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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

THE ACCELERATING DECLINE IN AMERICA'S HIGH-SKILLED WORKFORCE: IMPLICATIONS FOR IMMIGRATION POLICY

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Here's an interesting new book from Jacob Funk Kirkegaard warning of the dilemma America faces as our skilled workers are retiring faster than they're being replaced and our immigration policies won't keep up with the demographic changes. Here's the gist of the book's conclusions:

America rose
to economic prominence on the shoulders of the most highly skilled workforce in
the world. However, during the last 30 years, skill levels in the US workforce
have stagnated. Americans aged 25-34 today do not possess higher skills than do
their baby boomer parents. So when American baby boomers retire, they will take
as many skills with them as their children will bring into the US workforce.
While their parents may have been "the brightest kids on the global trading
block" when they entered the workforce, Americans entering the workforce today
barely make the global top ten. America is no longer a skill-abundant country
compared with an increasing share of the rest of the world. As a result, in the
coming decade, America could face broad and substantial skill
shortages.

Successful implementation of education policies will produce
more high-skilled Americans only in the long term. In the short to medium term,
America will increasingly need foreign high-skilled workers and will therefore
have to reform its high-skilled immigration policies and procedures not only to
welcome the best and the brightest but also to make it easier for them to
stay.

Meanwhile, as America debates the merits of immigration reform,
other rich countries, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and
Germany, have rapidly revamped their high-skilled immigration systems, turning
the United States into only one of many destinations for high-skilled
immigrants. Moreover, traditional origin countries of high-skilled emigrants to
the United States, such as China and India, have actively begun luring their
nationals back with special offers.

For America to regain its leadership
in global talent, it must urgently reform its high-skilled immigration programs,
particularly the H-1B temporary work visa and legal permanent resident (green
card) programs. The two programs play a substantial role in bringing in foreign
high-skilled workers and permanently keeping them here and could play an even
bigger role as demand for high-skilled workers in the US economy
increases.

This study verifies that concerns for the plight of American
high-skilled workers in the face of significant inflows of foreign high-skilled
workers are unfounded. Kirkegaard investigates empirically the labor-market
situation faced by US software workers--the group that is usually depicted in the
US media as facing the greatest risks from globalization--and reveals that these
occupations enjoy full employment at record levels in today's US economy.


New firm-level data on L-1 (intracompany transferees) and H-1B usage for
2006 show that a dozen Indian information technology (IT) companies are the top
petitioners for these visas. Several US IT companies are also heavy users of the
two visa programs. Beyond the top ten, a very broad range of US and
multinational companies, as well as US public institutions from different
sectors of the US economy, account for the demand for foreign high-skilled
workers on temporary work visas. Data on visa issuance reveal that Indian
nationals dominate both the H-1B and L-1 visa categories.

The legal
permanent resident (green card) program is important predominantly as a tool to
maintain rather than expand the existing high-skilled workforce in the United
States. More than 90 percent of the green cards are issued via adjustment of
status (e.g., from H-1B temporary worker to legal permanent resident) requested
for high-skilled foreigners already residing and most likely employed in the
United States. But national bottlenecks in the current green card system (e.g.,
per-country limits for countries such as India and China, long waiting periods,
and costly and time-consuming application process) may force many employed
high-skilled workers to leave the United States once their temporary visas
expire.

Based on these findings, Kirkegaard offers a coherent package of
proposals to reform the US high-skilled immigration system in a manner that
enjoys broad political support:



o drop the Department of Labor (DOL) Foreign Labor Certification
(i.e., obtaining DOL's approval for hiring foreign workers) for high-skilled
green card recipient categories E-2 (professionals holding advanced degrees or
persons of exceptional ability) and E-3 (skilled workers, professionals with
bachelors' degree, and unskilled workers);

o exempt green card recipient
categories E-1 (priority workers), E-2, and E-3 from the annual per-country
national limit;

o drop the DOL Labor Foreign Labor Certification for
H-1B workers;

o increase and target enforcement of prevailing wages in
intensive users of H-1B visas;

