The H-1B visa, has become a political theme particularly under the Trump administration.
H-1B visas allow employers to recruit and employ non-U.S. workers in specialty occupations, including engineering, for a specified period of time. Each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves a maximum of 85,000 workers under this program. This program has its faults, but it’s crucial to the growth of innovation.
In recent years, bills have been proposed by lawmakers and other government officials petitioning for changes to the H-1B visa system. One proposal is to double the minimum salary that companies would be mandated to pay H-1B workers to $130,000.
According to a new report for CNBC, “Immigration has been the biggest flash point between President Trump and the tech community during the president’s first year in office. The issue is somewhat personal: More than half of the privately held tech companies with $1 billion valuations have at least one immigrant founder, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.
According to a new report, at least 57 % of Silicon Valley STEM workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher were born outside of the U.S., “foreign-born workers fill 0ver 70% of San Jose area’s IT jobs, and foreign born worker in New York are 43%.
Tech leaders have used social media, internal memos, and most consequentially, legal briefs to voice their opposition to the administration’s policies.”
Based on my experience, I believe in the value of the H-1B program overall and the importance of immigrants from all countries collaborating on engineering project. Many immigrants who get their start in the United States have gone on to found their own companies or launch products in the United States, in turn creating jobs for others.
According to the H-1B Employment Effect report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, an immigration reform think tank, bringing in new talent through H-1Bs can stimulate the economy enough to create an additional 700,000 jobs for U.S. citizens by 2020. In fact, Elon Musk as well as founder of the performance management company AppDynamics, Jyoti Bansal, both received H-1B visas, according to the National Foundation for Public Policy.
Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-term growth in the country, according to the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report states that the number of recent immigrants who are college educated is double those who arrived in 1970. Many of the new arrivals have degrees in technical fields. The report adds that highly skilled immigrants have boosted the country’s capacity for innovation and technological change, and have contributed to entrepreneurship and an increase in patents.
Immigrants who have founded companies not only hire American workers but also can help bring work from other countries to the United States. My friend Mike, a computer engineer, works for a high-tech company founded by an immigrant from India. The company has 50 American employees and just landed a contract to do work in India. The founder’s contacts in India opened up new trade and investment opportunities for U.S. businesses.
Although reform is needed to help repair a broken H-1B system, it’s important to reflect on the bigger picture to understand that one of the best economic policies we can instill in the United States is to let people in and allow them the opportunity to innovate and create.
Do you agree with Schmidt? Or do you think a cap should be put on H-1B visas?
(Part of this article was originally published by the IEEE Institute)