A Modest Proposal for Dealing with the H-1B Visa Issue

I see that H-1B visas are in the news again. These are the visas which employers, particularly high-tech companies secure to bring foreign engineers, scientists, and other skilled individuals into this country to take jobs for which they can’t find people who are already here with the appropriate skills. I certainly think that it should be easier for companies to hire the employees with the skills they need but, on the other hand, it’s the intent of the H-1B visa program to do just that and not to use as leverage for holding salaries down. How do you do one without doing the other?

Here’s my proposal. IIRC one of the requirements of the program is the prospective employeers need to advertise the job they’re trying to fill. Why not, instead of advertising the job who knows where, the federal government establish a central clearing house for advertising such jobs? What I envision is an Internet site on which the job are advertised and on which prospective applicants may actually apply. The technology for this already exists—I’m sure an outfit like Monster.com could be persuaded to take on something like this as a subcontract. Then you increase the number of visas.

It would be the best of all worlds. Prospective employers could have a clear, streamlined process for advertising and securing workers with the skills they need. And, if they really need the people and they can’t find anyone here with the necessary skills, the increase in the number of visas should help. People with skills could have a straightforward way for finding employers who have those jobs. Since it would be an open site we would have a much clearer idea of what skills were being sought at what wage. And we could be more confident that employers actually weren’t able to find workers who were already here with the skills they were looking for.

What do you think?

1 comment… add one
  • Chris Link

    Sounds like a solid idea to me.

    One thing it might also help clarify is how exactly employers are demanding their skill set lists be met, and how reasonable such demands are. In my experience, for example, computer programmers are rarely more than a month away from being productive in a given language, and generally not more than six months away from being proficient in a new language.

    But employers often demand that their programmers be perfectly capable “out of the box,” which tends to create a greater demand for new grads who were recently taught the latest and greatest languages, rather than older programmers who are capable of learning new skills, but don’t immediately have what employers want.

    It’s actually an interesting question what the right governmental policy should be – it’d certainly be better for American workers if demand was higher and employers had more of an incentive to retrain, but it’d be better for employers to get employees who are immediately productive. But it’s a question that’s not really being addressed at all right now, and something like your website idea could really bring it to light.

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