Apr 07, 2015 - 4:30pm

High-Skilled H-1B Visas: Demand Outstrips Supply — Again


Senior Editor, Digital Content

Once again, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) closed the H-1B visa filing period after receiving more than 85,000 applications.

This is a broken record for the H-1B program. In 2014, 172,000 applications were received for 85,000 visas. In five out of the last nine years, the H-1B visa cap has been reached within one week. And since 2007, “the H-1B cap has always been met well before the end of the government’s fiscal year for which the H-1Bs are granted.”

The American Immigration Council has a good explainer on the H-1B program with details on how the cap has risen and fallen and how fast the cap has been reached since 2006.

A more rational immigration policy would adjust to demand consistently outstripping supply, but that’s not the case here. As, PayPal founder Max Levchin writes, we're putting America’s global competition for talent in the hands of fate:

The H-1B visa lottery leaves to chance what we should want to guarantee for our economy: that the best and the brightest innovators contribute to our country’s success, instead of being forced out and likely given little choice but to go create jobs for our global competitors.

This makes no sense, when we know that immigrant workers create jobs for native-born workers.

H-1B Workers Generate Jobs for U.S.-Born Workers

Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) finds that despite the scare tactics of immigration reform opponents like Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Al), workers with H-1B visas create jobs for American workers:

A 2013 paper written by professors at Harvard University looking at the 1995 to 2008 period found that 1 additional young, high-skilled immigrant worker hired by a firm created 3.1 jobs for U.S.-born workers at that same company during the period studied. Other academics have tied each H-1B visa award or labor request with the creation of four or five American jobs in the immediate years that follow.

Even when using a more-conservative estimate of job creation ability—one H-1B visa holder creates 1.83 native-born jobs--PNAE still finds significant job gains: “Workers who received H-1B visas from 2010-2013 will create more than 700,000 jobs for U.S.-born workers by 2020.”

Fourteen states will have more than 15,000 jobs created for U.S.-born workers, and these benefits reach beyond traditional tech states like California and Washington state.

Lift the H-1B Cap

The problem we face is companies need higher-skilled workers while the public wants stronger job creation and economic growth. The answer to both is increasing the H-1B cap to allow more higher-skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. The bipartisan Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act will do that. More higher-skilled workers will be attracted to the U.S., bringing with them innovative new ideas, increased productivity, and the creative energy to create more jobs for all of us.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.