September 16, 2017
The H-1B temporary work visa program that permits highly skilled foreign-nationals to work in the U.S. has been vital to American interests and should continue. Nevertheless, the APS recognizes a need to reform the H-1B program to stem recent abuse, without affecting the ability of American companies and academia to acquire needed talent. The reform of the H-1B system must ensure access to scientific and technical talent wherever it may be found, while protecting the interests of U.S. citizens.
As for the portion of the H-1B program that exempts institutes of higher education, non-profit organizations and government research organizations from the overall visa cap under specific circumstances, APS is not aware of any abuse of this portion of the H-1B program, and recommends that it remain intact.
In 2003, the APS passed a Statement on visas establishing the APS position that U.S. “national security and economic vitality critically depend on science and technology and strongly profit from contributions of foreign-born scientists and engineers.” The Statement stressed the need for appropriate and effective visa rules but did not address the H1-B issue.
The H-1B system was created to allow non-immigrant hiring in critical skills areas where there is a demonstrable shortage in U.S. talent. This gives U.S. businesses access to the international pool of talent when searching for unique skills. However, there is abuse of the system; for example, some outsourcing companies acquire large numbers of H-1B visas and use them to displace American workers. With the existing cap on the number of visas, this abuse limits access to the global talent pool in the areas of greatest technical need, while also depressing salaries.
The H-1B system also has an uncapped portion for institutes of higher education, non-profit organizations and government research organizations. This exemption enables foreign nationals to conduct research in the U.S., allows foreign graduate students to stay in the country for post-doctoral research, and is vital to the international competitiveness of the non-for-profit elements of the U.S. scientific enterprise.