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Friday, August 26, 2005

Abolish H1B Cap : WSJ

Rather than trying to guess the number of foreign workers the US economy needs year-to-year, Congress would be better off removing the cap altogether and letting the market decide, writes the WSJ. Each year, the U.S. issues a set number of H-1B visas to educated foreign professionals with specialized skills. Earlier it was announced that the annual H-1B cap of 65,000 already has been reached for next year. What this effectively means is that any number of fields dependent on high-skilled labor could be facing worker shortages: science, medicine, engineering, computer programming. It also means that tens of thousands of foreigners - who've graduated from U.S. universities and applied for the visas to stay here and work for American firms - will be shipped home to start companies or work for our global competitors.
The size of foreign workforce in the US is mainly determined by supply and demand, not Benedict Arnold CEOs or a corporate quest for "cheap" labor. Ever since the H-1B quota was first enacted in 1992 there have been several years amid a soft economy in which it hasn't been filled. When U.S. companies can find domestic workers to fill jobs, they prefer to hire them. Surveys show that in the valley, 52% of "foreign-born scientists and engineers have been involved in founding or running a start-up company either full-time or part-time." A central irony here is that opponents of lifting the H-1B cap also tend to be the biggest critics of outsourcing, which is fueled by the arbitrary cap. American companies don't have that luxury. They operate in the real world of heightened competition.

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