Only 85,000 H-1B visas are set aside for American firms to sponsor each year. The approval process begins on April 1 and the approved workers can begin working on Oct. 1. H-1B visas can be used for a total of six years before the worker either must return to his home country or earn a green card.
The economic benefits of H‐1Bs and other highly skilled immigrants are large.
Highly skilled immigrants contribute mightily to innovation in the United States, especially through patents. In 2006, immigrants were roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 24 percent of international patent applications from the United States had at least one non‐citizen inventor. The real rate is even higher since those statistics don’t include immigrants who became U.S. citizens. Immigrants from China, Taiwan, India, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom were especially likely to patent.
Recent research by economists Jennifer Hunt and Marjolaine Gauthier‐Loiselle found that a 1 percentage point increase in college graduate immigrants as a share of the population increases patents per capita by 9 to 18 percent — a tremendous increase. Other research found that a 10 percent increase in H-1B workers in a particular American city corresponded with a 0.3 to 0.7 percent increase in total patents approved there. Foreign‐born students in American universities are also very likely to patent.