‘Restricting H-1B visas is bad for business and the economy’

May 15th, 2009 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 15 (IANS) Asserting that “handcuffing” employers from hiring talented workers will hurt the US economy, two experts have criticised proposals to limit hiring of holders of H-1B visas coveted by Indian technocrats as “misguided.”

“In order to grow the American economy and support the American workforce, Congress should expand and improve the H-1B visa programme,” said James Sherk and Diem Nguyen Thursday.

As adding regulations to the H-1B programme would be a serious setback to US visa policy and would only end up hurting the US economy, the Congress should instead raise the cap from the current 65,000 to the 2001 quota of 195,000 visas a year, they said.

Sherk is fellow in labour policy and Nguyen is a research assistant for foreign policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

Referring to reports that two senators, Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Dick Durbin plan to introduce a bill that would limit the ability of companies to hire H-1B employees, the experts said an argument that H-1B visa recipients are a threat to American workers is “misguided.”

“Given the current economic climate, handcuffing employers from hiring talented workers will hurt-not help-the economy, further delaying the ability of businesses to restart the national economic engine,” Sherk and Nguyen said.

Many believe H-1B workers merely compete with Americans looking for work, the duo said. But “They are wrong. The US workforce is not a ‘zero-sum game, ‘” they said.

“One hired H-1B worker does not mean an American is out of a job. In fact, the National Foundation for American Policy found that employers hired four new American workers for each new H-1B employee they hire.”

Additionally, hiring H-1B employees does not lower the wages of American workers. Current law requires that when employers apply for H-1B visas, they must attest that they will pay the visa recipient the same wage they would pay an American with similar skill sets.

Rather than limiting the ability of employers to hire H-1B workers by adding more rules and restrictions, Congress should ensure the federal government exercises appropriate oversight in enforcing current laws, Sherk and Nguyen said.

Preventing companies from hiring foreign workers harms the US economy’s ability to rapidly adapt to marketplace demands, they said suggesting, “Companies must be able to hire persons best suited to fill positions based on their skill sets-not their nationality.”

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