Its Time to Throttle Back on H1-B
Importing IT workers now makes little sense.Two years ago, Congress and President Clinton approved an increase in the number of foreign IT and other special workers allowed into the United States each year under the so-called H1-B visa program by nearly 70 percent, to 195,000. Many large IT employers had been pleading for the increase, calling it a short-term fix to a critical shortage. We agreed and urged lawmakers to not only speed H1-B approvals but to also let workers remain in the country to seek citizenship. Much has changed since then. The stagnant economy has led to reduced IT spending, which has thrown thousands of technology professionals out of work. The IT work force in the United States shrank by 528,000 positions last year, according to a recent survey by the Information Technology Association of America. Many of that number are highly experienced professionals whose skills are now being wasted. Ironically, many are also H1-B visa holders who, having been laid off, face a sudden return to their home countries.
While we still believe that raising the H1-B cap was the right thing to do two years ago, continuing to import large numbers of foreign IT workers in the current economic downturn makes little sense. It serves only to pervert the dynamics of the market for IT talent, making it seem futile for IT professionals to acquire new skills and helping many employers avoid taking responsibility for retraining IT staffs.