Thursday, 02 May 2013 10:57
An important issue I and others have written about in the past is that immigration visas do too much to restrict the mobility of immigrants, and they grant employers too much power. There have been a raft of posts criticizing the H1B program, especially in light of EPI’s new report on STEM shortages, but few discussing to what extent the bill would fix the problems with the H1B program. Here is how FAIR, an anti-immigration group, summarizes sec 4103 “Eliminating Impediments to Worker Mobility”.
- Establishes sec. 214(c)(15) the Secretary “shall give deference” to prior approval of H-1B and L Nonimmigrant visas in reviewing a petition to extend the status, unless:
- material error with previously approved petition;
- substantial change in circumstances;
- new “material information” has been discovered that “adversely impacts” the eligibility of either the employer or the nonimmigrant; or
- “in the Secretary’s discretion, such extension should not be approved”
- Establishes section 214(n)(3) granting H-1B worker 60-day transition period to change jobs without losing lawful status (Note: under current law, no grace period to find new petitioning employer)
- Establishes section 221(h)(1)(D) granting the Secretary of State, in consultation with Secretary of DHS, to waive interview requirement for “low-risk” visa applicants
The 60 day grace period is an important improvement that essentially means an employer can’t kick a worker out of the country by firing them. This will help increase worker power. In addition, workers who wish to renew their visas will no longer have to leave the country which is another important improvement.
There are plenty of ideas for drastic reforms for worker visas, including region based visas, which I have advocated for. But if we’re going to stay generally within the current format do these reforms do enough to increase worker mobility? What other reforms should be included? Is 60 days long enough? Given the level of complaints we see of H1B visas at this particular moment this is a very uncovered topic.
Another area that is undiscussed is the requirements on firms who wish to hire H1B workers. There were certainly too many of these to start with, and that is only getting worse with this bill. What is the economic theory behind the notion that a “need” must be proven for a hire to be economically beneficial? Do we make importers prove that they have done all in their power to buy goods from American firms first? This is silly and too many otherwise economically competent commentators are agreeing that such command and control micromanagement of the labor market is necessary. I’m not surprised that union-backed think tanks want extensive labor market protectionism, but I am surprised how willing people are to go along with this as if it is economically sensible.
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