o abolish the annual congressional cap of
65,000 for H-1B visas;

o abolish the annual 20,000 congressional cap and
grant automatic H-1B visas to interested foreign master's and doctoral graduates
from US universities;

o restrict the share of foreign high-skilled
workers that a single business entity over a certain size can employ on
temporary work visas--including both H-1B and L-1--to a sensible level of maybe 50
percent;

o strike a bilateral immigration agreement with India and
create a new visa category for workers in the IT services/software sector; and


o regularly publish official firm-level immigration data and detailed
data on the characteristics of all high-skilled immigrants.

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Comments

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  1. Another voice's Avatar
    Perhaps someone should forward a copy of this book to all the candidates.
  2. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    That's what I'm talking about!

    Only one more thing to add - offer work permits to H4 dependants. There is no reason why L-dependants should get work permits, and H not.
  3. Future Dumb US citizen's Avatar
    Goog recommendations.. But the question is will the dumb US politians listen?
  4. Future Dumb US citizen's Avatar
    Good recommendations.. But the big question is will the dumb US politians listen?
  5. Deb's Avatar
    The recommendations are non starters. Will not happen. period.
  6. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    Well, it did look like the politicians were listening during Clinton administration. Who knows, maybe they will again, if Clinton administration returns.
  7. lacrossegc's Avatar
    I agree with Deb, good recommendations but they open up the flood gates too wide so to say.
  8. R. Lawson's Avatar
    "o restrict the share of foreign high-skilled workers that a single business entity over a certain size can employ on temporary work visas--including both H-1B and L-1--to a sensible level of maybe 50 percent; "

    What is sensible about 50%?

    "o increase and target enforcement of prevailing wages in intensive users of H-1B visas; "

    The problem isn't enforcement of prevailing wages. The problem is that prevailing wages are defined well below market rates.

    I'll blog a response this weekend when I have some time.
  9. Ravi G's Avatar
    I agree - there ought to be protection for American workers before the immigrants are taken care of. After all, a country belongs to its citizens. But the current situation does not seem to help anybody. Who is being fair to the citizens and who is being fair to the immigrants? If an H1B has to just work for an employer for 4 years on a below par salary it hurts not only the American worker but also the immigrant. I would say people of this country should vote for freeing up the EB card. If you don't like what H1b is doing to your country - stop it make it more like a green card. I hope Michael Murray investigates on this scam someday.
  10. Bob's Avatar
    315,000 L1 visas were issued last year, on top of 20,000 masters h-1b and 65,000 regualr h-1b per year

    That's 400,000 per year!!! PLUE unlimited eduacation, non-profit and research H-1b's even if deployed from a for profit body shop. This is a HUGE number of workers glutting the tech field

    Immigration lawyers continually mislead people on the true total numbers, becaue they dont care about anyone but themselves
  11.         's Avatar
    >> 315,000 L1 visas were issued last year

    Where did you get this number? Something like 320,000 L1 people were admitted to the US last year, so the number of L1's issued must be far less.

    An admission is counted whenever anyone in L1 status enters the US i.e. if someone in L1 status makes two trips out of the country in a year, it will be counted as 2 admissions.

  12. bobzibub's Avatar
    315,000 L1 visas issued eh? Let us pretend that that is true.
    So 315,000 / the total US workforce of 146 700 000 = .002147 or 0.21%

    So a whopping two in every thousand is an L1 visa holder. I don't know how some people sleep at night. Oh the humanity!!!
  13. 's Avatar
    Don't look at entire workforce size, look at the workforce size of the professions they enter. So that low percent is really misleading.

    The IT workforce is around 3-4 million depending on what statistic you look at. There are something like 1.2 million software engineers, programmers, dbas, etc. Look at BLS statistics for the exact numbers.

    Figure out by occupation, do your percentage, but also remember that it is aggregating. It's not like 100% of H-1b and L1 visa holders leave the very next year. Some will remain for the life of their career and become permanent residents.

