by Gary Beach

Memo to Congress:Cut H1B Visas by 50%

Jul 03, 20074 mins
IT Leadership

There is much debate about the H1B visa program, a non-immigrant visa category created by the Immunization and Nationality Act that allows employers to “seek temporary help (up to six years) from skilled foreigners who have the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree education”.

The program is currently capped at 65,000 visas per year and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has already received over 130,000 appliications for those 65,000 visas slated to be filled in the fed fiscal beginning on October 1, 2007.

Those wishing to keep the cap at 65,000 say increasing it would cost jobs for American workers. A recent video posted on YouTube by a Pittsburgh law firm provides vivid documentation of that “here’s how not to hire Americans” strategy in action.

The camp vying to raise the cap are largely U.S. based tech firms – and Indian outsourcers – who claim hundreds of thousands of tech jobs go unfilled in America because of the tech skills shortage. Aside: a recent CIO Magazine Tech Poll study reports almost 40% of CIOs claim IT labor is “hard to find and keep”.

The “raise the cap” group puts pressure on Congress to do so or face the prospect of job losses in their districts, something no elected official wants to face.

Both sides are dead wrong in this debate.

My solution: starting with this upcoming fiscal Congress should CUT the H1B visa cap by 50% to 32,500 and then sunset the entire misguided program by fiscal year 2014.

Here’s my reasoning.

Look at the big picture. The People’s Republic of China, with 1.2 billion people, produces about 370,000 science/math/engineering degrees each year. Put another way, about .00032% of its population.

Go west to India, a nation of 900 million residents, and they produce about 317,000 such degrees…or about exactly the same percentage as the PRC.

Go further west to the United States. Out of a population of 300 million we annually produce about 58,000 science/math/engineering degrees.

Forget about the raw numbers….we will never catch China or India.

Look at the percentages. Our 58,000 degrees is about .00019% of our population. That’s a loooooooong way – 70% – behind China and India.

As a starting point for America we need to put in place a national technology/education policy that aims to match that .00032 percent within

a decade.

Not quite the let’s put a man on the moon and bring him home in a decade challenge issued by President Kennedy, but at least it’s a start.

To match China and India we need to produce about 40,000 additional science/math/engineering degrees a year.

The 57,000 homegrown degrees plus the 32,500 H1B visa’s almost gets us there.

The key component of my idea, however, is not cutting the cap in half. Nope, that’s the easy part.

The real teeth of the idea is sunseting it within six years. Facing that reality, I do believe firms in America would be more open to hiring skilled, experienced – and yes – more expensive tech talent in America….and possibly most important is this… says to all those young Americans in middle school, high school and college “study math/engineering/science…when you graduate there will be jobs for you in America”

Nothing good happens without pain. I am the first to admit this radical idea would cause initial pain….probably for four+ years.

But the upside is this: H1B visas are poorly constructed band aids when the solution is screaming for a systemic tourniquet change.

We need to ween our country off the addiction of H1B visas…and we need to do it now.

Write your Congressional representative. Tell him/her you want Congress to cut the cap in half and then phase the whole thing out by 2014.

Post this blog anywhere you can.

Let  “Cut the Cap” be our rallying cry!!!!!