Most Immigrants Create Jobs
H-1B visas are one of our best tools to attract international brain power
December 28, 2011
In the 19th century, powerful nations fought each other for territory and natural resources—coal, iron ore, and colonies in the developing world. Today, the race is to attract skilled workers, particularly scientists, engineers, and IT technicians.
The United States has been their destination of choice since World War II—the place to go for challenging work and a better life. But that is changing. Other economies too—Europe, Canada, Australia, India, and China—are now competing to attract international brain power. America needs to do everything it possibly can to attract these workers—without them, we will not remain a globally competitive knowledge economy. And among the best tools at our disposal is the H-1B temporary visa.
But wait, you say, the unemployment rate is close to 9 percent, the real unemployment rate—including people who have stopped looking for work—well into double digits. How could we possibly need foreign workers, skilled or unskilled?
What you're forgetting: The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.4 percent. And 60 to 70 percent of the students in American computer science and electrical engineering graduate programs are foreign-born. Like it or not, we're just not producing enough American scientists, engineers, inventors, or IT entrepreneurs to keep up with the pace of global innovation. No country is. That's why we're in this race for international talent.
Far from taking jobs from Americans, most immigrants create jobs. According to one recent study, every 100 H-1B workers who came to the U.S. from 2001 to 2010 correlated with 183 new jobs for U.S. workers—that's the power of innovation and entrepreneurship.
So why a temporary visa? If these people are so productive, don't we want them to settle permanently? In the long run, we do. But settling is a big decision, one that rarely happens overnight. And even when people decide to make the leap, moving permanently to the U.S., they often wait years for their permanent visas, or green cards, to come through. But American companies need workers in real time, and many young technicians and recent science graduates are happy to start on short-term visas.
In the long run, America needs both—a ready supply of short-term visas and more green cards, made available faster, for knowledge workers. We need this talent now, and we will need it even more as the economic recovery takes off.
Do we want to develop the next generation of information technology here in the U.S.? The next biomedical breakthrough? The next discovery about the nature of the universe? If you think we do, there's no dispute: H-1B visas should be easier to get.