Give Startups The Top Talent They Need To Innovate

Just as it has done the past four consecutive years, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it has received more than enough H-1B work visa petitions, from U.S. employers, to meet the numerical limit for cap-subject H-1B visas for this year. This means, once again, USCIS received in excess of both 65,000 general H-1B cap petitions for individuals with at least a Bachelor’s degree and in excess of 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree H-1B petitions, in the first week of April.

So here we go again with another H-1B visa lottery. While we don’t yet know the numbers, all estimates are that USCIS likely received a record number of H-1B petitions this week. Most likely in excess of 300,000! Based on last year’s numbers (over 233,000 H-1B petitions received in the first week), U.S. businesses had about a 35% chance of securing an H-1B visa for a highly-skilled foreign employee in the lottery. If we assume USCIS received 300,000 petitions this year, it will mean American companies may have less than a 30% chance of employing the foreign talent they need.

For those unaware, the H-1B visa generally represents one of the only ways for U.S. companies to hire highly-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work on a temporary basis in the U.S.. Congress placed a limit on the amount of H-1B visas which can be issued each year, but the supply for these visas has been exhausted every year since 2004 due to increased demand by U.S. employers seeking highly-skilled professionals to help their businesses innovate and grow. In particular, startups are experiencing a critical need for employees with STEM skills (science, technology, engineering and math), of which are in short supply and which are needed to help them innovate and grow their companies.

With businesses once again evidencing their need for labor with technical skills that they can’t find in the U.S. labor market, why are we leaving the growth of these U.S. startups up to a lottery? Why are we spending billions of taxpayer dollars to educate foreign-nationals at U.S. universities to attain the skills American companies need, only to turn away hundreds of thousands of these talented individuals who will likely find employment with America’s competitors?

It is time for Congress and the American public to embrace the reality of the world we live in and work to enact immigration reform that supports the needs of U.S. employers for high-skilled labor and provides a pathway for the best and brightest global talent to boost our economy. The sooner we embrace this, the sooner our country can grow.

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