Demand for H-1B Visas High Among Program’s Biggest Critics
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are among the harshest critics of the H-1B program, yet companies in their jurisdictions are among the highest requestors of H-1B workers in the United States, according to a new Brookings study released on Wednesday. The H-1B visa program is the largest, and one of the most contentious, temporary-worker programs for admitting high-skilled foreigners.
The states represented by these two senators contain 10 of the 106 high-demand metropolitan areas. Illinois and Iowa are ranked fifth and 26th among states for the number of requests for H-1B visas per 1,000 workers in 2010-11. Their metro areas are also ranked in the top four in the nation for having the highest demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics H-1B workers.
Despite this high demand, there is little nuanced understanding of demand for foreign high-skilled workers in their region. Much energy is focused on information-technology companies that use foreign temporary workers to supply high-skilled labor to large companies in need of project-specific work.
For example, Patni Americas hires H-1B workers to support State Farm in Bloomington, Ill. Critics of the H-1B program, including Grassley and Durbin, often accuse these companies of playing a role in outsourcing work abroad, while other positive elements of the program are often lost in the debate.
While IT services companies, such as Patni and IBM, are among the highest users of the program, many other types of companies are hiring foreign high-skilled workers—often significant anchors in their metropolitan economies.
For example, Iowa’s largest employer, the University of Iowa, is driving the demand for foreign high-skilled workers, often requesting visas for researchers and professors in the School of Hydraulics and Engineering, one of the nation’s top hydroscience research institutions. The university’s Center for Computer-Aided Design in the College of Engineering also hires H-1B workers as computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to work on virtual soldier research.