shutterstock_180736661Today thousands of U.S. employers large and small are buying lottery tickets hoping they will win the right to employ a highly skilled, well-educated professional.

This is not an April Fools’ joke.

Unfortunately, this is the system under which the nation that sees itself as the world’s leading economy allows its businesses to hire the best and the brightest from around the world: the H-1B visa “lottery.”

Under a law that hasn’t been touched by legislators in years, there are only 65,000 new slots available for employers to hire university-educated foreign professionals, plus another 20,000 for employers hiring foreign nationals who have graduated from U.S. advanced degree programs. In years when our economy was at its worst, this annual limit was no problem.  However, as the economy slowly recovers and employers increase hiring, the allotment of H-1B’s has been exhausted earlier and earlier within each Fiscal Year, and last year, over 130,000 H-1B applications were filed by employers for 85,000 slots on the very first day of filing—April 1—resulting in the now infamous lottery.

According to all forecasts, this is likely to be repeated in the current year, a cruel April Fools’ joke visited upon U.S. employers as a result of outdated laws.

What is truly foolish here? It is foolish to place artificial limits on the number of smart and highly educated professionals who can come here to work for U.S. employers, when it is obvious that the number of H-1B applications filed each year is well regulated by market demand.

It is foolish to prevent foreign talent from coming to the U.S. when it has been consistently shown that these individuals create jobs for U.S. workers. It is foolish to perpetuate a system that stymies U.S. business, prevents growth and drives foreign investment to other countries.

Sadly, until Congress does its job and updates our antiquated immigration laws so that American businesses can remain competitive in the global marketplace of the 21st century, the joke is on all of us.

And that’s no laughing matter.

Written by Eleanor Pelta, AILA Past President