Noncitizens entering the U.S. on a temporary or permanent basis must first obtain what's known as a visa. Many types of visas are available. H-1B visas, for instance, are offered to foreign workers who possess unique skills valuable to employers.
According to government data, there has been a rise in the number of H1-B visa petitions for employers specifically operating in the tech industry.
H1-B visa petitions rise
Specifically, an H1-B visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa available to foreign workers who carry a special knowledge in a certain field considered alluring to a particular U.S. company.
Businesses in fields such as mathematics, medicine, education, and business, among many others, can apply for a Labor Condition Application, or LCA, with the United States Department of Labor. The employer provides supporting documentation and requisite fees and the petition is placed into a pool.
Each year, the U.S. government grants a limited number of H1-B visas. This year, 85,000 H1-B visas (65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for workers who hold advanced master's degrees in a specialty) are allotted for the 2016 fiscal year. Which employers will be granted a visa is determined by a computer generated type lottery system.
This year, H-1B petitions submitted for the 2016 quota in the tech industry hit record numbers. There were a total of 233,000 H1-B visa petitions for workers with knowledge in the technological fields of science, engineering and computer programming.
Time to raise the visa cap?
Sadly, given the limits in the number of H1-B visas granted, many will be turned away from high profile U.S. tech companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook. According to Compete America, an immigration advocacy group for educated foreign professionals, the total number is typically around half a million each year.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and many other high profile individuals in the tech industry argue that caps limit U.S. economic prosperity and job growth for citizens.
Kate Hansen, representative with FWD.us, stated that "every foreign-born student who graduates from an American University with an advanced degree in STEM creates an average of 2.62 jobs for American workers."
Compete America and the National Foundation for America Policy suggests that number could be as high as five additional jobs per every H1-B visa.
It remains to be seen whether we will see a rise in the cap in upcoming years. If the need to attract the "world's greatest minds" is vital to ensuring that the U.S. economy continues to grow, we might.