US Reaches H1-B Visa Limit On First Day

Each year, we’ve reached the cap of H1-B visa applications earlier and earlier. This year, we have met (and nearly doubled) the cap on the very first day the application process is open.

US reaches visa cap, skilled workers out of luck

Technology companies may face a shortage of skilled workers later this year after U.S. immigration services reached its annual quota for visa applications in one day.

“Clearly there is a need for science and engineering talent in this country that is not being met by home-grown talent,” said William Morin, director of government affairs for Applied Materials Inc., the world’s biggest supplier of equipment for making microchips.

“These are people who are going to develop the next big thing, and you’re driving people offshore. It boggles the mind that we would come to this point,” Morin said.

The Citizenship and Immigration Services received a record of more than 150,000 applications for the H-1B visa on Monday, nearly double the number of visas it can grant for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2007.

Individuals cannot apply for the visa. The employer must apply or submit a petition on the worker’s behalf. The visa is good for up to six years.

I’m a big proponent of immigration, but I can at least understand some of the arguments about importing other countries’ poor people. I disagree with it, but I understand it. Either way, those arguments clearly don’t apply here.

These individuals aren’t going to show up first, and start looking for work later. They’ve got jobs lined up. And we’re not talking about sub-minimum wage, off-the-books cash work. We’re talking about college graduates who will be working in jobs well above the median household income in this country. Many are young, single, and high-income, which makes them an absolutely huge source of tax revenues for the government. As the article points out, we’re talking about the people who are going to come here and make our economy stronger, which will make all of our lives better.

And yet we keep them out. What’s going to happen? Well, it’s pretty simple. Faced with these restrictions, faced with the high corporate tax burden, high regulatory burden, and the already-high cost of employing skilled workers in a country with such a high standard of living, these companies are going to outsource. While I’m also not against outsourcing as a natural phenomenon, I think our government shouldn’t be using public policy to encourage it.

It doesn’t take an economist or an engineer to tell you that importing smart people is good policy. But then, when has our government ever followed good policy?