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U.S. welcomes more foreign skilled workers

Posted: 17 Feb 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Immigration Innovation  H-1B  supply chain  STEM  I-Squared 

New guidelines on immigration triple the cap on the number of foreign skilled workers allowed in under the H-1B visa programme, ultimately benefitting high-tech supply chain managers who are looking for qualified talents to fill jobs across their network.

While some are happy with the announcement, however, my concern is that the proposed changes don't go far enough to shorten the length of time it will take for an H-1B visa holder to become a U.S. citizen, a process that currently can take more than 10 years. That said, the bill will effectively increase U.S. dependence on skilled foreign workers tasked with applying their skills towards improving American innovation and job creation.

Dubbed the Immigration Innovation ("I-Squared") Act of 2015, the bill is designed to attract qualified workers in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Introduced by Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Jan. 13, the proposed bill raises the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000, and can go as high as 195,000 in years when the need arises.

H-1B overhaul

If passed without changes it will be difficult to assess the full impact the legislation will have on wages, job opportunities for American science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workers, and other aspects of business operations. However, the bipartisan bill is touted by several lawmakers. These legislators describe it as a measure that will attract the best and brightest workers, who will then be able to contribute to American's economic development.

To help companies secure talent, the proposed legislation also includes measures that will uncap the existing U.S. advanced degree exemption, which currently is limited to 20,000 per year, assist families by allowing dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States, and another proposal makes it easier for H-1B visa workers to change jobs.

I would have liked to see the newly introduced legislation apply an expiration date on H-1B visas, which I think should last for three years. Before the visa expires an H-1B visa holder, who is authorised to work on a temporary basis, should be allowed to apply for a Green Card, which gives them authorisation to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis and will speed up the day when these highly skilled workers can become U.S. citizens. Currently, H-1B visas can last as long as six years, and it is often the case that it can take more than a decade before these workers become U.S. citizens.

Over the years, the H-1B visa has garnered strong support from leaders in the high-tech sector. Companies like Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Apple Inc., and Microsoft Corp., have used the programme to hire skilled workers from China, India and other nations as a way, they say, to boost their competitive advantage. For supply chain networks, STEM skills are needed to design and develop computer hardware and software, advance chip development, run computers on the factory floor, and formulate mathematical computations that go into forecasting, financial projections and other tasks critical to supply chain planning.

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