Economic snapshot | Immigration

Gang of 8 bill could give nearly half of new IT jobs requiring a college degree to guestworkers

S. 744, the comprehensive immigration bill introduced by the Senate “Gang of Eight,” dramatically increases the number of skilled guestworker visas available to employers in information technology (IT) and other sectors. The principal IT guestworker visa is the H-1B (49 percent of H-1B holders work in IT), which under current law is capped for private-sector employers at 65,000 per year plus an additional 20,000 for foreign graduates of U.S. universities. With certain exceptions, S. 744 will raise the cap initially to 115,000 and if strong demand continues, to 180,000 per year, with an additional 25,000 reserved for foreign graduates. Thus, under the likely high-demand scenario, we would have 120,000 more H-1Bs annually than we do now, and 58,800 of them would be in IT.

We can reasonably predict, therefore, that guestworkers will fill nearly half of all IT job openings for which a college degree is required each year. In a new report, Guestworkers in the High-Skill U.S. Labor Market, Hal Salzman, Daniel Kuehn, and B. Lindsay Lowell calculate that in 2011 there were approximately 483,000 IT job openings for college grads filled in the last year (including those with advanced degrees), a third of which were filled by newly arriving guestworkers in three different guestworker programs. As the figure shows, if S.744 is enacted and the maximum number of H-1B workers were allowed to enter and work in the United States, nearly 220,000 new job openings in IT would be filled by guestworkers—almost half the annual total as of 2011.

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