Last May 2, US Senator John Cornyn of Texas proposed an immigration reform bill called Securing Knowledge, Innovation and Leadership Act that aims to raise the number of H-1B visas allotted for foreign workers.
Foreign workers can be eligible to work in America upon issuance of H1-B visa that is usually valid for six years. The said document is renewable under special circumstances.
Under the current system, there is an annual limit of 65,000 for H-1B visas. Enactment of the proposed bill would raise the quota to 115,000 in its first fiscal year and a 20 percent increase yearly. The bill would also exempts expatriates with advanced degrees and are educated in US schools and universities from H-1b visas.
This development would surely result to the influx of foreign workers that will be competing with U.S. workers for high-tech jobs in the United States over the next 10 years.
Several solution providers welcomed the prospect of more IT talent from abroad, noting that it has been difficult finding high-tech workers with the skills their businesses need.
“If I could find people with the right skills and experience in New York, I would hire them, but I can't. So I have to go out of the country,” said Ed Solomon, co-owner of Net@Work, based in New York City.
Solomon dismissed the argument that boosting the H1-B quota would increase the likelihood that U.S. technology workers would be passed over in favor of cheap labor from overseas. “It has nothing to do with being cheaper," he said.” They're not cheaper; they're just people with certain skills that we are lacking here.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Kevin McDonald, vice president of Alvaka Networks in Huntington Beach, Calif. "The reality is that the availability of technical professionals is extremely limited, and we are having a very difficult time finding talent that has the breadth and depth of skills that we are looking for,” he said.
“When Google went public, they took up a pretty significant number of these people, and the existing quota of H-1Bs has already been reached.”
McDonald insisted that foreign workers aren't stealing jobs from U.S. tech professionals. "This may be true in more blue-collar types of jobs, but if [IT] people are unemployed in this market right now, then either skills sets are lacking or job hunting skills need polish."
Besides expanding the high-tech talent pool, the H-1B quota increase could benefit solution providers by slowing the rate of pay hikes for experienced staff. Those increases have averaged 7.5 percent per year for the past two years, more than twice the rate of inflation, according to the 2006 CRN Compensation Survey, which will be released on June 26.