When H-1B Workers Complete a Team, Everyone Wins

August 18th, 2015

Finding the right employees is an ongoing challenge for most companies. As workers come and go, knowledge and skillsets shift across teams. And with more specialized skills, it’s even harder to find the right talent, especially when limited by geography.

As a result, many companies recruit highly-skilled H-1B visa workers to complement their existing workforces and fill the gaps that pose barriers to growth. Filling these positions helps companies unlock their full potential and increase productivity. The results? Increasingly, economists and companies report that more H-1B visa holders translate to more jobs for native-born workers, higher wages and overall economic growth.

Even when unemployment trends higher, the U.S. experiences a continuing shortage of knowledge workers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In response, Congress created the H-1B program in 1990 to help companies fill this need by sponsoring visas for qualified knowledge workers. Currently, 65,000 visas are granted annually, plus an extra 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees earned from U.S. universities. However, demand for these workers continues to far outstrip supply.

When companies need to fill STEM-related positions, they struggle to find native-born workers with the right skills. Based on 2011 data, the Brookings Institute found that 43 percent of STEM occupations with H-1B requests are reposted on job boards after one month, “implying that they are unfulfilled.” As a result, 90 percent of all H-1B visas seek to fill STEM-related positions. [1]

Once a company assembles a complete team that blends native-born talent with specialized H-1B worker skillsets, everything starts to click. The company can overcome hurdles that previously slowed growth and innovation, leading to greater productivity, higher wages and more jobs.

Economists found that between 1990 and 2010, “growth in foreign STEM workers may explain between 10 and 25 percent of the aggregate productivity growth.” Meanwhile, over the same period, the same study found that increasing foreign STEM workers by one percent of total employment increased wages of all native college-educated workers by four to six percent.[2]

According to the American Enterprise Institute and Partnership for a New American Economy, every 100 H-1B workers were associated with an additional 183 jobs for native-born workers, leading the study to conclude that more H-1B visas “correspond to greater job opportunities for U.S.-born workers.” Indeed, Bill Gates reported a greater effect within Microsoft, noting, “For every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities.”[3]

For smaller technology companies, the impact can be more extreme. Tech companies with fewer than 5,000 employees report that recruiting an H-1B visa holder unlocks the company’s productivity, to the tune of 7.5 new workers for every H-1B position.[4]

When a company has a team on the verge of great things, identifying the missing pieces – and filling those roles – can have a tremendous impact on the whole enterprise. Smartly leveraging the H-1B visa program to complement native-born employees can improve fortunes for all, resulting in greater productivity, higher wages, more jobs – and more success.




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[1] Rothwell, Jonathan and Neil G. Ruiz, “H-1B Visas and the STEM Shortage.” The Brookings Institute, May 10, 2013. http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/05/10-h1b-visas-stem-rothwell-ruiz

[2] Anderson, Stuart. “H-1B Visas Essential to Attracting and Retaining Talent in America.” National Foundation for American Policy – May 2013. Study conducted by Economists Giovanni Peri (UC, Davis), Kevin Shih (UC, Davis), and Chad Sparber (Colgate University).

[3] Anderson, Stuart. “H-1B Visas Essential to Attracting and Retaining Talent in America.” National Foundation for American Policy – May 2013

[4] Nowrasteh, Alex. “H1-B Visas: A Case for Open Immigration of Highly Skilled Foreign Workers.” – Competitive Enterprise Institute, October 2010. https://cei.org/sites/default/files/Alex%20Nowrasteh%20-%20H1-B%20Visas.pdf

Comment » | H-1B, Immigration reform

Children at the Border

August 4th, 2015

Each year, thousands of children enter the U.S. in search of asylum. These refugee children, who are fleeing violence, persecution or trafficking of some sort, oftentimes do not even know that they are refugees — and that because of this, they have some protection under the law.

Recently, a federal judge critiqued the 1997 Flores v. Reno settlement, which guaranteed minimum standards for detention and the release of unaccompanied children being held in immigration detention. He stated that the settlement referred to all minors rather than simply those who are unaccompanied, and that they should be released from custody.

Along with this critique, the judge called for accompanying parents to be released so long as it would not “create a flight risk or a safety risk.” Many of the fleeing men and women seeking asylum in the U.S. are doing so for the same reason that their children are — for their safety in one way or another.

On June 24, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that women who passed initial interviews establishing eligibility for protection under U.S. immigration law would be released. This was met with coercion from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers persuading the women to wear ankle monitors, intimidation from officials, unclear instructions due to language barriers in official documents and delayed access to counsel in bond hearings.

On top of these infractions, the detention standards guaranteed in the Flores settlement are far from being enforced. Many immigrants are kept in holding cells called “hieleras” or ice boxes due to their freezing cold temperatures. These cells are often overcrowded, unsanitary and do not provide detainees with the proper nutrition and hygiene required under the Flores case. These centers are set up to be for short-term detention lasting no more than 12 hours. There are cases, though, where Border Patrol agents have individuals detained for days and sometimes weeks.

The United States has obligations to international law in regard to allowing refugees coming here to seek asylum. The fact that children are often held in detention, given little to no legal representation is a problem in itself. On Aug. 3, the government will submit their reasoning as to why the ruling on the release of detained children and their mothers, especially those with no criminal records, should not be implemented. Until then, we will have to count on organizations like the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project and other advocates to push for immediate reform of this flawed system.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, Immigration reform

Decreasing American Unemployment by Hiring Foreign Workers

June 23rd, 2015

In the U.S., the topic of employing foreign-born workers can cause a bit of a divide, with some leaning more for it and others against it. For those who may oppose employing these workers, it often comes down to the belief that they are taking jobs away from U.S.-born citizens. Recent research, however, finds that this is not necessarily the case.

The H-1B visa program aims to offer employment to foreign professionals whose occupations call for highly-educated candidates. Each year, the U.S. makes 65,000 visas available to foreign-born workers, with an additional 20,000 for those who hold a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university.

This may seem like enough visas, especially considering the recent high levels of unemployment in the U.S., but research shows that increasing the number of visas for foreign-born workers would actually increase the total number of jobs. In fact, estimates show more than 230,000 jobs could have been created for U.S. born workers between 2007 and 2008 had the hundreds of thousands of visas that were to be put in a lottery not been rejected. Looking ahead, it is estimated that 1.3 million new jobs may be created by 2045 if the numbers of H-1B visas per year is increased.

The reason for this? Many of these jobs are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Not only is unemployment is extremely low in STEM occupations, showing an unmet need for labor, but the economic impact of these knowledge jobs increases both the overall number of jobs and the GDP. According to a report prepared by Regional Economic Models, Inc., an increase in H-1B visas could create an estimated 1.3 million new jobs and add around $158 billion to the GDP by 2045.

It is not solely STEM jobs that are calling for H-1B employees. Along with research universities, many companies across the country have a demand for these workers — companies like Caterpillar Inc., Bank of America and the Mayo Clinic to name a few. And with more H-1B petitions comes more wage growth. According to the American Immigration Council, the Computer Systems Design and Related Services category saw a “5.5 percent wage growth since 1990” and a “7.0 percent wage growth since 2009.”

With issues such as unemployment at the forefront of many Americans’ minds, perhaps its time to change how we look at foreign-born workers. Allowing for more H-1B visas isn’t a complete solution, but it would definitely create more positive effects for all involved.

Comment » | H-1B, Immigration reform

Where The Candidates Stand on Immigration

June 12th, 2015

Immigration has become a hot topic in the 2016 presidential campaign, thanks to the presidential executive actions on immigration. But as you look at both parties, there is a clear divide.

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, defends Obama’s executive actions and wants to take them further, citing “sympathetic cases” of illegal immigrants should be considered for citizenship. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, who’s expected to run, views mirror Clinton’s, recently saying, “I’m glad Secretary Clinton’s come around to the right positions on these issues.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has long supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but remains skeptical of guest-worker programs and their impact on native workers.

After the 2012 GOP defeat, party officials pushed for immigration policy changes to appeal to more Hispanics. Ironically, GOP immigration views have shifted to the right. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are the original GOP “purists” on immigration—remaining steadfast in anti-amnesty beliefs.

Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker have done an about-face on past views that supported granting legal status to illegal immigrants. Walker said his views have changed and he no longer believes in amnesty. Rubio says he would support some, but not all, of the executive actions. He would remove protections for undocumented parents of U.S. Citizens and permanent resident, (DAPA), but keep protections in place for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Texas governor Rick Perry was criticized in 2012 for being soft on immigration. Recently, Perry voiced support for stronger border security and said illegal immigration is a “clear and present danger to the health and safety of all Americans.”

