Recently announced changes to the H-1B immigrant visa system have the potential to lower the number of foreign workers permitted into the U.S., similarly as the Donald Trump government expects. The issue is that goal makes no sense. Whenever actualized, the changes will seriously hurt numerous organizations — small firms and medical care providers particularly. In general, they’ll hurt U.S. workers, not help them.
Trump has just changed the H-1B program, which brings 85,000 skilled workers to the U.S. a year. Yet the new rules go further. The policy fixes the definition of “specialty” occupations that qualify for H-1B status and prevents organizations from employing foreign workers. Except if they have degrees that exactly match available job postings — making it difficult to hire a worker with an engineering degree as a software programmer, for example.
To keep businesses from undercutting wages, the government will expect employers to increase the pay rates of H-1B visa holders. The highest-skilled immigrants should be paid at the 95th percentile of the prevailing wage for their occupations up from the 67th percentile under current rules. However, visas for workers recruited by information-technology placement firms will be restricted to one year. A change influencing a huge number of individuals, generally from India.
The administration expects the changes should diminish demand for H-1B visas by 33% and considers this to be a victory for U.S. workers. Actually, it’s a defeat. Almost 66% of H-1B beneficiaries work in“computer-related” fields, where labor is hard to find. The third-quarter unemployment rate for programmers was 2.9%, compared to 8.8% for all U.S. workers, and vacancies in the sector are up 4.7% since April. These jobs increase buyer interest and assist organizations with growing by critical roles. All in all, skilled immigrants spur development and help create jobs for American workers.
H-1B immigrant visa
The new guidelines will discourage innovation and entrepreneurship by making the expense of employing foreign talent prohibitive for small businesses. U.S.-based startups that rely on skilled immigrants for IT services will outsource more tasks to workers outside the U.S. What’s more, amidst a pandemic, the changes will worsen shortages of health-care workers. The new approach requires all clinical experts on H-1B visas to be paid at least $208,000, regardless of specialty or experience. For many clinics and hospitals in underserved areas, that’s unaffordable.
Normally, the public review may have permitted these defects to be exposed and helped before the rules took effect. Not this time. The OMB gave waivers permitting the departments of Labor and Homeland Security to move ahead without finishing the usual review measure. At the very least, the courts should suspend the new rules until they’ve received public comment. Legislative leaders should also insist on closer scrutiny and remind the administration. That far-reaching changes to immigration laws should be carried out through legislation, not executive fiat.
The most important point is the simplest: The strongest possible U.S. economic recovery requires more ability drawn from the rest of the world, not less. A smart immigration system would recognize this reality, and in that way advance the interests, of all Americans.