Do Restrictions on H-1B Visas Create American Jobs?


DealBook obtained an internal training video played for foreign workers at Cerner, a medical software provider and the largest H-1B visa user in Kansas City, Mo. In the video, the company provided three options for employees who didn’t win the H-1B visa lottery: Re-enroll in a degree program and work for the company on a student visa, a practice embraced by companies and universities in recent years; move to India if they had authorization to work there; or leave the company. Cerner declined to comment on the training video.

Obtaining a work visa is getting marginally easier. The Biden administration has already lifted some of the Trump administration’s changes to the application process. Spouses of immigrants applying for work permits will no longer need to be fingerprinted and photographed, a requirement that was put in place in 2019 and lengthened processing time, forcing tens of thousands of workers, like Mr. Parashar’s wife, to wait in visa backlogs during the pandemic.

In late April, the Biden administration issued policy guidance that asked immigration officers to defer to prior decisions when reviewing visa extension cases, a long-existing practice that was rescinded in 2017. The policy memo that made it more difficult for entry-level computer programmers to get a work visa was also rescinded in January.

These changes are taking place against a backdrop of a long-term trend in work force globalization that is driven by many factors, including the availability of skills and the relative cost of labor in other countries. For example, according to a review of jobs posted on top H-1B users’ websites by the data provider Thinknum, since 2018 the share of job openings outside the United States at Accenture, Capgemini and Cognizant has grown while the share of advertised U.S. jobs has shrunk.

If companies can’t get the visas they want to sponsor foreign workers in the United States, there is little stopping them from hiring workers outside the United States. And the increasing acceptance of remote work after the pandemic may mean even more types of jobs can be filled anywhere in the world.

Ben Wright, the chief executive of Velocity Global, a professional employer organization that hires workers overseas for clients while they wait for U.S. visas, said companies had been willing to accommodate foreign workers who could not come to the United States because of pandemic restrictions.

“You’re also seeing hiring managers say, ‘My gosh, my eyes are opened to the fact that we really can work from anywhere,’” he said. “That’s pulling these companies globally in a way that has never happened.”



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