Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is the U.S. Visa System Broken?

One thing that Republican presidential candidates can agree upon (and most Democrats for that matter) is that the U.S. visa system is broken and needs to be fixed. In particular, the H-1B system is broken, which “allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations”. Specialty occupations include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine, education, law, accounting, theology, and the arts. Many of these occupations are a dying breed for U.S. citizens hence, corporations’ only recourse is to hire foreigners to do these types of jobs.

Our immigration department allows up to 65 thousand H-1B visas annually. An H-1B visa is for 3 years and can be extended to 6 years, but by that time, most H-1B visa recipients have earned their green card and or have already become citizens of the United States. There are other types of visas that foreigners can obtain to gain temporary work status in the United States that are similar to H-1B visas including L1, TN-1, E3, H-1B1, and H-2B visas. Yes, the U.S. visa system is complicated and needs to be reformed and made more simplistic.

In 2008, 276 thousand H-1B visas and extensions where granted. In 2009, 214 thousand H-1B visas and extensions where granted. In 2010, 117 thousand H-1B visas and extensions where granted. Obviously these numbers are much more than the supposed cap of 65 thousand H-1B visas annually, but increasing the allotment of visas is necessary so companies can fill employment vacancies where U.S. citizens fail to meet the employment requirements. In 2001, a record 331 thousand H-1B visas and extensions where granted – over 5 times the capped limit.

Interestingly, the only solution that politicians on both sides of aisle can agree upon about the U.S. visa problem is to increase the cap from 65 thousand to ensure our technical companies and our medical institutions are getting the talent they need to properly conduct business and ensure Americans have the best medical treatment options available. To increase the visa cap may sound like a reasonable solution, but they are missing the point and real issue at hand. Besides, the H-1B visa cap is raised yearly without political intervention in the form of new legislation.

In 1994, the ratio of American born engineers to foreign born engineers working at U.S. companies was 6.2 to 1. By 2006, that ratio was cut in half to 3.1 to 1! Today, it is estimated the ratio may be as low as 2 to 1. From 1994 to 2006 this equated to nearly 800 thousand more jobs for foreign born engineers. Remember, this is just engineers and does include other H-1B visa jobs such as those in the medical profession – which incidentally is also being dominated by foreign born persons. This means millions of jobs being created by U.S. companies each decade are not going to U.S. citizens.

What is the root cause of this issue? It is obvious; our school systems are failing to develop technical professionals in the fields of math and science. Yet, instead of trying to develop advanced learners in our school systems to obtain these jobs, our solution is to make sure these jobs go to foreign born students – who incidentally get educated at U.S. universities and master their trades at U.S. corporations before moving back home to compete against U.S. companies.

We have had unemployment near 9% for the past two years and only 15% of college graduates are receiving jobs. This is a huge problem, but our politicians fail to see this as an issue. Our educational system (K-12) spends billions on education, but most of that money is spent on trying to elevate test scores of underachieving students instead of focusing on elevating overachieving students to higher learning levels. Face it; the primary emphasis or educational system is to ensure both advanced and digressed students meet the minimum proficiency requirements on standardized tests. The bottom line is bureaucrats only care if a student passes or fails the minimum requirements for reading and math and that is it! This is not education; instead this is a recipe for failure – mediocrity at best.

My Book: Is America Dying? (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble)


  1. My take, Pat, for what little that's worth, is that the combination of (a) un-parenting; (b) government schools intentionally designed top-down to produce non-critical-thinking graduates just skilled enough to get a job, but not smart and savvy enough to be critical of government; and (c) entertainment and news media designed to indoctrinate and dumb-down the dumb masses (Read aloud a coupla times) and define-down deviancy; this all results in a very-pliaable people.

    It does NOT, however, produce and inspire mathematicians and physicists and chemists and biologists and engineers and physicians. We do have "adults", on the other hand, who are degreed in urban studies, women's studies, GLTB studies, feelings sociology (victimology), and the like.

    When President Obama tonight says -- and he surely will -- that we need an American economy that works for ALL Americans, what won't be said is that we already HAVE an economy that works for all Americans . . . that work.

  2. Great ... why do we even have borders? Or do we?

    Your post and DrPete's comments speak for me.