US IT industry calls for visa increase

The American IT industry has become the latest high profile organisation to plead with the United States government to increase the number of H-1B visas awarded each year.

According to American IT Industry figures, there are currently around 545,000 tech jobs available in the US, many of which cannot be filled by local workers as they do not have the necessary skills.

Writing in Courier Post earlier this week, Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, argued that it is essential for more skilled talent to be allowed into the country to fill jobs in order to maintain economic strength.

“Silicon Valley’s advanced, traded industries power innovation and growth throughout the US economy. But denying companies access to the skilled workers they need is like asking them to work with one hand tied behind their backs,” he wrote. “Instead, the United States should raise the cap on H-1B visas and broaden overall high-skill innovation so that our economic engine can be fuelled by the brightest minds from all over the world.”

Currently, only 85,000 H-1B visas – which allow skilled workers with in-demand skills to work in America on an initially temporary basis – are awarded annually; 65,000 Congressionally mandated visas and a further 20,000 to those who get advanced degrees from a US educational institute.

Last month, when the programme opened to allow H-1B visa applications for the 2016 Fiscal Year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had to close it again after just one week, having received more than 233,000 applications for the 85,000 spaces.

Debate regarding reform of America’s immigration system has been ongoing for the past few years, but currently appears no closer to being introduced now than it was when President Barack Obama won his second term as President in 2012, despite making immigration reform one of his key pre-election pledges.