In the US, there is a shortage of skilled workers, especially in areas such as technology and computer industries. The shortage frustrates US companies, who claim that they cannot stay competitive without skilled labor. The shortage also frustrates foreign workers and students, who say they have the skills US employers want but face bureaucratic red tape when trying to get work authorization in the US. The US has routinely refused to grant more H-1B visas for skilled workers and has even recently drastically increased the fees for those visas.
Software giant Microsoft is so frustrated by the difficulty in securing skilled workers that the company is offering to pay millions of dollars to secure more H-1B visas, saying that the money can be used to train Americans to take on high-tech jobs in the future.
According to industry experts, demand for high-tech workers is approaching a crisis point, even as unemployment continues to be a problem for many workers. It is expected that over the next decade there will be 120,000 computer-related positions created annually. Most of these positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree but US universities are producing only about half of the graduates the industry needs.
Microsoft may face a challenge with the proposal. Recently, the House failed to pass a bill which would have ended the diversity visa program and instead would have diverted the 55 000 visas from that program to highly skilled workers.
At the same time, there is no denying that Microsoft is a huge employer with plenty of clout. Between 2010 and 2011, the company asked for 4,100 H-1B visas yearly, making it the biggest demander of the visas. Now, Microsoft would like to see Congress offer 20,000 new H-1B visas annually and earmark those visas for mathematics, engineering, science, and technology jobs. Currently, 65,000 H-1B visas are granted annually and the cap is usually reached very quickly. About half of these visas each year go towards computer-based industries.
Microsoft is also asking the government to offer 20 000 green cards annually to high-tech workers. The company says that there is a pool of 500 000 unused green cards to draw from, and the green cards would allow skilled workers to stay in the US beyond the six years that the H-1B visa permits.
Microsoft has stated that it and other companies might pay $10,000 for each additional H-1B and $15 000 for green cards. Employers currently play $1500 plus thousands of dollars in fees for every H-1B visa. According to Microsoft, the proposed plan would generate $500 million in revenues a year and would help companies stay competitive.