Visa circus opens — and closes — today

US Capitol Building


SCOTT JAGOW: I bet a lot of immigration attorneys worked overtime this weekend. Today, the government starts accepting applications for H-1B visas. These are the documents for skilled workers who want jobs in this country. But there's so much demand, these H-1Bs might be gone by the end of the day. Alisa Roth explains.

ALISA ROTH: The government will hand out 65,000 H-1B visas this year. The visas would start in October.

During the dot-com boom, the government offered nearly three times that many visas for skilled workers.

Muzaffar Chishti directs the think tank Migration Policy Institute's office at NYU. He says today's numbers make no sense.

MUZAFFAR CHISHTI: These are unrealistic numbers for a 21st Century global economy. These are highly strategic industry jobs. These are scientists, these are computer engineers, these are architects. So to say that the needs of the economy are going to be filled by 65,000 people is just not realistic.

He says the circus around the applications is evidence the immigration system needs revamping.

Congress frequently talks about raising the H-1B quota, but lately it's gotten caught up in broader discussions about comprehensive immigration reform.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.


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