President & CEO
Harvey Nash USAPAC
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H-1B Update: Immigration Reform Bill Fails to Pass
In mid-June I shared with you my concern and frustration that Congress would not expand the H1-B visa program, which issues temporary work visas to highly skilled professionals in technology, science and engineering fields. Last week the Immigration Reform Bill failed to advance in the Senate, which means it will not likely go to vote this year. As InfoWorld reported last week, Microsoft and other large technology giants have shared their frustration with the failing of the bill as it would have expanded the “H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000 and exempt all foreign students who have earned a master's degree or higher from a U.S. university from the annual cap.”
You may expect that I would have the same frustrated reaction, but in some ways I am relieved. I remain frustrated that our country has not found a strategic, positive way to work on our mounting immigration problems. I remain frustrated that many people do not see how much we need to leverage specialized skills from the global talent pool in order to remain competitive in today’s most competitive fields: technology and science.
That said, I am also relieved that H1-B did not make it through the Senate. Why is that? It’s because of the restrictions some lawmakers were hoping to place on the program.
There was momentum to add restrictions to the H-1B program that would have prohibited IT staffing and consulting companies from placing H-1Bs with clients, which would absolutely be detrimental to American corporations. American companies need specialized skills and talent, which are in dire short supply nationally. For American businesses to maintain and foster a leadership position in the world, this talent shortfall needs to be addressed. And in the short term, H1-B’s are the only primary and immediate means for addressing the issue.
The IT staffing and consulting industry is designed to help businesses find the specialized temporary and long-term IT skills they need, which is why this is such an important issue for us in the industry, and for all American companies. Businesses with gaps in their IT teams rely on IT staffing and consulting companies to help fill critical IT skill needs. It makes no sense to limit the ability of IT staffing and consulting firms to accomplish their mission of delivering the best professionals for the job to their clients. In fact, what better institution is there for placing temporary foreign technology professionals than the IT staffing and consulting industry, which specialize in the placement, management and administration of contingent talent?
What the proposed restrictions, as well as the Bill’s failure to advance, tell me is that more education on the issue is required. The nation is fearful of an influx of foreign talent, believing that it means job losses for Americans. We in the technology, consulting and staffing industries need to educate the public and the Congress on how skill-short the country is, especially in the technology, engineering and science sectors. Hopefully, we can take advantage of this pause in the reform battle to help people, businesses and lawmakers understand the skills shortages we face today and the more dire ones ahead.