Skip to main content

Give more visas to foreign-born workers

By Michael Beckerman, Special to CNN
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon April 1, 2013
Tech giants like Facebook support immigration policy changes that will make it easier for highly skilled workers to stay in the U.S., writes Michael Beckerman.
Tech giants like Facebook support immigration policy changes that will make it easier for highly skilled workers to stay in the U.S., writes Michael Beckerman.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Beckerman: Our immigration system stifles innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Beckerman: The scarcity of H-1B visas creates major roadblocks for U.S. companies
  • He says many unfilled jobs require highly skilled foreign workers who need visas
  • Beckerman: Retaining the best and the brightest is critical to our economic recovery

Editor's note: Michael Beckerman is president and CEO of the Internet Association, an organization that represents the interests of numerous Internet companies.

(CNN) -- Anxiety and stress are not typically associated with April 1, a day widely celebrated with practical jokes and tomfoolery. However, for thousands of people, April 1 is no joking matter -- it begins the official filing period for H-1B immigration petitions.

The current immigration system stifles our country's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and can cause highly skilled professionals to leave our country and ultimately compete against us.

H-1B visas -- three- to six-year work visas sponsored by willing U.S. businesses -- allow foreign-born graduates of U.S. colleges and highly skilled professionals to work legally in this country. For fiscal year 2014, only 85,000 H-1B work visas are available. Of these, 20,000 are reserved for candidates with master's degrees from U.S. institutions. Not only do these high-skilled professionals face a tough job market, but also strict immigration deadlines with an even more restrictive visa cap.

Michael Beckerman
Michael Beckerman

The scarcity of H-1B visas, coupled with the complicated process of securing these visas, creates a major roadblock for U.S. companies. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that tens of thousands of unfilled jobs require highly skilled employees. Companies cannot meet the high demand for candidates who possess the skill and knowledge necessary to fill positions where no U.S. candidate is qualified.

According to the National Foundation for American Policy, a 2008 study shows that for every new H-1B visa requested, U.S. technology companies increase their employment by five workers, thereby dispelling misconceptions that high-skilled foreign workers take jobs away from Americans.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



For U.S. companies and foreign candidates alike, the process of getting an H-1B begins far in advance of the April 1 filing date. While candidates start the job search as early as possible to find potential employers willing to sponsor them, companies are forced to make hiring decisions months in advance to ensure that immigration petitions are ready for submission on the first day of the filing period. It is imperative that companies file their petitions on April 1, or at the very least during the first week of April, because of the high demand for these visas.

Just last year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services exhausted the available pool of work visas in mere weeks. This year, USCIS and immigration lawyers expect such a high demand for H-1B visas that the agency may need to rely on a lottery system. Once USCIS meets its H-1B quota, companies and candidates must wait up to a year before they are eligible to file additional petitions.

This complicated system has significant ramifications for all parties involved. For instance, a shortage of work visas and the short filing window once a year prevent companies from hiring highly skilled and educated candidates requiring new H-1B visas on a daily basis. According to Compete America, during fiscal year 2009, 96% of employers hired 10 or fewer individuals on new H-1B petitions and 69% hired only one. Ultimately, companies often hire these individuals into other countries instead of the United States to obtain legal work authorization.

Potential candidates also suffer the consequences of the broken immigration system. Those who miss the window have to wait for up to a year to participate in the process. Many of them either are forced to return to their native countries or choose to return to avoid stalling their careers.

In his recent book, "The Immigrant Exodus," Vivek Wadhwa described the case of Anand Chhatpar and his wife, who were both from India. They met while pursuing graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Together, they launched Fame Express, a startup that produced game applications for Facebook.

In their quest for permanent residency, the couple were legally obligated to return to their native India to await approval of their application. Although the couple eventually launched two successful American businesses, USCIS denied their application. The couple, their jobs, their employees, tax revenues and purchasing power now reside in India, competing directly with American firms.

Such cases do not benefit the United States. Our lawmakers understand that retaining the best and the brightest is critical to accelerating the country's economic recovery. We should help foreign graduates and foreign professionals, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, through an increased number of available H-1B work visas and a STEM green card program.

Taking these actions will lead to more innovation and job creation and ensure that the U.S. maintains its position as a strong leader in the world.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Beckerman.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT