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