Foreign Work Visas Are Coming Back. But Why?



After months of being quashed by the coronavirus pandemic, “high-skilled” temporary work visas are creeping up again.

From a low of 500 in April, issuance of H-1B and related visas climbed back to 2,200 in July (the latest month for which figures were available, and a month before President Donald Trump issued his third executive order restricting work visas).

Is the rebound due to actual rising demand for foreign workers, or is it an ill-gotten byproduct of political and legal maneuvering on their behalf?

The latter scenario is clearly in play. FAIR reported last month that the U.S. State Department exempted eight visa classifications (including H-1Bs), undermining President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 restrictions.

In the courts, more than 50 U.S. companies – led by tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook – are supporting lawsuits challenging the visa ban. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s executive director of immigration policy declares, “It’s not so much just bringing the talent into the country. It’s having the talent come here to help start new operations.”

According to corporate lobbyists and special pleaders for foreign workers, America simply cannot get back on its feet without continuous, high-dose injections of temp labor from overseas.

These assertions are at odds with U.S. public opinion and the facts.

While about 650,000 H-1B visa workers remained in the U.S. at any given time, news reports detailed how Americans were forced to train their foreign replacements. Pre-COVID, U.S. workers were losing jobs to H-1B holders who were arriving at the rate of 60,000 per month.

A national poll conducted in July found broad support for curtailing work visas. Interestingly, people who earn more than $100,000 voiced the strongest opposition to so-called “high-skilled” visa workers.

Before anyone heard of COVID-19, Hal Salzman, a public policy professor at Rutgers University, pointed out that America produces 1.9 million bachelors graduates annually, plus hundreds of thousands of master’s graduates and PhDs.

In a paper published last year, Salzman noted that only one-third of all U.S. science, technology and math (STEM) degree holders are actually employed in STEM jobs. This suggests the majority are under-employed and that the supply of U.S. STEM graduates more than meets demand.

Salzman’s research concluded that the available pool of U.S. STEM grads is highly elastic and increasing. “The U.S. education system has produced ample supplies of students to respond to STEM labor demand,” he said.

That being the case when unemployment rates were at historic lows, the relentless crusade for more foreign workers is badly out of time and place today.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

FAIR blogs can now be found on our main site at https://www.fairus.org/blog