Immigration Reform 2013: U.S. Needs to Let in More High-Skilled Workers

Just five days after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for high skilled H-1B employment visas, the USCIS announced that it had received over 124,000 applications for the popular employment H-1B visa, well exceeding the allotted 65,000 regular visas and 20,000 special H-1B visas reserved for employees with advanced degrees. In 2012, it took until June 22 to reach the limit. This staggering gap underscores the need for meaningful immigration reform to strengthen the economy.

In the past, the quote skilled worker visas has been raised before to meet increased demand. During the dot com boom, that limit was raised to 195,000 for fiscal years 2001-2003 to accommodate the tech industry. After the limits reverted to 65,000 in 2004, Congress added 20,000 visas reserved for advanced degree holders.

According to a study done by economists at UC Davis and Colgate, "an increase in foreign STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers of 1% of total employment increased the wage of native college educated workers (both STEM and non-STEM) over the period 1990-2000 by 4-6%."

More H-1Bs would be better for the nation too. The same study found "The productivity growth and skill-based growth due to growth in foreign STEM workers may explain between 10-25% of the aggregate productivity growth and 10% of the skill-bias growth that took place in the U.S. during the period 1990-2010."

After receiving a disappointing March jobs report, Congress needs to act to get the economy running again. Providing the best and the brightest talent legal entry to the country will help get us there.