H-1B Visa program needs an update

Giselle Suazo

Universities across the United States are filled with students working to reach the ultimate goal — graduation. While the thought of transitioning from slightly functioning college student to full-blown competent adult can be frightening, life on the other side is full of positives. Entering the workforce is an exciting time in a young professional’s life. But for over 800,000 international students, graduation is the beginning of a whole other set of problems.

The United States is an attractive option for many foreign students when the time to apply for higher education comes around, and colleges welcome these students with open arms. In the 2013–2014 academic school year alone, 886,000 students from outside the U.S. enrolled in schools across the country. However, a graduating foreign student enters a limbo of costly legal processes to acquire an H-1B visa, a document allowing them to stay in the U.S. after graduating to pursue a professional career.

The H-1B visa program, also referred to as work visas, began in 1990 so companies in the United States could hire foreign workers. But only 85,000 work visas are available to the nearly 1 million potential applicants. Plus, 25,000 of these visas are reserved for students with a graduate or higher-level degree. There has always been a cap, but it has remained the same since 2005 despite ever-increasing demand.
    
Large corporations, most of them technology-focused, look outside the domestic workforce when they have trouble finding qualified applicants. Microsoft’s CEO, Bill Gates, is a well known supporter of the H-1B program and campaigns for its much-needed expansion. With rapidly advancing technology providing a portal for businesses to the world, the United States needs to make certain that we have sufficiently skilled employees to meet workforce expectations.

Immigration lawyer Mario Flores recognizes that the current state of the H-1B program needs to be fixed.

“I do believe the H-1B cap is outdated,” Flores said. “Given this constantly-changing need, our H-1B immigration cap needs to be more thoroughly reviewed to make certain that our workforce does not suffer due to a lack of adequate infrastructure development.” 

International students put in as much work, time and a lot more money than students who are citizens of the United States. According to the University of Texas at Austin’s International Office, international students contributed $1.46 billion to the Texas economy alone in the 2013–2014 school year. The U.S. economy clearly benefits from these students, so it is only right for their training and contributions the labor pool to be met with the opportunities they deserve.

Suazo is an international relations junior from Honduras.