Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, testified yesterday about the need to overhaul the highly skilled immigration. He testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security at a hearing on “The Economic Imperative for Immigration Reform”.
Smith said Microsoft relies heavily on its ability to recruit top talent from overseas. Because of shortages and intense competition, filling their talent needs remains a serious challenge for Microsoft. For example, in May, Microsoft had 4,551 unfilled job openings, of which 2,629 were for computer science positions. In 2011, it has taken us on average 65 days to fill openings for experienced candidates in core tech positions in the United States. This cannot be achieved (especially not in the short term) through educational improvements to the American workforce.
Smith argued what we all know to be true, that there is a disconnect between a high unemployment rate and the ability to find skilled tech workers from the domestic work force for specific technology occupations. Opening the doors for highly skilled immigrants can help create more jobs here for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike. For example, a recent University of Washington study shows that every skilled Microsoft job supports 5.8 other jobs in Washington State.
My opinion is that continuing with inflexible H-1B limits is not helping but hurting the economy — we all know that when the economy scales back, so does the number of visa applications, so Congress needs to take out the cap altogether and let market forces determine the need for highly skilled workers.