Is the H-1b program useful?

Many who oppose the H-1B visa category for high-skilled professionals argue that we should focus instead on our own students, improving math and science, and avoid having foreigners compete with the U.S. work force.

However, I believe that even as we make our math and science programs the best in the world, and even as our own work force should be our first focus, the H-1B program is still worth keeping and expanding. Under the H-1B visas, U.S. employers usually employ young foreign professionals who mostly are in the upper percentile of their home country ability-wise. It is simply not cost effective to bring a mediocre professional here with costs running in the thousands in legal and government filing fees, and in relocation expenses. Because of that, the program is cost effective only when employers bring the brightest, or hire foreign graduates of our schools who are usually the top from their own country.While there may be some abuse, and some H-1bs might be here for their cheap labor and not for their talent, the remedy is to punish the abusers, and not to destroy a good program.

Therefore, even if America’s study standards improve and even if we spend more effort at training our professionals (which we should), the question remains whether we, as a nation, should continue to welcome the best and the brightest of mostly young professionals of the world to work and live among us. I think that the answer should be yes.

Those high-skilled professionals, even if a few of them may compete with American for jobs, are at the same time adding to the consumer base since they have to live and spend money here. Many of them will end up being inventors, enhancers and creators of businesses who would, in turn, employ numerous Americans. E-bay, Yahoo, Cisco, Google, and numerous other high tech companies are all examples of extremely successful businesses started by immigrants or their descendants that ultimately created far more jobs for Americans than the ones supposedly initially taken by them.

In addition, if we don’t allow this type of talent to enter the U.S., these individuals will go elsewhere and we will lose the tax base they would otherwise provide. Many US companies are starting overseas offices to avoid the hassle of the H-1B visa. Such outsourcing has a negative effect on the United States in comparison to bringing the workers here and making him part of our consumer and tax payment base.

Considering that we accept almost a million of family based immigrants and many more undocumented aliens every year without labor competition analysis, we need to reassess the many obstacles placed to the much fewer numbers (and much more talented) H-1bs. Those young bright H-1b professionals, and their children in the future, will enrich us, be good for us and for our future generations as well as for our own work force and its competitiveness in the global economy.

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