NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Skilled Immigrants Needed

December 23, 1999

The hi-tech industry now constitutes over 8 percent of gross domestic product. Its growth and the competitiveness of U.S. business are in jeopardy because there is presently a shortage of nearly 350,000 information technology (IT) workers.

Concern over our country's technology future is fueling debate over expansion of the H-1B visa program, which allows foreign workers possessing a bachelor's or advanced degree or substantial work experience to work in the U.S. Currently, the number of visas issued under the H-1B visa program is capped and, in 2000, this cap may be reached as early as the end of March.

  • It is estimated that an average of nearly 140,000 new IT workers will be needed annually.
  • The H-1B cap was temporarily raised from 65,000 in 1998 to 115,000 for fiscal years 1999 and 2000.
  • The cap will be reduced to 107,500 in 2001 before returning to 65,000 in 2002.

Because the maximum length of time that an H-1B visa worker can stay in the U.S. is six years, there can never be more than 690,000 H-1B workers legally in the country at any one time. This amounts to 0.5 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Without sufficient numbers of high skilled workers, say experts, businesses will be forced to outsource jobs overseas or cease expanding, productivity will erode and economic growth will be adversely affected.

Source: Krishna Kundu, "Keeping the High-Tech Edge: Immigration Policy is Crucial to Future Competitiveness," Fact & Fallacy, December 15, 1999, Employment Policy Foundation, 1015 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 1200, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 789-8685.


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