The number of applications for H-1B visas sought by Minnesota employers has grown by 75 percent since 2012, to nearly 10,000, according to myvisajobs.com, an employment website that tracks visa trends.
Minnesota ranks 17th nationally in filings for H-1B visas, with 9,938, according to the website. Minnesota employers that use the most highly skilled foreign workers under the program are in the science and technology business.
Mayo Clinic got 947 H-1B visas from 2014-2016, according to myvisajobs.com. The medical center ranked 150th in the country in H-1B visas obtained, the website said.
The University of Minnesota got 722 H-1B visas during the same period and ranked 203rd nationally. Medtronic got 576 H-1B visas from 2014-2016 and came in at 257th.
A Mayo spokeswoman said medical center officials had not seen President Donald Trump’s new executive order that attempts to push highly skilled, highly paid U.S. jobs to Americans by scrutinizing the number of foreign specialists let into the country to work.
But she added, “We greatly value the talents and contributions of the small number of staff with H1-B visas. They are proportionally [a] very small, but valuable part of our workforce.”
The president says that those workers arrive in the U.S. through a broken system that at times lets foreigners take jobs from Americans because they will work for lower wages.
On Monday the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said the 199,000 application cap on this year’s H-1B visas had been reached within five days.
“Revisions of the H-1B program are long overdue,” said Rebecca Peters, director of government affairs for the Council for Global Immigration. Demanding that the visas only go the most skilled, highest paid foreigners, as Trump outlined, is an improvement over a lottery, she added, but a skills gap still exists in jobs that involve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The global immigration council says two-thirds of employers report hiring problems in certain fields and that 5.5 million jobs remain open.
“We want the White House and Congress to work together to find solutions,” Peters said.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, R.-Minn., whose district is home to many medical technology companies, urged restraint.
“The H-1B visa program is an important tool for attracting and retaining top talent in STEM careers and we shouldn’t kick people out of the country so they can become our competitors, especially if they were trained and educated in the U.S.,” Paulsen said in a statement. “While we must ensure that the program is not being abused, it’s also critical not to turn away some of the brightest minds in the world that can help grow and contribute to our economy.”
Shaye Mandle, CEO of Minnesota’s medical technology trade group, Medical Alley Association, said the ability of companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers needs to expand, not shrink, if the U.S. is to continue as a world leader in innovation.
“The H-1B visa program is critical for the U.S. to continue to attract the best talent and to meet the increasing needs for high-skilled innovators that keep our industries strong,” Mandle said. “Medical Alley supports an expansion of the H-1B visa program.”
Medtronic declined to comment on Trump’s executive order Tuesday; the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), the device industry’s main trade group, also declined to comment.