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H1-B visas are the lifeblood of U.S. tech innovation–and the shortcut to semiconductor supremacy

In December, Samsung delayed a Texas-based chip manufacturing facility’s start date. In January, the Taiwanese chip manufacturing company TSMC pushed back one of its planned Arizona plants. The reason? Workforce shortages. Two years after the U.S. passed legislation providing $280 billion over the next decade to spur the development of its semiconductors industry, such delays represent significant hiccups in America’s plan to boost our ability to build advanced computer chips.

The U.S. has provided significant investments and support for chip manufacturers in financial terms. However, you need more than financing to run a business. An often-overlooked reform to boost manufacturing in the high-tech sector is expanding skilled immigration. Our new research on the largest skilled immigration program in the U.S., the H-1B visa, suggests it is one of the missing pieces in successfully bringing more high-tech manufacturing within our borders. 

It’s no surprise that there’s a need for additional workers who understand chip manufacturing. Consultants have projected hundreds of thousands of missing workers. This number grows to 1.4 million by 2030.

In the case of TSMC, this workforce shortage has been well-reported as a concern for more than two years ago. Lacking workers with the right training was reemphasized in their January announcement of the delay. 

The same factor is at play in the case of Samsung’s plant delays. Samsung joined with the University of Texas in 2023 to create a “talent pipeline” for the state’s semiconductor industry.

These kinds of investments in domestic talent will certainly be one part of the solution to the skilled workforce shortage. To this end, the CHIPS and Sciences Act provides hundreds of millions in support for workforce development. These are commonsense investments in the U.S.’s domestic workforce. 

However, training takes time. The U.S. needs to bring in workers ready to work today if it is serious about jumpstarting chip manufacturing.

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