Background of H-1B
Established in 1990, the H-1B visa is a temporary non-immigrant employment visa for highly educated foreign professionals in specialty occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. The visa’s duration is for up to 6 years. The H-1B visa is currently capped at 65,000 per year, with 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university. Exempt from the visa cap are professional employees of institutions of higher education or related nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations, or government research organizations.
How H-1B Work Permits Benefit the Economy
The U.S. offers a vast number of jobs in specialized fields. The “STEM” fields, otherwise known as the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are in high demand as well as healthcare, business, finance, and the life sciences. With the ever-changing nature and demand of US companies, our workforce is always expanding so that it can accommodate both native-born citizens and foreign nationals.
Foreign H-1B workers help our economy by providing their expertise in their specialized fields, which are essential to the progress and development of companies that greatly impact or country. Specifically, H-1B visa employees benefit our economy by placing foreign workers in unfilled specialty occupation positions where there are not enough qualified native-born citizens. This is due to American students specializing in the STEM fields to be the lowest of any academic category.
Additionally, jobs are created through foreign workers continued US employment. Todd Shulte, president of FWD.us stated “For every 100 H-1B workers, an additional 183 jobs among US native-born workers are created. Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to start their own business as native-born Americans.”
Wage Impact of H-1Bs
The Department of Labor has established certain standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers from being adversely affected by the employment of the nonimmigrant workers, as well as to protect the H-1B nonimmigrant workers. Employers are required to pay H-1B workers the prevailing wage for that occupation, or at least equal to the actual wage paid by the employer to other workers with similar experience and qualifications.
Recent studies on the wage impact of H-1B workers in the U.S. have reported positive effects on U.S. wages overall. A recent study by the American Immigration Council concluded that there was a substantial wage growth for employees who worked for a company that included H-1B professionals. A similar study by the American Immigration Council was conducted over 20 years between 1990 and 2010, monitoring the growth trends since the H-1B programs inception. This study found that the wage increases in H-1B workers were directly related to the increased wages of native U.S. workers with college educations.
The Politics Behind the United States Immigration System
The H-1B visa program is under fire by some conservatives who say it allows for foreign workers to steal jobs from U.S. workers. Amongst their claims is that Americans are being displaced by cheap foreign labor. Companies defend the use of foreign labor through the H-1B program, and many politicians have fought for it. However, some candidates have discovered that xenophobia is alive and well in America and while they had been in favor of the H-1B in the past, even to the extent of tripling the number of yearly H-1B visas, it is good for their poll numbers to be against it now. The fact is, the H-1B visa program is good for America and, especially, to our competitive edge in the high tech industry. Companies are required to certify that they have not laid off American workers and guaranteed that they will pay H-1B foreign workers at least the prevailing wage for any specific job. In fact, the majority get paid well in excess of the prevailing wage. The U.S. Department of Labor has been charged with monitoring this system to make sure U.S. workers are treated fairly and that their wages are not affected. There is also a system of redress where abuses can be reported to the Immigration Service and Department of Labor for back wages and where the company can even be barred from filing future H-1B petitions.
Why America Needs Foreign-Born Skilled Workers
According to Forbes, 40% Of The Largest U.S. Companies Founded by Immigrants or Their Children. Big tech companies such as Intel, Microsoft, Google, eBay and Yahoo have been lobbying for increased H-1B visas owing to the shortage of U.S. workers with the necessary skills. Leaders from the IT industry including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet are also pressuring Congress to reform immigration. Considering how fast technology in the 21st century is developing, firms in the U.S. need qualified applicants for the high-technology, high-wage jobs. If the U.S market can’t provide this, offshore outsourcing remains indispensable.
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