New survey by Matthew Slaughter, Dean of Tuck School of Business.
NEW YORK: H-1B visa immigrants’ contributions to communities in metropolitan areas over the past few decades has been immense, with faster growth in productivity in those areas, which economists say would drive increased standards of living and real wages, according to a new survey.
However, policies supporting the H-1B visa program in the United States are too restrictive, undercutting free enterprise and ultimately damaging the economy, says the survey.
The H-1B visas, for which the U.S. began accepting new applications on April 1, are designed to allow U.S. companies to recruit foreign professionals in specialty occupations, those that require a bachelor’s degree, for a period of up to six years.
Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, was quoted by the Voice of America as saying, “Those communities with more high skilled immigrants [arriving] than native born workers … had higher wage growth. Not just other talented workers, other college graduates, but also less skilled natives.”
Slaughter’s survey of 400 corporate executives, however, shows that companies that desperately need the specialized labor find the H-1B hiring process too expensive.
“Eighty-two percent of respondents in this survey said hiring a foreign worker costs as much as or more than hiring a comparably skilled U.S. worker,” said Slaughter, who directed the survey.
Some Americans believe H-1B visa holders are angling to take their jobs, but former U.S. treasurer Rosario Marin, co-chair of American Competitiveness Alliance, said foreign professionals in the high demand high-tech industry are necessary, said Voice of America.
“Almost 80 percent [of] full-time graduate students in electrical engineering in the United States are international students,” she said. “In computer science, foreign nationals make up more than 70 percent of graduate students.”
Some 233,000 applications were filed in the last fiscal year. With an annual quota of 85,000 set by Congress, the visa applications that exceed the quota are allocated via a lottery system. Applicants who don’t win the lottery are not allowed to work in the United States. Marin said that could benefit economic rivals of the United States.
“Our economic rivals are recruiting them,” she said, adding that other countries are approaching the very H-1B visa applicants who are rejected.
Bjorn Billhardt is an entrepreneur who hires H-1B visa holders. He said missing key, talented individuals could potentially kill projects and start-ups that actually represent productivity and creativity, said the Voice of America.
“In [the] early stage of a company, it’s that critical employee that will make or break the company,” he said.
The current H-1B visa program requires the employer to pay the beneficiary a wage that is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers.
Some people still criticize H-1B visa holders as cheap labor and say the program is being abused, including leading Senators Chuck Grassley and Jeff Sessions. Two Republican presidential candidates also have raised concerns about the H1-B program.
Slaughter said: “About three quarters of these companies say, ‘When we have high skilled positions that go unfilled for longer than about a month, it’s a real constraint on the competitiveness and success of their companies.'”
Slaughter’s survey found that 71 percent of respondents said they would consider moving facilities to other countries if they find it too difficult to hire skilled professionals in the United States.