Microsoft reported last year that it had roughly 6,000 job vacancies that could not be filled because of the lack of STEM graduates in the United States. The technology company raised concerns about increasing education standards because of this issue in 2012, and began to lobby for a change to the current H-1B visa immigration work programs.
The current H-1B visa polices gained some criticism because immigrants are often forced to seek sponsorship if they are planning to establish their own startup, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal. In 2008, 404,907 immigrants applied for an H-1B visa, but only 65,000 can be given out, in addition to another 20,000 that are allotted for individuals with a master’s degree or higher.
“Our immigration policy must expand the avenues for these valued workers to seek legal employment,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles. “The president has suggested, let’s staple a green card to the diplomas of foreign students getting advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. We need to expand the H-1B visa program, and at the same time, we need effective visa programs for agricultural workers and low-skilled non-seasonal workers.”
The need to find skilled workers is not only pertinent to the growth of companies like Microsoft, as pushing jobs out of the country can further stifle the economic growth and competitiveness of the workforce in the United States. H-1B visas are expensive for companies. Employers who hire more than 26 visa employees must pay $1,500. However, Microsoft suggested an increased fee for businesses who want H-1B visa employees, and the money invested could be used to train U.S. IT graduates.