By Teresa Welsh |
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa established by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Through the H-1B, employers can hire foreign workers in specialty occupations for a period of up to six years. “Specialty occupations” include but are not limited to architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, and teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges, academies, or seminaries. The system requires that visa recipients hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in their respective fields to be considered for the visa. H-1B visa holders need to be sponsored by a company in order to work in the United States, and visas may be revoked if the employee is terminated.
Current law limits H-1B distribution to 65,000 recipients per year. Through various loopholes and exceptions, however, the number of H-1B visas issued each year is vastly larger—in 2010, 117,409 H-1B visas were distributed. In late November, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it has received enough H-1B applications to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2012. As of today, workers who wish to apply for H-1B visas have to wait until October 2012 to submit applications for H-1B visas.
Advocates of the H-1B program argue that the United States stands to gain a significant advantage by attracting innovative, entrepreneurial foreigners in burgeoning fields through the H-1B. They claim that the H-1B program creates more jobs for Americans through the new start-up businesses it helps to spawn. Detractors assert that the H-1B program is essentially indentured servitude, as those who receive visas are basically forced to stay with their sponsoring company and are often paid significantly less than their American counterparts. Likewise, they allege that many firms use the H-1B not to hire ambitious foreigners but simply to turn a profit.
Should H-1B visas be easier to get? Here’s the Debate Club’s take:
John Miano Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies
Ron Hira Associate Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology and Research Associate with the Economic Policy Institute