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How Highly Skilled Foreign Workers Boost Productivity and Wages

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on November 04, 2014

An employer’s human resources goals are generally quite simple: attract the best employees to get the job done. But attracting the right employee for the job can sometimes prove to be a more difficult task than expected. This is particularly true in highly skilled, technology positions. For this reason, many employers are choosing to hire foreign national employees to fill positions in the United States.

A number of myths and misconceptions exist surrounding hiring foreign nationals for jobs in the U.S. One such misconception is that hiring foreign nationals drives down wages and reduces jobs for U.S. citizens. But in reality, hiring foreign nationals for jobs in the U.S. has actually been shown to increase wages for all workers.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, a study examined wage data and immigration in 219 metropolitan areas from 1990 to 2010 and found that those cities with the biggest influx of foreign-born workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the so-called STEM professions—also had the fastest wages increases for native-born, college-educated workers.

“A lot of people have the idea there is a fixed number of jobs,” one of the authors, Giovanni Peri of the University of California, Davis, said in the Wall Street Journal article. “It’s completely turned around.”

Peri went on to add that hiring foreign nationals can boost the productivity of the overall economy “because then the pie grows and there are more jobs for other people as well and there’s not a zero-sum trade-off between natives and immigrants.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the areas with the biggest influx of foreign STEM workers were Austin, Texas; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Huntsville, Ala.; and Seattle – each of which had inflation-adjusted wage gains of 17% to 28% for their native college-educated workers. Conversely, 33 cities saw a decline in foreign STEM workers and 25 of those cities experienced a decline in wages for their college-educated populations.

“Even for computer programmers, immigration of more computer programmers can be a good thing,” Madeleine Sumption, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, told the Wall Street Journal. “Their skills are complementary. Clusters of highly skilled people can do better together than in isolation.”

According to Peri – and many other employment immigration experts – this research supports the argument for increasing the number of H-1B visas available each year. Last year the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that, in addition to a number of other measures, would double the number of H-1B visas available each year. Currently, H-1B visas are capped at 65,000 for first-time applicants and 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees. The immigration reform legislation has stalled in the House of Representatives with no prospects for passing the legislation any time in near future.

Contact an Employment Immigration Lawyer

If you are an employer considering hiring foreign national employees, it is highly recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer. The work visa lawyers at Shapiro Law Group focus on helping employers manage their work visa and other employment immigration needs so that they can efficiently run their business.

Contact us online or call our office at (847) 564-0712 to schedule a consultation with one of our employment immigration lawyers.