.S. government now estimates that job growth in the innovation-rich fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is fully three times that of the rest of the economy. But the supply of workers in these fields lags far behind the explosion in demand. Even with stubbornly high unemployment in this country, more than a quarter of science and engineering employers currently report difficulty in filling open positions. Foreign high-skilled workers can help fill this gap—and provide U.S. companies with the kind of know-how necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
That's why the more than 400 mayors and business leaders have joined the Partnership for a New American Economy to urge Congress to enact sensible, jobs-based immigration reforms that have—contrary to the conventional wisdom—broad bipartisan support. Among likely voters in Iowa's Republican caucus, for instance, a recent poll found that fully 66 percent support more temporary visas for high-skilled workers. It's time for our leaders in Washington to take notice.