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High-Skilled Immigration Reform – Now Is The Time

Five days. That’s how long it took to reach the H-1B cap in 2013.As the economy recovers and companies begin to hire more workers, this number will likely go down to one, as it has been in the past.

One hundred twenty four thousand (124,000).That’s the number of applications filed for H-1B visas this year, largely exceeding the allocated cap of 65,000 plus 20,000 for applicants with Master’s or Ph.D’s in STEM fields.This number has been, and will be larger in the future as technology companies grow and become more prominent.

Ten years.That is the current estimated time it takes for an employment based green card applicant to receive his or her permanent residency if he or she were to apply today.Some estimate this number could be up to 70 for an Indian who applies for his or her green card right now.

These numbers are just a few of many that signal a dire problem with the current U.S. immigration system, a system that’s last major reform was in 1986, one year after Qualcomm was founded.  Qualcomm now employs over 27,000 people, most of them engineers, and many of them immigrants.Qualcomm is not the only technology company that has grown exponentially since then, and many of the today’s largest and fastest growing companies did not even exist in 1986.The last employment based immigration bill Congress passed was the Immigration Act of 1990, which created the H-1B system, as well as the employment based permanent residency system we still use today.When George H.W. Bush signed this bill into law, Janet Jackson was the top selling artist and Home Alone was the biggest box office hit.

The immigration debate is not just about people, but about our country’s global competitiveness.Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.  These companies include Google, eBay, and of course, Qualcomm.But even beyond the need for entrepreneurs, American companies must have access to skilled workers.If American companies cannot bring workers into the country, they have two options: either lose out to foreign competition or relocate their facilities to where the workers are.Neither is encouraging for the American economy or the American people.A vibrant tech sector creates jobs in other areas.Studies have shown that one job in the high-tech sector can create 4.3 additional jobs in that region.Judging by the U.S.’s current unemployment rate, any opportunity to create more jobs must be taken seriously.

High-skilled immigration reform and its importance to the betterment of the United States must not be forgotten when discussing what to do about agriculture workers, border security, and the 11 million undocumented residents.However the House of Representatives and the Senate wish to continue this process, they must be aware that immigration reform is not just a people issue, but an economical issue as well.For Qualcomm and many other companies in the United States, both high-tech and not, a good bill that addresses critical worker shortage can go a long way to improving the U.S. today and in the future.

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