NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Best Way To Get Skilled Immigrants

September 28, 1999

Temporary foreign workers with skills and education may only come to the U.S. on limited visas (H1-B visas). They go primarily to the growing high-tech sector, where they are in such demand that the limit of 115,000 H1-B visas was reached by June. Critics believe ending the policy of temporary visas will correct a number of problems. Among them:

  • Sham companies petition for temporary workers, visa applicants falsify applications, and the potential for planting spies in sensitive industries is great.
  • Claiming a shortage of available high-tech workers, U.S. firms nevertheless laid off 140,000 workers last year -- then lobbied Congress to raise the H1-B quota, raising questions of age discrimination.
  • Compelling evidence exists that high-tech companies fail to hire recent computer science grads while, to suppress wages, contract H1-B workers through placement firms that deal only with foreigners.

Meanwhile, current immigration policy doesn't meet the country's needs. While the demand for low-skilled workers remains low, the high-tech industry will need 1.3 million new workers between 1996 and 2006. Yet two-thirds of legal immigrants admitted every year come in on family ties without consideration of skills or education, and many become an economic drain on the country.

Critics suggest a change in immigration policy: end temporary visas, and judge candidates for immigration on a point system.

  • A high school diploma would be a requirement, while a B.A. would earn more points, and an advanced degree even more.
  • Another criterion would be verifiable occupational skills in a growing industry for which there are not enough native workers.
  • Literacy and English proficiency would count.
  • If someone has a nuclear family member (spouse or minor children), it would be worth many points, but grown children, parents or distant relatives would be worth far fewer -- and having illegal immigrant relatives here would disqualify one from entering the country.

Source: James R. Edwards, Jr., "The Right Way To Get Skilled Foreign Workers," Investor's Business Daily, September 28, 1999.


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