As readers of this blog are aware, we're of the opinion the H-1B program is a flawed system. (Read our recent four-part analysis of H-1B HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.) Last week a key member of the United States House of Representatives offered one way to attack the situation.
During a March 31 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) brought up the possibility of limiting the number of professions which qualify for H-1B status. The thinking for Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was that giving more visas to technology businesses might be the best option in the current political climate.
Smith's suggestion seems to stem from a feeling that increasing the number of H-1B visas from its current 85,000 annual cap may not be realistic.
Recent congresses have been unwilling to address small portions of the immigration issues before comprehensive immigration reform has taken place. At this point it is not known what the current Congress would support.
So while roughly half of the H-1B visas are used for tech positions such as computer programmers and IT specialists, the rest are used in industries related to fields like fashion and photography. Smith's feeling is that given the potential job-creation benefits associated with tech fields, they may be more important to the country's economy.
"There is nothing wrong with these occupations," Smith said, adding "but I'm not sure that (they) are as crucial to our success in the global economy as are computer scientists."
If other occupations are no longer eligible for H-1B, then more visas would be available for the tech industry. Focusing on scientists and engineers, Smith argued, could be a solution to the program.