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Changes need to be made to employment-based visa system

For most Pennsylvanians, the one thing standing in the way of obtaining a higher-paying job is an advanced degree. For immigrant workers who already have a graduate degree, the only thing standing in their way is the visa lottery. The H-1B visa is required for technical employees who want to work in the U.S. However, getting one is all about chance.

In the employment-based visa system, there is no preference given to certain occupations. Like a lottery, everyone who applies is given an equal chance to win. But is this fair for those who have worked so hard to get to this point?

Currently, only 85,000 H-1B visas are given out each year to qualified foreign workers. Of those, 20,000 are given to workers who obtained their master's degree in the United States. This year, with 172,500 petitions received after April 1, less than 50 percent will be approved.

Those who are not selected will have to return to their home country and possibly obtain a job there -- a job with a company that will likely compete with the United States. The employer then has to outsource the project or delay it until the next H-1B visa lottery.

By limiting H-1B visas, the United States loses talented and highly educated workers. It is estimated that one-half million jobs are left unfulfilled, and contrary to what many people may think, these immigrants do not "take away" these jobs from Americans. In fact, these jobs lead to more positions for unemployed American citizens. So when companies are forced to delay their projects or close open positions, this causes a trickle effect that negatively affects the entire economy.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Roger McCrummen: H-1B visa lottery keeps highly skilled workers out of U.S. jobs," June 27, 2014

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