Report | Trade and Globalization

Outsourcing America’s technology and knowledge jobs: High-skill guest worker visas are currently hurting rather than helping keep jobs at home

Briefing Paper #187

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Throughout 2007 Congress will consider U.S. high-skill immigration policy reform once again. There is a widespread belief amongst various interest groups that the high-skill immigration system is broken. First, the loudest voices come from the high-technology industry, which argues that current policies are forcing them to turn away the best and brightest foreign workers, pointing out that many of them are educated in America’s finest universities at taxpayers’ expense. Universities, aligned with industry interests, are concerned that their foreign students are unable to find positions after graduation because of immigration constraints. But on the other hand, U.S. workers argue that they are being undercut by policies that allow U.S. workers to be displaced by foreign workers willing to be paid less. As for foreign workers, they complain of being put in potentially exploitable conditions and seemingly interminable waits for a Permanent Resident Card (typically called a green card). There is some truth in all of these viewpoints, albeit each group’s perspective brings different and oftentimes conflicting policy prescriptions.

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