SALT LAKE CITY — Utah business leaders want to see more visas for highly skilled, high-tech workers after the last batch of the visas vanished in just five days.
H-1B visas are designated for people specialty occupations that require a higher education degree. The visas are part of the massive immigration reform bill unveiled this week in Congress. For the 2014 fiscal year, 65,000 visas were released and gone within the first week.
The immigration reform legislation proposed April 15 suggested the number of H-1B visas should be raised to 110,000 and even as much as 180,000 in future years.
This is the first time since 2008 that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services maxed out the number of H-1B visas within the first week of the filing period. After reaching the cap, USCIS has received tens of thousands of petitions from people asking to be exempt from the cap, according to a news release.
"There are businesses that have jobs open that they are ready to fill, but they just don't have the people with the right skills to fill them."
Those advocating for H-1B visas say they will help the state's economy. Salt Lake Chamber Executive Vice President Marty Carpenter said the high demand for these visas reflects a broken immigration system and a U.S. education system that doesn't prepare its citizens for the current workforce.
"There are businesses that have jobs open that they are ready to fill, but they just don't have the people with the right skills to fill them," he said.
Bringing in specialists and highly skilled workers with this visa has a positive ripple effect on an economy, Carpenter said.
"You bring in someone who will be a top scientist or engineer, there will be support staff hired below them," he said. "That company can grow and expand and purchase more goods, and the ripple effect goes out to other businesses that touch them."