Tech execs in Chicago sign petition for immigration reform

More than 100 executives from the technology sector in Chicago urged President Barack Obama and members of Congress this week to approve immigration reform legislation as soon as possible. The tech community is concerned over the scarcity of H-1B visas that are awarded to highly- skilled workers from other countries. Currently there is an annual limit of 65,000 immigrant employees in “specialty occupations” who can enter the United States for up to six years, and that cap has almost been reached.

The purpose of the H-1B visa is to give U.S. employers the chance to hire immigrant professionals who work in fields like engineering, mathematics, architecture and other highly- skilled industries that require advanced degrees.

Entrepreneurs who run technology companies in Chicago have been petitioning Congress to increase the amount of available H-1B visas to 115,000 a year so business leaders can avoid having to outsource their workloads. The bill that proposes raising the cap on H-1B visas has been stalled along with the other changes to the immigration system that have been proposed by House Democrats and business owners across the country.

Tech companies feel that the current cap on H-1B visas is discouraging highly skilled workers from coming to the U.S. According to the 2000 census, more than one in five U.S. scientists and engineers are born outside the U.S.

However, despite the stall in the immigration reform process, many tech executives are holding out hope that reform will be achieved this year, and they are lobbying to urge its passage. To these business leaders, reform is a high priority because they need these immigrant workers’ skills to further the success of their companies and contribute to the economy.