Reports have indicated that Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and
Dick Durbin (D-IL) plan to introduce a bill that would limit the
ability of companies to hire H-1B employees. Arguing that H-1B
visa recipients are a threat to American workers, their proposal
would add new layers of regulation and procedures making it more
difficult for companies to hire foreigners.
This argument is misguided. Given the current economic climate,
handcuffing employers from hiring talented workers will hurt--not
help--the economy, further delaying the ability of businesses to
restart the national economic engine. In order to grow the American
economy and support the American workforce, Congress should expand
and improve the H-1B visa program.
Unfounded Fears of the H-1B
Current law restricts the H-1B visa to highly skilled foreigners
who have an undergraduate degree or higher. Each year, the federal
government allows 65,000 visas to be issued, with an additional
20,000 visas for people who have masters degrees or higher. The
visas are granted to individuals who have been offered employment
in the United States. It is valid for three years and can be
renewed once for an additional three years.
Many believe H-1B workers merely compete with Americans looking
for work. They are wrong. The U.S. workforce is not a "zero-sum
game." One hired H-1B worker does not mean an American is out of a
job. In fact, the National Foundation for American Policy found
that employers hired four new American workers for each new H-1B
employee they hire.
Additionally, hiring H-1B employees does not lower the wages of
American workers. Current law requires that when employers apply
for H-1B visas, they must attest that they will pay the visa
recipient the same wage they would pay an American with similar
skill sets. Rather than limiting the ability of employers to hire
H-1B workers by adding more rules and restrictions, Congress should
ensure the federal government exercises appropriate oversight in
enforcing current laws.
Closing the Doors on H-1B
Preventing companies from hiring foreign workers harms the U.S.
economy's ability to rapidly adapt to marketplace demands.
Companies must be able to hire persons best suited to fill
positions based on their skill sets--not their nationality. People
have varying skill sets unrelated to their country of residence.
Simply requiring companies to hire Americans means that the company
may not get the best qualified person or even the individual with
the right set of professional skills to do the job. The federal
government should not be making personnel decisions for American
Keeping the Visa Successful
Adding regulations to the H-1B program would be a serious
setback to U.S. visa policy and would only end up hurting the U.S.
economy. Instead, Congress should:
- Return the cap to the 2001 quota of 195,000 visas a year.
- Make the program flexible. If the visa quota is met the year
before, the cap should be automatically increased by a preset
amount legislated by Congress. In addition, unused visas should be
recaptured and used the following year.
- Create interoperable databases. Making sure the Department of
Labor and the Department of Homeland Security databases are
interoperable will help minimize the number of fraudulent
- Increase oversight. The federal government should keep
employers who have hired H-1B employees accountable to the program
rules. Random site visits should be conducted to ensure employers
are following the rules.
By improving and expanding the H-1B visa program, Congress can
ensure that American businesses have the workforces necessary for
further economic growth.
James Sherk is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy
in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation and Diem
Nguyen is a Research Assistant in the Douglas and Sarah Allison
Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The