Will U.S. Tech Jobs Turn All-Indian? The H1B Visa Dilemma

By Stephan Manning.

Skilled immigration is one of the most controversial topics in the current presidential election race as political scientist Ron Hira points out in his latest Conversation article. At the core of this debate are H1B visas which allow U.S. employers to sponsor the temporary recruitment of skilled workers from abroad, particularly in so-called STEM* professions. Currently, U.S. law permits 85,000 H1B visas to be issued every year. In theory, this visa program allows for labor market flexibility in response to domestic skill shortages. In practice, H1B visas have increasingly been used to employ skilled foreign workers for lower costs, primarily from India. While H1B visas have certainly helped create tech positions at home rather than offshore, Thousands of U.S. employees have been replaced in the process and forced to train those taking their jobs. Facing this dilemma, presidential candidates across the political spectrum have struggled to find convincing solutions. I discuss what’s behind the dilemma; why the solutions of presidential candidates fall short in addressing it; and what is needed to make the H1B debate more fruitful in today’s global competitive environment.

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