Reasons to Increase the H-1B Visa Cap

work visas

The H-1B visa is one of the most highly sought-after – and most difficult to obtain – work visas. Only 65,000 general H-1B visas, and 20,000 advanced degree H-1B visas, are available each year. Given that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received approximately 172,500 H-1B petitions during the first week of the filing period last year, most applicants do not receive the visa.

Not only does this hurt the foreign national seeking employment in the United States, but it also hurts businesses and the U.S. economy. Although an increase to the number of H-1B visas available each year is part of proposed immigration reform, such measures remain stalled in the House of Representatives.

Many people worry that if the number of foreign national employees is increased, jobs would be taken away from eligible U.S. citizens, but as we recently reported, hiring foreign nationals actually has a positive impact on the entire workforce. In fact, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a study examined wage data and immigration in 219 metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2010 and found that those cities with the biggest influx of foreign-born workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the so-called STEM professions—also had the fastest wages increases for native-born, college-educated workers.

Most economists and researchers agree that bringing more highly-skilled immigrants into the U.S. workforce would stimulate economic growth and job creation by boosting innovation and productivity. According to an article on The Hill,

“Economists at Rutgers and Princeton found that a 1-percentage-point increase in college-educated immigrants as a share of the population increased patents per capita by 9 percent to 18 percent. Economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan also found a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with H-1B visas in a city boosts the entire city’s patent output by almost 1 percent, a huge increase given the small numbers of H-1Bs relative to the workforce. They concluded that H-1B workers boost patents and innovation so much that they have a significant effect on long-term economic growth while also creating more jobs for Americans with similar skills.”

Not only does an increase in H-1B visa petitions make it possible for more highly-skilled foreign workers to enter the U.S., but many times the highly-skilled workers who enter the country under and H-1B visa go on to launch their own successful businesses, thereby creating additional jobs. In fact, according to The Hill, “between 1995 and 2005, 25.3 percent of all technology and engineering firms established in the United States had at least one immigrant founder. In Silicon Valley, 43.9 percent of technology and engineering startups had at least one immigrant co-founder between 2005 and 2012. Company creation is a big driver of employment growth and innovation, and immigrants do a lot of it.”