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Looking for a Way Forward on Visa Reform

The visa system has one fatal flaw, according to tech industry leaders: It provides too many visas for family reunification and not enough for highly educated workers to enter the country to work and innovate. Although most agree the visa system needs an overhaul to allow skilled workers into the country, tech industry leaders differ on their preferred approach for addressing visa issues, Politico reports. Some argue only comprehensive immigration reform would allow the government to improve its system for doling out high-skilled worker visas, while others say the tech industry cannot wait for large-scale reform.

“We’ve still not resolved how America will be a magnet for smart people overseas,” Rey Ramsey, CEO of industry group TechNet, told Politico. “I say we have some real big human capital issues remaining to be tackled. … We’re in favor of comprehensive reform, but in the short term, we don’t believe H-1B visas should be held hostage.” Politically, changing the visa system is far more complicated than industry leaders make it out to be. While proponents of more skilled immigration claim immigrants could become entrepreneurs and create jobs, opponents argue they first take away high-paying jobs from American-born citizens.

Eliminating family reunification visas also has its political downsides: Human rights groups argue the current costs and wait times for legal, family-based immigration are prohibitive and can lead to more illegal entry.

One solution, according to some economists, would be simply to allow more immigration overall. The political appetite for that proposal, though, seems almost nonexistent.

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