Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Scrap the Cap

We should ditch the absurdly low cap on H1-B visas for highly skilled immigrant workers, say Tuck's Matthew Slaughter and Reason's Shikha Dalmia. "America's political leaders are so fixated on illegal immigration," writes Dalmia,

they've barely noticed that the U.S. is losing the race for the best high-tech minds. This country won't keep its edge in the global economy until legislators stop behaving like border sentries and start acting like international recruiters – a switch virtually every industrialized country is making.

A good way to begin is for Congress to pass pending legislation to scrap the cap on skilled worker (H1-B) visas. This cap is currently so low (65,000) that in April last year it got used up within a day of these visas becoming available, leaving thousands of left over engineers to be scooped up by America's competitors. Immigration authorities started accepting 2009 applications last Tuesday – and expect a similar flood.

Slaughter notes that

At the end of the 1990s, 24% of all IT firms in Silicon Valley had been founded by immigrants from China or India....

At the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where I am a professor, 36% of tenured and tenure-track professors are foreign born.

and, noting that U.S. financial markets have lost out to world markets of late, asks,

[W]hy is it easy to hire financial talent in London? Because the U.K. welcomes an unlimited supply of the world's best financial minds. Since 2004, the U.K. Highly Skilled Migrant Programme has maintained a list of the world's top 50 business schools. Anyone who earns an MBA from one of these schools is automatically eligible to work in the U.K. for at least one year.

posted by Bret Swanson @ 12:32 PM | Human Capital