Europe is rolling out the blue carpet for foreign-born high-tech workers.
The European Union recently proposed a “blue card” for skilled workers around the world.
In the land of opportunity, the U.S. has stiff limits on high-skill workers and is moving toward further restrictions.
That has U.S. business groups worried.
Companies, especially high-tech ones, rely heavily on immigration to bring them the best and brightest talent. They look to immigrants for new ideas and sometimes to start companies. Loss of this source of talent could hurt U.S. industry.
The H-1B visas allow in foreigners who bring skills not readily available domestically, people who often studied in the United States. Right now there’s an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visa workers, although Congress is permitting another 20,000 through a temporary expansion.
The NAM is a member of the Compete America Coalition, formed to encourage the bringing of needed talent into the United States, people who unquestionably contribute to the country’s economic growth.
Admittedly, H-1B visas tend to provoke heated discussion, as they’re often lumped in indiscriminately with other immigration issues. Some people claim they get replaced by the visa recipients, although the law is written to prevent that.
NAM President John Engler discussed the law at a recent forum on innovation sponsored by the Independent Women’s Forum. He noted that the cap on H-1B visas has prompted Microsoft to establish an R&D center in Vancouver, B.C., where foreign talent is more readily available. As Microsoft put it in their July release: “Microsoft is a global company, and our greatest asset is smart, talented, highly skilled people,” said S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. “Our goal as a company is to attract the next generation of leading software developers from all parts of the world, and this center will be a beacon for some of that talent.”
The reality is, Engler said, 80 percent of manufacturing companies in the United States report difficulties in filling positions requiring technical skills, engineering slots included. The world is rapidly changing and some people’s skills have not kept up.
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