The U.S. currently produces tens of thousands fewer skilled workers a year than the economy demands. To help plug the gap, the federal government came up with the H-1B visa program. It allows employers to recruit immigrants, many educated here in the U.S., and retain them for six years or more.
Neil Ruiz is a senior policy analyst at the Brookings Institution. He says Houston employers have requested an average of just over 10,000 such visas in each of the last two years.
“For Houston, the demand for H-1B workers are coming specifically for computer occupations, as well as engineers, financial specialists, as well as medical doctors, especially in the Medical Center area.”
There’s a congressionally mandated limit of 85,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year for the entire country. Universities and other research institutions can get a waiver, but for private companies, it’s a hard cap. This year, the government hit its cap in ten weeks.