    The math isn't that simple. I don't think it can be done using publicly available data - we don't know exactly how many people on the L1/H-1b go back. Somebody knows, but they aren't telling us.
  14.         's Avatar
    Does anyone have a source for L1 statistics similar to the one below for H1B statistics? I looked around a bit so that I could confirm that the number of new L1 issued are somewhere around 65000 a year, but I couldn't find anything official published by DHS.

    http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/H1B_FY05_Characteristics.pdf
  15. Lou's Avatar

    Issue Green cards equivelant to H1b cap (needs to increased ). No more H1bs and exploitation .
  16. bob's Avatar
    here's the source article for the 315,000 per year

    http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/12/28/52FE-underreported-visas_1.html

    Companies may have found a way around H-1B visa limits
    2007's No. 5 most underreported tech story

    By Bill Snyder
    December 28, 2007 Talkback E-mail Printer Friendly Reprints

    The Story: Silicon Valley businesses have long argued that changes in the immigration laws are needed to ensure a continuing supply of highly skilled workers. The current limit of 65,000 under the standard H1-B visas is not enough, they say. (The quota was filled in less than a month in 2007.)

    Related Stories

    Grassley: H-1B visas being used to displace U.S. workers
    Tech CEOs seek U.S. immigration, regulation overhaul
    Wells Fargo, Visa test pay-by-phone in United States
    Popular Tags
    immigration, visa, h1-b
    [ Slideshow: 2007's top underreported tech stories ]


    But that number obscures an important fact: The real total of visas issued to highly skilled workers is closer to 400,000 annually, according to the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) agency. And that, say some critics, may mean that the law is being abused.

    There are two reasons the number is so large.

    First, the H1-B visa cap has a built-in exemption that allows an additional 20,000 workers who have graduated from U.S. universities with an advanced degree (master's or higher) to enter every year.

    Second -- and the biggest reason -- is the use of L-1 visas, which are granted to executives and workers with specialized skills employed by multinational companies. Because there is no cap on L-1 visas issued each year, the numbers have soared. In the last three years, an average of 315,000 L-1 visas have been issued each year.

  17. LegalOption's Avatar
    Thanks for the link to the article. The number quoted in the article is wrong. 315,000 is approximately the number of admissions, *not* the number of L1 visas issued.

    By comparision, ~117,000 H1B visas were issued in 2005, but ~400,000 people in H1B status were admitted to the country in 2006. The larger number is because admissions are counted whenever anyone takes a trip abroad, not when a new visa is issued.

    http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/NI_FR_2006_508_final.pdf
  18. LegalOption's Avatar
    >> Issue Green cards equivelant to H1b cap (needs to increased ). No more H1bs and exploitation .

    All fine and dandy except that if the government keeps taking years to issue green cards, it is equivalent to shutting down employment based immigration. Note that shutting it down may not be a bad idea since the country seems to have had a love/hate relationship with EB immigration for a long time. Given that EB immigration accounts for only 12% or so of new immigrants, it will not have a huge impact on the number of new immigrants admitted.
  19. R. Lawson's Avatar
    There is always a plethora of bad numbers out there - cited by both sides of the debate.

    If the USCIS and BLS would simply publish more useful data, more often, we could have a debate grounded on reality.

    I have seen the 300,000 number quoted on L1 visas quite frequently. And on the other side I have seen the 65,000 H-1b number quoted frequently. Never mind that the first number is about exits and entries. And never mind that the H-1b number excludes exemptions and the reserve for graduate students.

    I don't think we should give reporters a pass for being lazy in their reporting, but we also shouldn't give the BLS and USCIS a pass. If they would be more open the problem of false statements would for the most part go away. Or at least they couldn't plea ignorance, as they do now.
  20. Lou's Avatar
    "By comparision, ~117,000 H1B visas were issued in 2005 "

    Even that number 117,000 might be wrong as i think they might have counted the renewals in that nuber. 65000 regualr +20000 masters =85,000 . Do you think they have issued 30,000 h1bs for non-caps? I am not really sure about it.
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