Companies push for immigration reform to counter microchip shortage.

Today the U.S. only produces 12% of the world’s microchips vs. a 37% in 1990. There are fewer native-born recipients of advanced STEM degrees each year, which contributes to a shrinking workforce. And fewer foreign workers are joining the workforce despite Biden’s recent bill signing $52 billion in incentives. The reality is that no amount of incentivization will change the situation as long as immigration laws remain as they are. 

Studies by the National Science Board show that over 50% of computer science and engineering PhD’s are foreign-born. However, many of them graduated without an immigration status that would allow them to stay in the country to work afterward. And the majority of them who have filed for work visas or residencies may have a lifelong wait for approval of their applications. In fact, the number of immigrants the U.S. is currently turning away is historically record-breaking. 

Human resources from multiple firms including Texas Instruments, Global Foundries and Intel have written a letter to Congress,  requesting temporary immigration restrictions to be eased for skilled STEM workers. The newly signed incentive program will otherwise be largely useless. And there’s no way to create a U.S.-based workforce quickly enough to meet current production demands. 

The letter pushes for longer-term investments in programs to develop more native-born master’s and doctorate STEM degrees. But in the meantime, a solution with faster returns is essential to counter the shortage. A push for immigration reform for the time being is necessary. Allowances need to be made for companies to stop green-card caps and to “recapture” unused green cards for qualified foreign workers. Otherwise, the shortage will only continue to worsen.

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