NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Skilled Foreign Workers Add to American Economy

February 21, 2011

The H-1B visa is a three year, employer-sponsored work visa, renewable one time, for highly skilled foreign workers with an annual cap of 85,000.  Last year Congress passed a law to raise the H1-B fee from $320 to $2,000.  H-1B regulations kill innovation and stifle growth.  The cap and time limit should be eliminated and fee drastically reduced, says Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

First, foreign highly skilled workers do not "take" American jobs. 

  • The economy doesn't have a set number of jobs.
  • Rather, jobs are created and destroyed based on production possibilities and economic innovation.
  • Foreign workers are also consumers and investors, increasing employment opportunities for Americans.

Second, foreign skilled workers do not lower wages. 

H1-B restrictions also divert American firms to expanding abroad rather than at home in order to hire the workers they need.  For example, Microsoft recently opened a campus in Canada because the U.S. government would not allow it to hire enough highly skilled foreigners, says Nowrasteh.

Moreover, highly skilled foreign workers have created many of the firms that make America a technology leader.

  • Highly skilled foreign born workers and immigrants were instrumental in the founding of Intel, Sanmina-SCI, Sun Microsystems, eBay, Yahoo and Google.
  • Twenty-five percent of all venture-backed U.S. public firms started between 1990 and 2005 had at least one immigrant founder.
  • By 2008, one-third of all Silicon Valley companies were founded or cofounded by Indian or Chinese nationals who were able to work legally in the United States under H-1B visas or green cards.

Source: Alex Nowrasteh, "Keeping out Foreign Workers Is Crushing America's Growth," Investor's Business Daily, February 16, 2011.

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