Since President Obama gave the address about his executive action for immigration reform and his plan to action in November 2014, there has been even more buzz about the topic, both positive and negative. In January 2015, the U.S. Senate introduced a bill (the Immigration Innovation or I-Squared Act of 2015) to reform immigration laws for highly skilled workers that will have a significant impact on our country’s economy and its workforce. This includes raising the H-1B visa cap to between 115,000 and 195,000 depending on market conditions from the current cap of 65,000 and allowing spouses on a dependent visa to work.
I’m not talking about immigrants who have come to this country by crossing the borders illegally to work for less than minimum wage. But rather, those who have come here to achieve a higher education and work on student visas or those that already possess a higher degree and have received their H-1B visas. These individuals have highly sought after skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) and have earned bachelors or master’s degrees.
As a quarter-million Americans turn 65 each month and baby boomers continue to retire at a significant rate, their skilled positions are left unfilled. This is just one of many reasons that increasing the H-1B visa cap is important to the American workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting 1.4 million job openings between 2012 and 2022 over 13 STEM occupations. Many universities have also added degree programs to their curriculums to address the need of today’s high demand fields.
The technology industry in the U.S. lacks enough skilled workers to fill the jobs currently in demand. Individuals who hold H-1B visas have the skill sets employers need to continue operating in the U.S. These individuals are joining the workforce of U.S. citizens to meet the over-abundant demand that the U.S. economy has to offer. This is allowing companies to continue doing business in the U.S. while offering hundreds of other jobs.
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work every day with bright foreign nationals that have the desired skills our clients are looking for. Like you and me, these individuals are looking for financial stability and the ability to provide their children with a good education. They strive to keep their families together, become permanent residents and own homes. As the cost of living continues to rise, the U.S. has become a country where both partners tend to work outside the home in order to financially support the family.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders. This is just one of the many important elements of President Obama’s executive action that will not only help close the growing STEM skills gap, but will allow foreign nationals and their families to achieve the stability they’re looking for.
There is no doubt that immigration reform will have a significant impact on our country as a whole. The ability to employ more qualified workers in the U.S. in the technology industry will be important throughout years to come. Allowing more H-1B visa holders and extending employment out to H-4 dependents will keep jobs in the U.S. as the demand for STEM occupations continues to grow.