PITTSBURGH, PA (April 9, 2015) - The City of Pittsburgh, as part of the Welcoming Economies Global Network, joins with cities and economic development agencies from various Great Lakes states in a Day of Action today – highlighting the cost local economies face under the current H-1B visa cap imposed by the federal government.
With the current visa allotment already reached in less than a week, Mayor William Peduto’s Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council will host a social media discussion today to bring awareness to the value of extending H-1B visas in re-emerging cities like Pittsburgh. H-1B is the temporary employment visa for highly educated foreign professionals – restricted to 65,000 per year with 20,000 additional visas for graduate degree holders from U.S. universities.
“We are exporting talent that could launch the next generation of economic drivers—start-ups and small businesses that fill gaps in our labor force—and create jobs for all Pittsburghers to take advantage of,” says Mayor William Peduto. “Every year international students arrive in Pittsburgh to study at our universities where they begin to put down roots. They become our neighbors and part of our community – many want to call Pittsburgh home but can’t. We want to keep this talent in Pittsburgh, and increasing the number of H-1B sponsorships will help us attain that.”
A 2014 study by the Brookings Institution ranked Pittsburgh 15th on a list of cities attracting international students on F-1 Visas, with over 13,000 international students arriving in Pittsburgh during the 2008 – 2012 period. The Day of Action underscores the importance of retaining this talent as a valuable asset to the city’s economy.
“We have a diversified economy with more people working in the 10-county Pittsburgh region than ever before, but meeting our workforce needs in coming years will require even more, skilled people,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development. He adds, “Some of the people we will need are already here but meeting our demographic challenges means we’ll need to attract new people as well. One part of the solution is to employ more high-skilled immigrants through the H-1B visa program.”
Every year since 2003, demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the cap. In 2014, the federal government received 172,500 H-1B petitions for 65,000 slots within four days of opening the application window. Once again, the cap was reached within days (April 7) from when the process opened. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will move to process the 20,000 visas for applicants with advanced degrees, followed by a lottery that randomly selects recipients of H-1B visas from the applicant pool.
It will take more than an expanded H-1B cap to retain and attract international talent to Pittsburgh. The Mayor’s Welcoming Pittsburgh initiative will work in partnership to educate local companies on the value of engaging foreign-born talent and on the H-1B sponsorship process, while advocating for expansion of the cap. Welcoming Pittsburgh is part of the Mayor’s vision to grow Pittsburgh’s population by 20,000 new residents over the next 10 years, and to do right by those currently living in the city. The Office of Mayor William Peduto and the Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council have been working to draft a plan, for release in May 2015, that will help make Pittsburgh more welcoming and to build a more livable city for all residents.
“The limited availability of H-1B visas results in lost opportunities for local, regional and nation-wide economic growth,” says Ana Maria Mieles, Immigration Attorney and Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council Member. She adds, “Although we educate some of the most talented international students in U.S. colleges and universities, most are forced to leave and take their skills and potential to competitors outside of the U.S. As demand for H-1B visas continues to exceed the cap, U.S. companies are strained by their inability to compete, on a global level, for a high skilled workforce.”
The WE (Welcoming Economies) Global Network, which includes the City of Pittsburgh, is an alliance of regional economic development initiatives working to tap into the economic development opportunities created by immigrants. The Network coordinated today’s events, from Detroit to Pittsburgh to Buffalo to Cleveland, to highlight immigration reform as a critical component of a prosperous economic future, and to call on national elected officials to act.
Follow the campaign online using #BurghH1B to add your voice to the call and follow @WelcomingPGH on Twitter or www.facebook.com/WelcomingPGH on Facebook. For more information on Welcoming Pittsburgh, please contact Manager, Special Initiatives, Betty Cruz, at 412-255-2439 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.