WBEZ | H-1B http://www.wbez.org/tags/h-1b Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Study finds ample U.S. graduates to fill STEM jobs http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-ample-us-graduates-fill-stem-jobs-106847 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_RMTip21.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As Congress considers <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/686529-immigration-border-security-economic-opportunity.html" target="_blank">a makeover of the country&rsquo;s immigration policies</a>, they&rsquo;ll discuss an expansion of the H-1B temporary visa program for high-skilled foreign nationals. The H-1B program is popular among employers, including several in Illinois, who have long asserted that U.S. colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates in the science and technology fields.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/bp359-guestworkers-high-skill-labor-market-analysis/" target="_blank">a new study from the Economic Policy Institute</a>, a Washington-based non-profit which receives about 30 percent of its funding from labor unions, finds that there are more domestic graduates in those fields than the market can accommodate. The study looks over time at domestic graduates in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM), as well as temporary guest worker inflows on the H-1B, L-1, and Optional Practical Training visas, where large shares of visa holders work in IT jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;There are, as we found before, a large supply of STEM graduates,&rdquo; said Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University and one of the authors of the report. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t see in the numbers a failure of U.S. colleges and universities to produce sufficient supply,&rdquo; he said. Salzman co-authored the paper with professors Daniel Kuehn of American University and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown University.</p><p>H-1B workers account for thousands of jobs in Greater Chicago, which historically <a href="http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/2011AR_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">has been one of the top five hubs in the nation for workers on that visa</a>. In federal fiscal year 2011 more than 11,000 skilled workers came to Chicago on H-1B visas, with India-based IT consulting company Infosys employing nearly one in ten of them as computer programmers. Suburban Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg also accounted for an additional 4,300 H-1B workers. Average wages for H-1B workers in these cities ranged between $63,000 and $69,000.</p><p>The study finds that the domestic supply of students in STEM fields responded to industry demand as expected during the 1990s and into the early 2000s, but that a shift occurred in 2004 when companies began shifting their search for talent overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;If you look at what happened in the lead up to the dot-com bubble to the peak, you can see that wages rose steeply, unemployment was fairly low, right up until the 2001 peak, and the result was that the number of students pursuing computer science overall doubled,&rdquo; said Salzman, &ldquo;it seems that students are very responsive to market signals.&rdquo;</p><p>The authors find, however, that after the recovery from the dot-com recession, employment in the IT sector began picking up, but wage growth did not resume. They attribute this to an increasing reliance on foreign workers for those jobs. &ldquo;The guest worker supply, understandably, coming from low-wage countries, is very plentiful, (and) will continue almost despite whatever wage levels are here because they&rsquo;re still better than what (they) would be in their home country,&rdquo; said Salzman.</p><p>One result of the divergence between demand and wages for IT workers, said Salzman, is that many American STEM graduates are opting to work in other fields. The study finds that one-third of computer science graduates and nearly half of engineering students fail to go into jobs related to their degrees because they couldn&rsquo;t find jobs, or because they felt they had better career prospects in other fields.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s basic Econ 101,&rdquo; said Salzman. &ldquo;If you bring in a lot and flood the market, it depresses wages (and) lowers job quality. And we&rsquo;ve certainly seen that in interviews we&rsquo;ve done over the years, where people think what used to be good jobs, particularly in IT, are no longer high-quality jobs. They think they&rsquo;re unstable, wages have not gone up and they counsel their kids to go elsewhere.&rdquo;</p><p>The STEM report comes as Congress picks over a proposed new immigration overhaul. The legislation by the so-called Gang of Eight would dramatically expand employers&rsquo; access to skilled, temporary foreign workers, while also imposing additional controls. The H-1B visa program, currently capped at 85,000 visas annually for highly-educated foreign nationals, would over time grow to 180,000 visas. It would also prohibit large companies from staffing more than half of their workforce with H-1B visa holders, and would require companies to pay higher wages to those workers.</p><p>Very few legislators in Washington question the assumption that U.S. companies have been unable to locate qualified, STEM-educated American workers. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/south-asians-track-proposal-worker-visa-program-105186" target="_blank">Two separate bills</a> proposed in the Senate in recent months have both looked at increasing the H-1B cap. Large companies such as Microsoft have been particularly vocal about the need to change immigration policies to allow for more temporary, skilled workers.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think the argument here is that foreign workers aren&rsquo;t good or they aren&rsquo;t productive,&rdquo; said Lowell. &ldquo;I think the argument is yeah, I think we want foreign workers we want employers to have access to, but the question really is, in what amount, and is more better?&rdquo;</p><p>Lowell and the other study authors said the devil will be in the details of any changes to immigration policies. They point out that while the immigration bill does propose higher wages for H-1B workers, it would still allow these workers to be paid 20 percent less than the average wage for those industries.