WASHINGTON (January 29, 2013) - Following President Obama's announcement regarding comprehensive immigration reform, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) calls on Congress to include specific changes to the national high skill immigration system in any package that is adopted.
High skill immigration, particularly in STEM fields, brings needed talent to power U.S. innovation, boosting jobs and living standards. The system now in place does not meet the workforce needs of business establishments in America and limits intelligent, driven and technically skilled individuals from bringing their talents to the United States. In addition, many of our competitor nations have put in place specific policies to attract foreign high skill workers, which could further hamper U.S. global competitiveness.
"Improving the system regulating high-skilled immigration needs to be a key focus of any immigration reform bill," adds Robert Atkinson, President of ITIF. "We cannot continue to fall behind other nations in attracting the highly skilled individuals to our shores."
Under current law, a special visa, the H-1B, is issued to skilled foreign workers to allow temporary employment in the United States in fields where there is a shortage of domestic workers. A hard cap of 65,000 visas is allowed per year, which does not come close to meeting demand, particularly in STEM-related fields where the U.S. increasingly falls behind other nations in terms of workforce skills.
"The rigid H-1B cap does not provide any flexibility to changing market forces, nor does it meet the reality of current economic need," Atkinson adds.
To address the problem, ITIF urges Congress to consider including the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (I-Squared) in its reform deliberations. The bi-partisan bill, authored by Senators Christopher Coons (D-DE), Orin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), would allow the H1-B cap to rise automatically, up to 300,000, based on demand, allowing employers to attract foreign skills if American workers cannot fill the requisite job openings. And by raising the fees on visas, the Act also provides a reliable source of sorely needed funding to improve STEM education programs targeted at helping American residents get the skills companies need to be more innovative and globally competitive.
"I-Squared offers a common sense solution to the high skill immigration issue by allowing companies access to the skills they need, while also assisting American workers in developing the talents necessary to better meet those needs," Atkinson says.