Aug 26 2008

Solving the H-1B Visa Issue

One of the big topics that came up on the panel I was on today at the DNC was the issue surrounding the labor supply in the US in computer science and IT.  There is a growing shortage of software engineers in the US that is getting worse as every year passes.  I’ve talked about this in the past as my main motivation for being involved in the National Center for Women & Information Technology as one of the ways to build the long term labor pipeline is to encourage more women and girls to get involved in careers in computer science and IT.

I think the Bush administration has completely missed the boat when it comes to dealing with temporary work visas and permanent residency for high tech software / IT workers.  This issue has come up repeatedly over the past few years as large software and technology companies have finally weighed in to try to impact some of our inane policies.

I think the solution to the problem is really simple.  The US should grant permanent residency to anyone who graduates from a qualified four year university with a computer science degree.  If you are concerned about people gaming the system, you can start out by limiting it to people that receive a post-graduate degree.  Of course, you can easily extend this beyond computer science (e.g. physics, chemistry, etc.)

When I was an undergraduate at MIT, a meaningful percentage of the student body was from other countries.  It never even occurred to me that these folks were "different" and didn’t "belong in our country."  Some of my best friends in college weren’t US citizens and I was baffled by the hoops they had to jump through even back then to work in the US.  In the past eight years, this has gotten dramatically worse and it’s time we got in front of this.

Everyone on the panel seemed to agree that this was a huge issue surrounding innovation in the US over the long term.  Most people seemed to agree that this was a simple solution that would not require a huge bureaucracy to administer.  With your diploma, you get permanent residence status. 

I don’t understand why there would be any rational resistance to something like this – after all, wasn’t the United States built on immigrants?