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/study-finds-ample-us-graduates-fill-stem-jobs-106847 American employers jockey for skilled, foreign workers http://www.wbez.org/news/american-employers-jockey-skilled-foreign-workers-106551 <p><p>For the first time since 2008, the number of petitions to bring in skilled, temporary foreign workers has reached its cap within the first week of taking applications.</p><p>Employers wishing to sponsor professionals in fields such as IT and engineering for the 2014 federal fiscal year started filing visa petitions last Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">The U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration services issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas per year. Within five days of opening the application window, USCIS had received about 124,000 petitions. &ldquo;I mean, this hasn&rsquo;t happened since 2008, where I think it took one day to reach the cap back then,&rdquo; said Marilu Cabrera, spokesman for USCIS. &ldquo;Last year it took about 73 days, and for the past few years it&rsquo;s been taking much longer. So this is definitely news for us.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Many see the increased demand as a sign of economic recovery, but critics of the program say it allows companies to bypass skilled American workers for cheaper foreign labor. Under federal law, H-1B sponsors are required to pay workers the prevailing wage within their industry. However, employers may choose from four tiers of pay within those categories, and some contend that the majority of employers only pay H-1B workers at the lowest levels allowed.</p><p dir="ltr">USCIS will use a lottery to decide which petitions are accepted.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>&mdash;Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 08 Apr 2013 17:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/american-employers-jockey-skilled-foreign-workers-106551 U.S. demand for high-skilled, foreign workers up http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/H1Bs_130401_oy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The opening of the filing period for petitions to bring specialized, educated employees through the H-1B visa program begins Monday, and after years of lagging interest in filling high-skilled jobs with temporary, foreign workers, many anticipate that U.S. companies have found their footing well enough to compete for these specialized employees. Successful petitions will authorize a foreign national to start working at a U.S. company temporarily during the 2014 federal fiscal year, which starts in October of 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This&rsquo;ll be the first year in a long time that we anticipate that the cap is going to be reached in the first week in April,&rdquo; said Eldon Kakuda, an immigration attorney at the Chicago-based law firm Masuda, Funai, Eifert &amp; Mitchell. The U.S. sets a limit of 85,000 H-1B visas every year, a cap that was quickly reached within the first week of accepting petitions in years prior to 2009. In the last four years, however, U.S. employers filed far fewer petitions, sometimes taking up to nine months to reach the limit. &ldquo;I do think it&rsquo;s a strong indication that our economy is on the upswing,&rdquo; said Kakuda.</p><p dir="ltr">H1-Bs typically work in the so-called &ldquo;STEM&rdquo; fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, and between 2000 and 2009 nearly half of those visas went to Indian nationals. The program is meant to help companies that can&rsquo;t find U.S. employees with the requisite skills or experience. &ldquo;There are not enough US citizens or Americans available with IT skills in the country,&rdquo; said Shoji Mathew, President of the North American Association of Indian IT Professionals.</p><p dir="ltr">But Mathew said small companies with 50-150 employees are nervous to file petitions this year, because of the possibility that Congress will change the H-1B program. In particular, the <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s600is/pdf/BILLS-113s600is.pdf">H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013</a>, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would limit the number of H-1B employees in a company of at least 50 people to 50 percent. It would also enact more rigorous compliance audits with the program, and set a wage level for H-1B workers that is higher than what most employers currently pay foreign nationals on those visas.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathew said many of the small companies have started the application process for H-1B petitions, but are nervous about completing paperwork before legislators finish their work. &ldquo;What happens if a company has 250 employees and, say, 80 percent is H1Bs?&rdquo; asked Mathew. &ldquo;They say why we should we apply for H1B (when) they&rsquo;re on the verge of laying off their employees?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But some hope that the bill will pass, citing suspected abuses of the H-1B program. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a huge demand for underpaid workers through this program,&rdquo; said Daniel Costa, an immigration policy analyst with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Costa said that though federal law requires employers to pay H-1B workers at a prevailing wage, the law gives pay scale options depending on the profession. &ldquo;And the vast majority of the time they choose the lowest wage or the second-lowest wage, both of which are below the average wage,&rdquo; said Costa.</p><p dir="ltr">Costa added that the bill would close some loopholes in the H-1B program, while giving U.S. workers a fair shot at those jobs by requiring employers to post job openings on the Department of Labor&rsquo;s website, for all interested candidates to see. &ldquo;We need to recruit and get and retain the best and brightest workers, especially in these STEM fields,&rdquo; said Costa, &ldquo;But there&rsquo;s no evidence that we have some huge shortage. There&rsquo;s always going to be a need for the workers, but we should just have some really basic protections in place for U.S. workers.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/south-asians-track-proposal-worker-visa-program-105186">Washington lawmakers are considering a separate, bipartisan bill</a> to expand the number of H-1B visas.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398