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High-tech visas going, going, gone

April 1 marked the opening day to apply for high-skilled work visas for use in specialized fields (H-1B visas). Last year the 65,000 H-1B visas were gone in a day with 150,000 total applicants. Last week they were again snatched up in a matter of hours and the total number of applicants is expected to be more than double that of last year. With the continued demand for high-skilled labor, it’s hard to see why Congress hasn’t adjusted the arbitrary cap to meet real labor demands.
For several years the U.S. Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers, along with corporate leaders like Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp., have called on Congress to remove, or at least raise, the cap on H-1Bs. Still they resist, and it only does a disservice to America’s competitive position.
Consider these two facts and you’ll see why. First, K-12 education of American students in science, technology, engineering, and math is falling seriously short of the needs of industry. Second, the majority of university students seeking advanced degrees in these fields are foreign nationals — so are most advance degreed employees in Arizona technology companies. The problem is apparent. If we’re not educating American students in these fields, and at the same time are limiting the number of skilled workers who can come in from abroad, the U.S. will stymie its ability to compete in an advanced economy.
Consider also that the U.S. welcomes students from abroad to study at our universities and then makes it very difficult for those students to use their degrees here in the U.S. The result is they take their American educations back to their home countries and compete with American business. It simply makes no sense to maintain regulations that significantly restrict the availability of human capital to American businesses. Ultimately it reduces our ability to become a leading edge world innovator.
The case is simple. The U.S. Congress must eliminate or raise the cap on high skilled work visas if America wants to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Mark Dobbins is chairman of the Arizona Manufacturers Council and vice chair of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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