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You Should Know

How Do H-1B Visas Support US Economic Competitiveness?

How Do H-1B Visas Support US Economic Competitiveness?

by Sara McElmurry

by Sara McElmurry
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will suspend premium processing on applications for H-1B visas, which allow US companies to temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers. How do H-1B visas support US economic competitiveness? What do these changes mean for the future of the visa program? Here’s what you should know.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will suspend premium processing on applications for H-1B visas, which allow US companies to temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers. How do H-1B visas support US economic competitiveness? What do these changes mean for the future of the visa program? Here’s what you should know.
Photo: iSTOCK
Photo: iSTOCK
Many industries rely on H-1Bs to remain competitive. Forty-five percent of US employers reported talent shortages in a recent survey.
Photo: PIXABAY
H-1Bs for specialty occupations such as engineering, medicine, law, and business are valid for three years and extendable up to six. Foreign workers can’t request an H-1B; an employer must apply on their behalf. 
Photo: iSTOCK
Employers must prove that hiring a foreign worker won’t displace an American worker and meet other wage and workplace requirements.
Photo: iSTOCK
US law allows 85,000 new H-1Bs to be issued per year. Of that, 20,000 are only for workers with a master’s degree or higher. Existing H-1B workers and those employed by nonprofits are not counted in the cap.
Photo: REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
H-1B visas are awarded via lottery. Demand has far outpaced supply in recent years: 236,000 applications for 85,000 slots were received in under a week in 2016.
Photo: REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Tech employers are particularly vocal about their need for foreign-born talent. Foreign students earn half of the advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees awarded by US universities.
Photo: iSTOCK
H-1Bs are one of few visa channels available for US companies to employ foreign students after graduation from US institutions. 
Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar
Healthcare faces critical worker shortages with growing demand from aging Baby Boomers. A quarter of current doctors in the United States are foreign born. We will need an additional 90,000 doctors by 2025.
Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg
American medical students aren’t graduating fast enough to meet this demand. H-1Bs are one way some hospitals can hire qualified health workers from abroad.
Photo: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Immigration offsets population decline and an aging workforce in the 12-state Midwest region, which has grown at a rate of less than half the national average over the last 50 years. 
Photo: iSTOCK

Numerous bipartisan efforts have been made to reform H1-B laws, but widely publicized abuses and a divided Congress have stalled legislation.

Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron

A draft executive memo from President Trump calls for a review of the H1-B and other work visas but offers few details on potential reforms.  

Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch

And USCIS recently announced that it would temporarily suspend “premium” processing of H-1Bs, which guarantees employers an expedited response on applications.

Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Many in the business community worry that H-1Bs could be dramatically cut as the Trump administration sets policies to restrict immigration to the United States.

Photo: REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Over the years, employers have urged Congress to increase the number of visas available to hire global talent and ensure the future global competitiveness of the United States.

Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing

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