Research from Standard & Poor’s suggests that more visas for skilled immigrants might be just what the nation needs to plug skill shortage gaps and revitalize the economy.
Politicians seem to find immigration issues, whether they involve legal or illegal immigration, a political hot potato which they often don’t know how to handle. The latest round of contention is employment-based migration specific to highly skilled workers.
In contrast to undocumented immigration, the population generally gives a thumbs-up to immigration of workers who are highly skilled. Still, some US citizens dislike the idea that overseas workers would take the jobs of people who are already resident in the United States.
Changes in H-1B visa rules aimed at retaining best skilled workers
Recent federal government measures for spouses of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) now allow them to work while their husbands are on H-1B visas. The current administration hopes that this change will help to retain the brightest and best scientists and technology workers in this country. It doesn’t affect all those on H-1B visas, but only quite a narrow group which are those already on the path to gaining permanent residency status
Normally, those on H-1B visas are allowed to work in the U.S. for six years. If they become eligible and are sponsored by their employer they may apply for permanent residence status allowing them to be eligible for a green card.
The immigration reform is a big change for those who have been living in the country for many years as productive workers. Their spouses have typically not lived in the United States but back home where they can earn a living and contribute to society. This move will encourage these much wanted workers to stay on in the U.S.
S & P study shows work based immigration in U.S. lags behind other OECD nations
A recent study conducted by Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. Chief Economist for Standard & Poor’s (S&P), may help to allay some of the fears that U.S. citizens have about immigration. A report on Bovino’s study in the Washington Post said that immigration based on employment would not only ease the country’s skill shortages but drive new innovation, consumer demand and tax receipts and would even help to create new job opportunities for the country’s workers. (See report in Washington Post by Emily Badger)
The S&P study revealed that the U.S. was far behind other OECD countries in relation to the percentage of immigrants who are given permanent residency based on their employment. There is further proof that countries who had a large number of work based immigrants contributed a growth in GDP in 2010 of 3.1 percent and a similar thing would happen if the U.S. favored employment based migration. Many skilled migrants stay in their jobs and don’t commit themselves so quickly to families but are big spenders with a high disposable income to go with it. This sort of spending habit can drive an economy when it comes to the provision of goods and services that meets the demands of those with such an income.
The S&P study is quite clearly an economic input that is market driven and is not an advocacy group or specific think tank which may make its suggestions more persuasive to those in power in Washington who have the ability to change policies.
The currently available U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits US companies to take on foreign workers in specialist occupations that require technical expertise in specialized fields including medicine, science, mathematics, architecture and engineering. The visa program allows a U.S. company to employ a foreign worker for a six year period. It is possible to apply for a Green Card for an overseas employee but the process takes far longer than the H-1B visa so it is popular for companies who wish to employ staff on a long-term basis.
EB-5 visas bring capital flow along with immigrant investors
There is another immigrant visa in operation and that is the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which is available to immigrants who have already invested, or are about to invest, no less than $1 million in a new commercially driven enterprise which employs no less than 10 full-time U.S. workers. The main purpose of the EB-5 visa program is to provide a growth spurt to the U.S. economy through creating jobs and through capital investment by providing an incentive to immigrant investors by offering them permanent residency in the United States. Currently, 10,000 visas of this type are allocated annually.
If S&P’s study is anything to go by, this is a step in the right direction for bringing in legal immigrants who offer both expertise and money to stimulate the U.S. economy.