A top American IT industry advocacy group today called for improving upon the existing H-1B visa system, the most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals, saying it makes US companies competitive and drives innovation in the country. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) said the reform of the system should not be aimed at ending the popular work visa system for foreign workers. “We hope the goal of President Trump’s executive order on the H-1B programme is ‘mend it, don’t end it,” ITIF said.
Reforming the programme could help improve its effectiveness in attracting the world’s best and brightest,” said Robert Atkinson, president ITIF. US President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order that would revamp the H-1B visa programme to ensure that the visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid applicants. In its study last year, ITIS, a leading US science and tech policy think tank, found that 46 per cent of the most important US innovators were immigrants or the children of immigrants. “We welcome proposals to make the programme more effective. For example, replacing the H-1B lottery with a more merit-based system could advance the programme’s goals of attracting people with advanced STEM skills. We also welcome efforts to root out abuse, better enforce the existing rules, and increase the salary requirements, as long as we continue to welcome highly qualified STEM workers,” Atkinson said.
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He said that some of the ideas that have been suggested, such as requiring applicants to advertise job openings for an extended period of time to prove conclusively that no US workers are available, could be so onerous that it renders the programme ineffective. “We are talking about fast-moving industries. Companies get opportunities, and they have to jump on them. Delaying them for too long would be bad for innovation, job creation, and growth,” he said. Atkinson said ending the H-4 visas that allow spouses of H-1B workers to also work here would reduce the quality of foreign applicants to the H-1B programme while producing no benefits for US workers. It’s a fallacy to suggest that H-4 workers supplant American workers in domestic jobs, because there isn’t a fixed amount of work to be done in the economy, he said. “To the contrary, if we add more highly skilled workers, then we’ll generate more growth and create more jobs for everyone,” Atkinson said.