High-Skilled Immigrant Workers Good for Economy, Report Says | KUER 90.1

High-Skilled Immigrant Workers Good for Economy, Report Says

Apr 21, 2015

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation released a report this week on high-skilled immigrant visas. It comes at a time when the demand for H1-B visas is at a record high, and when Utah’s senior Senator Orrin Hatch has reintroduced a proposal that could more than double the number of these visas available.

This month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it had received a record high 233,000 applications for 85,000 high-skilled immigrant visas. Adams Nager is an economic research analyst with the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. He says it’s time to debunk the myth that these immigrants are filling jobs that would otherwise be filled by Americans.

“We need to remember on a very fundamental level that these workers fill jobs that Americans aren’t qualified to do and would otherwise go unfilled and are vital to the US remaining competitive in a global economy,” Nager says.

“There’s a huge talent shortage,” says Richard Nelson, President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council. “We’ve surveyed the industry for the last 7 years on this topic with the college of engineering at the University of Utah and continue to find this gap of talent accelerating.”

In December 2014, Nelson says 72% of local tech companies they surveyed reported difficulty finding qualified candidates in Utah. 74 % reported that they were recruiting talent from out of state. And 44% reported that they were opening offices out of state in order to get the technical talent that they seek.

Nelson says an immediate fix is needed to raise the cap on H1-B high skilled immigrant visas. He supports the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 introduced by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

“It needs to happen this year. It won’t happen next year with the elections, but this is a sweet spot that would immediately impact the Utah economy,” Nelson says.

Hatch’s proposal, commonly referred to as the “I-Squared Act”, would raise the cap on H1-B visas to 115,000 with the possibility of rising higher depending on economic conditions.