The Case for Opening Borders to Highly Skilled Workers

Washington, D.C., October 21, 2010 – Historically, foreign-born American entrepreneurs have been great contributors to the American economy.  A 2007 Forbes slideshow gives ten examples of notable immigrant entrepreneurs; among them are cofounders of Google, Yahoo, and Intel.  The National Venture Capital Association estimates that American publically-traded, immigrant-founded companies are currently worth more than $500 billion.

Yet regulations and fees currently levied on H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers are restricting the flow of talented, ambitious immigrants into the American workforce. The next generation of foreign-born American entrepreneurs—and their contributions to our society and economy—are being turned away at the door.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is releasing a new immigration study by Policy Analyst Alex Nowrasteh. In H-1B Visas: A Case for Open Immigration of Highly Skilled Foreign Workers, Nowrasteh argues that strict regulations on H-1B visas should be removed.

“Government quotas, rules, and fees create regulatory burdens to the efficient hiring of foreign talent when firms need it the most,” Nowrasteh said. “American businesses should be free to employ the best worker for any job—from anywhere in the world. In a globalized and interconnected world, countries that place restrictions on their own businesses’ ability to do so are shooting themselves in the foot.”

He points out that contrary to widespread claims, there is actually little direct competition between foreign highly-skilled workers and similarly skilled Americans. “Foreign workers complement American workers and push them into different higher paying occupations,” Nowrasteh said.  “Many highly skilled foreign workers, including H-1B visa holders, go on to start profitable businesses in the U.S. that employ thousands of Americans. Furthermore, patents and scientific discoveries by highly skilled foreign workers have yielded billions of dollars in productivity gains that enrich millions of Americans.”

“To further expand these benefits to the American economy, the restrictions and fees levied on H1-B visas and other skilled foreign worker visa categories should be removed.”

Read the full study here.