Highly-Skilled Immigrants: Ingredients for Technological Advancements

By: John Jusu

With the presidential election of 2016 looming, candidates have made efforts to highlight immigration reform within the United States. One of the biggest issues within this controversial topic is the issues surrounding the U.S.’s H-1B visa program. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows U.S. employers to recruit and employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations within the U.S. for a specified period of time. This program allows these foreign workers to legally live and work in the U.S. for a total of six consecutive years, and entitles their spouses and children (under the age of 21) to accompany them while on an H-4 visa. However, the spouses and children have to obtain their own work visa in order to gain employment.

Although there are many opponents of this program, highly skilled immigrants play a vital role in our country’s technological advancements. The U.S. thrives on its ability to innovate and invent potentially life-changing products. Over the last decade, job growth in the U.S. was three times faster in innovation-rich fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) than in the rest of the U.S. economy. However, employers in these fields have had a hard time filling these booming positions with homegrown, American talent. The number of native-born American students concentrating in STEM fields is growing at just 0.8 percent per year, far lower than other fields. Therefore, highly-skilled H-1B visa holders are needed to satisfy these ever-growing needs in order to ensure that the next technological breakthrough will take place on American soil.

Highly-skilled immigrants are at the forefront of the successes being realized by some of the top and most prestigious companies in the U.S., such as Qualcomm, Merck, and General Electric. Nearly 25.3 percent of technology and engineering businesses launched in America between 1995 and 2005 were founded by someone who was identified as an immigrant. Despite the program’s criticisms, the U.S. has received a benefit by employing these individuals. In order to stay competitive with its international competitors, the U.S. has to continue to strive toward the goal of scientific evolution. The end result for this type of improvement could likely solidify an economic boom for this country, ultimately leading to an increase in employment opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as a decrease in the unemployment rate in the U.S.

While antagonists have ill-will toward the utilization of highly-skilled immigrants, there needs to be a realization that there is often a skills gap that the H-1B programs seeks to bridge. Integrating these individuals within the U.S.’s top innovation systems would likely lead to expansion possibilities. This boost in ingenuity is the key to long-term economic growth – a goal which is the pillar of every nation’s blueprint for the future.

Sources:

Lauren C. Williams, Trump Hits A Nerve Talking About High-Skill Immigrant Visas, THINK PROGRESS, August 21, 2015.

Zhang & Associates, P.C., U.S. Immigration Attorneys and Counselors, http://www.hooyou.com/h-1b/.

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