H-1B Visa Dilemma - Shortage or Hype?
May 01, 2013

We recently reported tech leaders and the high-skill immigrants have different ideas on how to reform the H-1B visa program.

While the tech industries seek to exand the number of yearly visas granted, some immigrants argue the current system needs a more complex fix.

H-1B visas allow workers to stay in the U.S. only on the condition that they keep their jobs. And if workers seek out new opportunities once they've here, they have to forfeit their spot in line for a green card.

(One H-1B visa holder) says some employers are exploiting these restrictions on worker mobility.

Two immigrants we profiled have lived and worked in the U.S. for 13 years and still have no path to permanent residency. For them, reform should include the opportunity to stay in the U.S.

"For people who come here and get a master's degree, they shouldn't have to go through a visa process," Chandra said. "They should just go through an immigration process and figure out a way to get green cards."

Others are skeptical that the industry need for qualified STEM workers can't be filled by Americans. Via, The Atlantic:

“There's just one problem. That whole skills shortage? It's a myth… It still might be the case that tech companies are having trouble finding specific skill sets in certain niches (think cloud software development, or Android programming), but there simply aren't any signs pointing to a broad dearth of talent.

The most compelling argument is a look at the hiring of computer programmers. In high talent industries – like oil engineering or programming – when there is a small talent pool, wages rise with the lack of supply. This happened with oil engineers during the last decade’s energy boom.

But programmers’ salaries have remained stagnant since the dot-com bust. Here’s a graph:

Credit: The Atlantic

In the immigration bill presented by the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight, H-1B visas would increase from 65,000 to 110,000 a year depending on the needs of the work force. Companies that consist mainly of H-1B visa holders would be forced to pay fees, depending on the percentage in their work force.

As the House crafts their own sets of immigration reform bills, Republicans may be penning heavy restrictions against companies that hire H-1B visa holders. It's predicted that their bill will have measures to combat firing employees for the cheaper, more dependent labor pool that H-1B visas supply.