The coming debate over immigration reform promises to be thorny, but one change should be simple: increasing the number of H-1B visas available for high-skilled foreign workers. Business groups around the country, including the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, are right to press lawmakers to lift the restrictive yearly cap on H-1B visas as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system.
For Boston’s innovative firms to compete with companies abroad, they need to recruit the best talent available. That’s difficult to do when US-born workers in skilled sectors are being snapped up quickly — the unemployment rate for Americans with advanced science, technology, engineering, and math degrees is less than 4 percent — and when existing law doesn’t let foreign workers fill the demand. Just 65,000 H-1B visas are made available each year. In 2012, all were handed out within three months.