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Technology Makes Old Immigration Quota Limits Obsolete

New Technology Makes Old Immigration Quota Limits Obsolete

United States immigration policies have not changed much since 1990. However, technology has since changed the world to the point of making the current quota system obsolete.

In 1990, when the current immigration system was set up, the Internet was available to technicians only, and it was not known how it would become used globally by people from all walks of life. Technology and developments such as smart phones, search engines, social media, streaming media, gaming, internet shopping, and even online pizza ordering were still years away from becoming reality.

In the ensuing years, however, demand for workers educated in computer science and engineering has skyrocketed. Six tech companies – Apple, Intel, Cisco Systems, Oracle, Microsoft, and Qualcomm – currently have a combined market capitalization of over $1.6 trillion dollars. This is greater than the entire stock market capitalization of Germany, and does not take into account Domino’s and other non-tech companies that utilize highly skilled workers in their operations. At the same time, the number of U.S. citizens pursuing masters’ and Ph.D.’s in these fields has declined, while the number of international students in these fields has increased.

In 1990, the employment-based green card quota was set at 140,000; however, half of these go to dependents of the foreign workers. This number has not changed in the last 25 years. Also, an annual limit of 65,000 H-1B visas was also set that year. Exemptions were added for universities, non-profit, and government research institutes, plus 20,000 for foreign nationals with graduate degrees from United States universities. Despite these exemptions, this number still shows to be inefficient. There have been shortages of the H-1B visa every year for the past decade. In the last few years immigration has had to resort to a visa lottery system because the demand for H-1B visa workers by US employers has far exceeded the number of available visas.

Furthermore, only 7% of a preference category can be filled by people from a single country, which limits individuals from countries with high populations, such as China and India. While the wait for many employment-based immigrants is already a long 6 to 10 years, it has been estimated that, theoretically, an Indian immigrant in the employee-based third preference (EB-3) could wait up to 70 years for a visa.

Congress has addressed the issue on several occasions, allowing extra green card and H-1B visas on a temporary basis in various years. It is clear that a more permanent fix is necessary, due to the changing technological needs of the United States. Politicians frequently claim that they wish to “make America great again.” One method to achieve this goal would be to reform the immigration system to allow more non-immigrant and immigrant visas, especially in the science, technology, engineering, and medical fields. Doing so will give US companies a better chance to compete in the new global economy.

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