Should the Us Citizens and Government Support or Oppose the H1B Visa?

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  • Topic: H-1B visa
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  • Published : March 3, 2006
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INTRODUCTION
The H1B visa is the primary US work visa/work permit for professional foreign workers in "specialty occupations". This visa is typically used for professions (Table 1) such as Computing & IT, Telecoms, HealthCare, Finance & Accounting, Teaching, Legal, Marketing & Advertising, Sales, Management, and Engineering; and it is designed for individuals who have high degree of specialized knowledge, which means having either the equivalent of a US bachelor's degree or at least 12 years of high-level work experience. The H1B visa program has been a hot topic for several years. The issue is constantly boiling over because of a dramatic rise in overseas outsourcing, which is costing thousands of US workers their jobs, and even the presidential election campaign. At the same time American citizens complain that H1B workers take jobs from or cause harm to American workers, multinationals allege that there is a lack of American high-skilled professionals. In order to harmonize the issue, last year, the US Congress slashed the number of work visas allotted for foreign professionals from 195,000 to 65,000. However, there are still a great number of active guest workers in the US (Table 2). H1B workers have an advantage because American companies strongly support them. As a matter fact, most times employers specifically tailor advertised job requirements to aliens' qualifications. The job's education and experience requirements are based on the aliens' qualifications, not on the skills required to perform the work. On the other hand, H1B workers cannot easily change jobs once they are here. Employers may pay them less, work them harder, and refuse to give them salary increases because they know the H1B workers cannot leave the company as easy as a US citizen in a similar position. In addition, the promise of a "green card" by the first company works as the big "carrot". "The prize of a green card is used as a carrot by the first employer because they know that the HIB worker is taking a huge risk if his visa expires before the green card is approved, and if they leave the first employer for another one, the green card process has to start over." (Rob Sanchez, Rescue American Jobs) Furthermore, foreign professionals face competitive disadvantage with US citizens because the visa and green card approval can be delayed for a variety of reasons, and an employer may opt to hire a citizen simply to avoid the delay and uncertainty in the visa or green card process. There are a few advantages and disadvantages for foreign workers, but to better conclude whether the US nation should support or oppose the H1B visa's issue, it is fundamental to analyze why support and why oppose it.

WHY SUPPORT THE H1B VISA
The potential gains to consumers from free trade in professional services are enormous. Since there is an increase in the supply of highly paid professionals, the paper calculates that the gains to consumers would range from $160 billion to $270 billion a year. By comparison, the cost to consumer of foreign skilled-workers is estimated at just $3 billion a year. A recent article in News.com reports that Wipro, a top overseas off shoring company, discloses to its investors that if US immigration laws change and make it more difficult for companies to obtain H1B visa for their employees, their ability to compete for and provide services to clients in the United States could be impaired. Moreover, the Globalization era, in which a laptop is designed in California, engineered in China, and produced in Mexico, requires different people with different background and way of thinking in order to reach successful innovated ideas/products. International competition creates pressure to innovate, to improve quality, and to invest. Recruiting highly skilled-professionals, American companies increase its business effectiveness and efficiency, and stimulates economic growth, being able to survive in the competitive world market. The less the...
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