Denying visa extensions hurts economy, study says

When foreign scholars are sent home because of expiring visas rather than put to work at U.S. companies, it hurts the economy for everyone, according to a new report.

Wilmington is one of the top areas in the country to contend with visa “shock,” or the loss of workers to their home countries after their temporary visas expire, according to the study “Closing Economic Windows: How H-1B Visa Denials Cost U.S.-Born Tech Workers Jobs and Wages During the Great Recession.”

The report, by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan immigration reform group, works to counter the belief that foreign tech workers displace native U.S. residents seeking the same type of work.

Cities like Wilmington, which faced large numbers of visa extension denials “experienced considerably less job creation and wage growth for American-born computer workers,” according to the report.

Wilmington had an average of 7,052 computer-industry jobs per year in the period of 2007-08, and saw an average of 1,345 visas denied per year in the computer field during that period, one of the highest ratios in the country, according to the report.

The authors say the denials cost the Wilmington area as much as $31.3 million in lost wages among U.S.-born computer workers per year in 2009-2010.

Rebecca Faber, president and CEO of the World Trade Center Delaware, said one of her two employees is currently in this position.

The employee, who does international development work, was first hired at the center as an intern 2 ½ years ago, and came on staff full-time a year ago, she said. The World Trade Center sponsored her application to extend the visa, but she was not selected in a lottery.

The woman will need to return to Turkey at the end of July, Faber said.

“What I see going on is we are educating a lot of really amazing international students, then we’re sending them back home,” and their home countries are receiving the value of their education, she said.

Tech companies have had difficulties filling jobs with those who have high-level training in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering or math, the authors said. Companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft had 10,000 collective open positions in 2013, according to the report.

The U.S. higher education system annually produces 51,000 graduates in the field, but by the end of this decade, the economy will require 120,000 such workers, according to the report. So companies have looked to immigrants to fill some of these jobs.

“Our country’s broken immigration system, however, makes such a recruitment strategy difficult,” according to the report.

This country’s research universities award 45 percent of their STEM degrees to foreign-born students, but “there is no clear path to them to remain in the country after receiving their diplomas,” the report said.

H-1B, the main visa program for foreign-born, high-skilled workers, is capped at 65,000 per year, a number that “often proves grossly insufficient,” according to the report. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., had co-sponsored a bill to double that number.

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About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…