Well, That Didn’t Take Long

By April 5, 2007General

From Reuters:

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON – Technology companies may face a shortage of skilled workers later this year after U.S. immigration services reached its annual quota for visa applications in one day.

“Clearly there is a need for science and engineering talent in this country that is not being met by home-grown talent,” said William Morin, director of government affairs for Applied Materials Inc., the world’s biggest supplier of equipment for making microchips.

“These are people who are going to develop the next big thing, and you’re driving people offshore. It boggles the mind that we would come to this point,” Morin said.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as of April 2, it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the FY 2008 cap. In a single day, 150,000 petitions came in, but only 65,000 visas are available this year for prospective immigrants, those who typically have an undergraduate degree and specialized expertise a company cannot find here in the United States. Another 20,000 visas are available for those have advanced degrees and technical expertise. (News release here in .pdf.)

In many, if not most cases, these are foreign students who have gained their techical knowledge at U.S. institutions and would prefer to remain in the land of opportunity, making use of their skills.

Being written from a San Francisco angle, the Reuters story emphasizes the impact on technology companies, but the shortage is a serious matter for other U.S. manufacturers who also rely on employees with high-tech expertise. Demand simply exceeds domestic supply of these highly sought-after workers, and America and its economy are stronger for keeping their talents here instead of sending them off to our competitors abroad.