The meaning and difficulty of the US H-1B visa system is hard to overestimate. It is the largest guest worker visa program in the country, and a significant high-skilled immigration channel. This encourages businesses to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs that might be difficult to fill. It has greatly helped the tech industry and it has also been used by other industries, including health care, research, and finance, to fill gaps in their workforce.
The order is the latest development in a long-running controversy about how the H-1B program is used by businesses and how it impacts American workers. Much of the controversy concerns that companies take advantage of the program to employ lower-paying foreign workers, displacing Americans from those positions. Yet understanding the underlying elements of this dispute is important: one level is focused on the heavy use of H-1B visas by outsourcing companies; another is based on the controversy over whether the system improves the access of businesses to scarce resources, or merely helps them reduce costs.
The government will keep the visas that the system introduces necessary skills to the labor market, helping businesses stay creative, successful and competitive. A wealth of academic literature has recorded how highly skilled immigrants, particularly at STEM, and including those entering the U.S. on H-1B visas, are boosting the economy by increasing creativity, growth, and sometimes even jobs.
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