What About High-Skill Immigration Zones?
PITTSBURGH--Last year was bad. This year, even worse -- a crush of applications, but a dearth of H-1B visas awarded to employers who say they need to import educated foreign workers to occupy high-tech positions that can't be filled by American workers.
This month, companies across the U.S. began filing petitions for 85,000 available work visas, which will be awarded through a random lottery. Last year, 133,000 petitions were received over two days in April before closing the application window. This year, immigration services accepted petitions for a full business week starting April 1, meaning the number of petitions could exceed 200,000.
The limitations are especially crippling to cities such as Pittsburgh, many businesses here argue, because drawing an educated immigrant class is the city's best short-term hope for population and economic growth, since the native-born population keeps dropping.
What if the cap remained in place across most of the country but was lifted for places that are lagging economically -- Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh? It's a strategy being bounced around by think tanks and immigration advocates. Immigration lawyer Richard T. Herman says we should call them "High-Skill Immigration Zones," patterning the relief from H-1B caps after a similar visa program that allows foreign investors to plant their money more easily in economically "distressed" regions.
See related CD post: Help NOT Wanted in US: National Self-Sabotage