According to a guest piece in yesterday’s TechCrunch by Vivek Wadhwa, immigrant workers in the US on H1B visas (those issued to highly skilled professionals) would create a lot more American jobs if the government would reduce restrictions on this visa class.
Consider for a moment that between 1995-2005, one-quarter of all technology and engineering startups in the US were created by immigrants; 52% of the companies in Silicon Valley were founded by non-US born workers. These so-called “immigrant-founded” companies employed 450,000 workers in the US in 2005. In 2006, more than 25% of US global patents had foreign-born authors.
The US only makes 60,000 H1B visas available each year. For years, US employers, especially those in the high-tech industry have been asking the government to increase this limit — not to take jobs away from Americans, but rather to fill positions with qualified individuals. Additionally, foreign workers on the H1B visa must wait years for that visa to turn over into a green card (permanent residence). During that time talented workers remain in jobs that they may actually become overqualified for or they grow frustrated and return home, becoming “unwilling competitors” to the US companies that trained them.
Typically, workers with an H1B visa cannot start a new business in America. The TechCrunch piece argues that they should be able to because their startups would create more new American jobs. These immigrants could be rewarded for their efforts to boost the US economy with a faster track to a green card, and thus free up H1B visa slots for a new pool of talented foreign workers that could continue to help the US economy recover and prosper. (Read more)