Foreign Governments Open Doors for Skilled Foreign Workers; Should the U.S. do the same (Higher Education and Worker Visas)?
Due to an increase in demand for highly educated and skilled workers, foreign Governments like China, Australia, Chile, Singapore, and Canada are opening the doors for skilled foreign workers and even offering incentives for their native skilled workers to return to their countries to work. In order to stay competitive with business and innovation, the United States should do the same.
Increased Demand for Higher Education and Worker Visas
Seeing economic value in allowing highly educated and skilled foreigners to enter the country and work, the U.S. has programs designed specifically for highly educated and skilled workers. The major visa programs used for skilled workers are the H-1B visa (for high-skilled temporary workers), the Employment-based (EB) visa (Green Cards), and the Background L-1 Visa (Intra-company transfers). Companies who are looking for highly skilled workers often use these visa programs to recruit highly educated and skilled foreigners to work in the U.S. However, because there is ongoing concern that foreigners are taking positions from U.S. citizens, the H-1B Visa cap is 65,000 per year with an exemption for graduates of master’s and Ph.D. programs at U.S. colleges and universities of up to 20,000 per year.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the demand from U.S. businesses for skilled foreign workers has increased. On Friday, March 25, 2012, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services reported it has received about 42,000 requests for its standard H-1B visas since it began accepting applications this year. Last year during roughly the same period, only 11,200 requests were filed. The H-1B visa applications for graduates of master’s and Ph.D. programs have exceeded 16,000, compared to last year’s number of 7,900 during the same time period. With the requests coming from companies rather than individuals, it is clear there is an increase in demand for highly educated and skilled foreign workers.
The increase in demand for highly educated and skilled workers appears to be worldwide. Other Countries, such as China and Australia, have admitted a similar increase in demand and have opened their doors to increase the supply of skilled workers as well. According to a report released in March, 2012, by the Partnership for a New American Economy (an immigration group led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York), countries like China, Australia, Canada, Chile, and Singapore are offering incentives for their skilled workers to return back to their native country. According to the report, 55% of those that returned to China returned from the United States. These countries are also creating incentives for entrepreneurs to enter their country to start a business. For example, Singapore gives a one-year visa as well as matching funds to foreign entrepreneurs who invest $50,000, with the possibility of renewal. Chile offers work visas and subsidies of up to $40,000 to technology entrepreneurs who go there to start businesses. Currently, the U.S. has no such financial incentive program.
Critics also point out one of the problems of the current immigration policy. The U.S. allow skilled workers to come to the U.S. to work for leading innovators, and then force them to move back to their country to benefit their country’s economy rather than the United States’. If we allowed these highly educated and skilled workers to remain in the United States, they would continue to benefit the U.S. economy. According to a report by the Technology Policy Institute in March 2009, roughly 182,000 foreign graduates of U.S. colleges and universities would have remained in the country if there were less green card and H1B visa constraints for the period between 2003 and 2007. The report concluded that the departure of these foreign graduates caused roughly a $13.6 billion loss to the US’ GDP.
With an increase in demand from U.S. businesses for skilled foreign workers, will the U.S. government meet the demand?
With increased demands for highly educated and skilled foreign workers, the U.S. should follow the lead of other countries by creating policies that encourage those highly educated and skilled individuals to work and remain in the United States. Opponents argue that opening the doors too much would take away jobs that could have gone to U.S. workers. However, the U.S. must stay competitive with business and innovation by adjusting to meet increased demand for highly educated and skilled foreign workers in the U.S finding the correct balance is the real challenge.
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