H-1B Applications Again Go to Lottery

April 8, 2015

Days after the application period opened, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the number of H-1B temporary work visa applications received already surpasses the annual statutory cap for FY 2016. The 20,000 cap for advanced degree holders was also surpassed. With the filing period now having been closed on Apr. 7, the applications will move to a lottery process. The annual H-1B cap has been reached within five business days for the third consecutive year.

CCIA has long called for reform of the H-1B system, and of skilled immigration more broadly, that would enable U.S. technology companies to hire the skilled foreign nationals they need, rather than being forced to unilaterally disarm in the global competition for talent.

Recent comments by some opponents of the H-1B program seem to suggest that they want a prohibition of H-1B hires so long as any U.S. tech worker remains available for any tech position. This myopic view of hiring would install a Buy American regime for human resources, and represents not just a misunderstanding, but also a devaluing, of the skills and value of technology workers.

U.S. tech companies seek to hire foreign workers because they can provide skills and knowledge that match the company’s specific needs. The criteria involved in these hiring decisions are much more sophisticated than some on-paper comparison of generic values and numbers. Companies are building teams that have to compete in the real global economy, not just in a fantasy league. Companies utilize H-1B visas in order to hire not just any worker but this specific worker. In failing to recognize this, critics of the H-1B program not only do a disservice to the U.S. technology sector, but also minimize the contributions of tech workers by characterizing them as little more than interchangeable parts.

It is unconscionable that companies are forced to subject their hiring decisions to the whims of a lottery. Every year that goes by with this broken system in place is another year that U.S. companies are prevented from competing for the global talent they need. This situation must be addressed this year through reforms such as Sen. Orrin Hatch’s I-Squared Act lest we remain trapped in this infinite loop of folly beyond next April.

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