The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service's new guidelines regarding H-1B visas and computer programmers are not in our country's best interest. While there is still time to do so, USCIS should repeal these guidelines and make it once again possible for computer programmers to enter the United States without unnecessary scrutiny.
The H-1B program allows employers in the United States to hire up to 85,000 skilled foreign workers, according to The Boston Globe. Workers must possess a bachelor's degree in addition to "highly specialized knowledge." The program is very popular, and officials often have to hold lotteries in order to determine which applicants will be granted visas.
On March 31, USCIS released the new guidelines regarding H-1B visas, according to Axios. The new guidelines are effective immediately and will take a more stringent look at computer programmers, and will no longer presume them to be eligible for the program.
Programmers will have to submit additional evidence that they possess specialized knowledge and that their position requires a professional degree. In addition, greater attention will be paid to those who are attempting to gain entry-level positions.
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There are many reasons why this change is a bad idea. First and foremost, the government changed guidelines that had been in place for 17 years with essentially no advance notice. This will undoubtedly make it more difficult for companies to fill tech positions by the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year which -- according to The Boston Globe -- begins on Oct. 1.
In addition to this more logistical reason, the changes to the guidelines are ill-advised because they are attempting to solve a problem that does not, in fact, exist. According to Bloomberg, the changes have been made in light of President Donald Trump's call for American companies to hire American workers. Making the guidelines more strict will make it more difficult for companies to hire foreign workers.
While other industries may benefit from this way of thinking, the tech industry that computer programmers are a part of is certainly not one of them. According to The Boston Globe, leaders in the tech field claim that U.S. workers often contain gaps in their skill set, and as such, there are many open tech positions in our country that never get filled.
Several examples of open positions were outlined in an article that The Boston Globe published in February of 2016 which discussed the lack of available workers in the Massachusetts tech market. One particular example was that of Arbor Networks, Inc., a firm which -- at the time the article was written -- had the capacity to hire at least 50 more workers.
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"The cyberthreat environment is getting worse," said Matt Moynahan, president of the firm. "The people shortage is a chronic issue that will not get resolved any time soon.”
This is a very concrete example of how the changes to H1-B have the potential to be very detrimental to our country. Cybersecurity is very much a problem, but we lack the number of workers who would be able to fill the positions which were put in place to help fight against it. Allowing computer programmers from foreign countries to continue to come into the United States would help to fill these gaps.
According to The Boston Globe, even economists who are skeptical about the number of job openings that are not filled by U.S. workers perceive H-1B to be a good thing. Such economists say that it "is a net positive for the economy, allowing companies to grow quickly, keep prices lower, and produce software and gadgets that make other fields more productive."
In light of such assertions, there is very obviously no downside to restoring the H-1B guidelines to their previous form. Foreign computer programmers are not taking jobs away from Americans, but are rather filling already-empty -- and very important -- spaces. Therefore, immediate steps should be taken to ensure that all computer programmers once again become eligible for the H-1B visa.