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Americans Lose Jobs and Wages as a Result of H-1B Denials, According to Study

H-1B denials have cost American workers hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost wages since 2007, according to a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy. Titled "Closing Economic Windows: How H-1B Visa Denials Cost US-Born Tech Workers Jobs and Wages During the Great Recession", it examines the impact of H-1B denials in the tech sector and overall economy in various American cities. The H-1B visa is a temporary visa for skilled foreign workers, many of whom work in the tech industry as engineers and programmers. The number of available visas is capped at 85,000 a year (20,000 of which are reserved for those who received a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in the US) yet in recent years USCIS has received hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and the agency has used a randomized lottery to determine which ones to process.

In a way the lottery was a blessing in disguise, for the purpose of the study at least, as it allowed the authors to take advantage of the randomness and analyze the impact of H-1B denials on Americans working in the tech sector in various metropolitan areas across the country. They found that cities that received large numbers of denials experienced less job creation and wage growth for Americans in the local tech sector.

The reason is that a skilled H-1B workers, contrary to some schools of thought, are not replacing American workers. They are complementing the US workforce and, in fact, creating more jobs. That’s because one skilled tech worker can create several auxiliary positions in sales, HR, and management. The study actually found that US born workers without college degrees were the most hurt by H-1B denials because they work in vital supporting roles for engineers and programmers. As a direct result of H-1B denials, American cities lacked nearly 200,000 computer related jobs for

Currently, not enough Americans are graduating from college with the requisite skills to work in the tech sector. And that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Yet, these companies are creating jobs and opportunities in the United States. If they can’t hire immigrants with the right skill, these positions go unfilled and companies can’t expand. Some even choose to move to countries with more favorable immigration policies, like Canada in order to hire the workers they need.

If the United States wants to keep tech companies in the country, then we need to reform our immigration policies.