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, was previously a supporter of the DREAM Act that provides immigrants a path to citizenship if they were children brought into the country illegally. But earlier this year, Huckabee signed a pledge that opposes citizenship to anyone in the U.S. illegally.

Like Huckabee, business executive Carly Fiorina supported the DREAM Act in the past. Since entering the presidential race, her views have changed to be more about “enforcement first,” saying a path to citizenship for undocumented youths would encourage more illegal immigration.

In his 2012 book, Dr. Ben Carson questioned the morality of exploiting “cheap labor from illegal immigrants while denying them citizenship.” In 2014, he said illegal immigrants should “apply for guest-worker status from outside the country. This means they would have to leave first.” This mean people complying would have to stay outside the U.S. for 3 to 10 years, under current laws.

 In February, former Florida governor, Jeb Bush remained supportive of a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants—making him the only Republican candidate to support some form of amnesty.

Regardless of the candidate, expect immigration to play a part in their campaign. There’s still a long time to the election, so keep an eye on your candidate’s immigration stance before casting your ballot next year.

Comment » | Immigration reform

DHS/DOL Regulatory Agendas Hint at Obama’s Executive Action on Business Immigration

May 30th, 2015

The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) are planning to issue regulations that implement aspects of President Barack Obama’s executive action on business immigration, including additional immigration avenues for foreign entrepreneurs, an overhaul of the permanent labor certification program (PERM), and expanded job mobility for certain I-140 beneficiaries waiting for their green cards.

According to DHS’s spring regulatory agenda, released May 21, the department is planning to issue a proposed rule in August that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. via parole. The parole authority, contained in Section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows for the admission of certain immigrants through other-than-normal channels if it would promote a “significant public benefit.”

DHS said the proposed rule would allow such admission, on a case-by-case basis, of “certain inventors, researchers, and entrepreneurs who will establish a U.S. start-up entity, and who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.”

Under the proposed rule, the entrepreneur could be eligible for temporary parole into the U.S. based on “investment, job-creation, and other factors,” DHS said.

The proposed rule is one of several elements contained in the president’s executive action on immigration, announced in November. The action also suggested bringing in immigrant entrepreneurs through the national interest waiver process—which allows such immigrants to be awarded green cards without going through the labor certification process—but that doesn’t appear in the current regulatory agenda.

Job Mobility for I-140 Beneficiaries

Another aspect of the executive action that is contained in the regulatory agenda is the planned October release of a proposed rule that would provide certain benefits to the beneficiaries of approved I-140 immigrant petitions for an alien worker.

DHS said the proposed rule would allow certain I-140 beneficiaries to obtain work authorization while awaiting their green cards and “remove unnecessary restrictions on the ability to change jobs or progress in careers, as well as provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.” It also would clarify the meaning of “portable work authorization,” the department said.

The DHS regulatory agenda also includes a proposed rule, planned for August, that would expand optional practical training for foreign graduates with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees.

DHS did not describe what that expansion would entail, but a memorandum from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued as part of the president’s executive action called for an expansion of the degree programs eligible for OPT as well as the length of time foreign graduates can work in the U.S. in OPT status. Johnson’s memo also stated that the OPT program should require stronger ties to degree-granting institutions and should include labor market protections to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers.  The DHS regulatory agenda also would allow the 17-month OPT extension for STEM degrees to apply to prior or most recent degrees.

PERM Overhaul in the Works

New to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda is a proposed rule, slated for release in December, that would overhaul the permanent labor certification program. The action also was announced as part of the president’s executive action.

DOL said the department hasn’t “comprehensively examined and modified” PERM in 10 years, and “much has changed in our country’s economy, affecting employers’ demand for workers and the availability of a qualified domestic labor force.” Furthermore, the DOL said, technological advancements “have dramatically altered common industry recruitment practices, and the Department has received ongoing feedback that the existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM process frequently do not align with worker or industry needs and practices.”

The proposed rule therefore is intended to “consider options to modernize the PERM program” to make it “more responsive to changes in the national workforce, to further align the program design with the objectives of the U.S. immigration system and needs of workers and employers, and to enhance the integrity of the labor certification process,” DOL said.



Comment » | Immigration Policy Center

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