Many anti-immigration advocates repeatedly claim that foreign workers on H-1b visas (specialty occupation workers) are stealing skilled jobs from U.S. workers. The logic seems simple enough, if the foreign worker was not hired a U.S. worker would get the job. However, the reality of the situation is much more complicated, especially in the Information Technology (“IT”) field, where the majority of H-1b workers are employed. A recent report by the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy, indicates just the opposite, that H-1b tech workers actually create jobs for Americans. That the jobs filled by H-1b workers are complementary to those held by Americans not substitutes to them. Some companies simply can’t find a U.S. worker willing and able to do a critical job in the company, as a result the company either moves its operations overseas, or operates in a more limited capacity.
This study also explains how the U.S. is experiencing much slower job growth in the tech field because of its limits on H-1b visas. Each year there are only 85,000 H-1b visas released. Many years, there are many more applicants then there are visas. As a result they conduct a lottery. Last year for example, there were 170,000 applicants for the 85,000 H-1b visas. In 2007 and 2008 there were also way more applicants then visas available. As a result many IT workers were forced to go home, and the employers did not reap the benefit of their services.
The study examined the impact of these limits on the H-1b visas. The report cites is that 110,000 jobs for U.S. born tech workers were added from 2005-2010. The study indicates that at least 60,500 more jobs for U.S. born workers would have been added in the IT field if there was not a cap on H-1b visas in 2007 and 2008 alone.
The report’s conclusion after their detailed analysis is quite clear: “denying H-1b visas didn’t help the economies of America’s cities or their U.S. born workers. Instead it cost their tech sectors hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in missed wages.”