Visa shortage

The US is facing shortage of highly trained US personnel. For the fiscal year that began last Oct.1, Congress authorised 65,000 of the specialised H-1B visas for foreign scientists, engineers, and workers in a handful of other fields. Congress should expand the quota for next year. The commencement lists of universities awarding advanced degrees show more than half are foreign nationals. US-born students are somewhat better represented at Boston-area universities, but even here, 45 per cent of all engineering doctorate degrees go to foreign nationals. But the nation gets no payback from this when, because of a shortfall in visas, a foreign-born student must find employment in a foreign country.

Opposition to expanding the H-1B quota comes from the AFL-CIO. Labour unions worry that employers use the visa program to get workers at lower salaries. A long-term argument against granting employers greater use of H-1Bs is that it takes pressure off the US educational system to produce more scientists and engineers. Improvement of science and mathematics education in US schools has to be a priority for policy makers, educators and employers. More countries are opening their borders to highly trained workers from other nations, and some countries are getting more US-trained workers to return. — The Boston Globe