Immigration: Foreign Technical Expertise and its Solution

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on April 16, 2009

Immigration VisaOne problem with the American workforce is that it lacks an abundance of highly skilled technical labor and so these jobs are going elsewhere.  All things being equal, American employers would prefer to hire native born American employees.  The reason for this preference is three-fold.  First, on average, American born employees have better communication skills than their foreign born counterparts.  Second, the bureaucracy that surrounds hiring immigrants, such as work visas, complicates the process of employing immigrants.  Third, there is always the danger that the immigrant will return to their homeland, and thus, the American employee is seen as a more stable choice for the position.  All things being equal, American companies should be hiring Americans.

We can only assume then, that for skilled technical and scientific labor, all things are not equal.  American companies routinely ask congress for more visas so that they can bring in scientific researchers and engineers from foreign countries, sparking debate about whether such visas are good for the American economy and the nation’s workforce.  The American labor pool for these skill sets is, however, simply not large enough to keep up with employers’ demand.  When American companies don’t get these visas, the jobs do not automatically go to Americans by default.  Instead, the companies staff these jobs in foreign offices.  The government’s position on these visas provides yet another example, like the payroll tax, where U.S. policies are effectively encouraging American companies to outsource jobs.

Because we do not, instead, bring foreign workers here, we are also losing the jobs created by servicing immigrants:  doctors, lawyers, service industry personnel, as well as those jobs related to the construction and maintenance of housing, just to name a few.  Moreover, what innovation produced by foreign workers in the foreign offices of American companies is inherently outside of our national borders; what they invent is naturally over there, and not over here.  We also, obviously, lose money in tax revenue as salaries are earned and spent in another land.

By and large, the worst repercussion of outsourcing labor to other countries is that job opportunities are lost for Americans.  That there are not enough Americans trained to do these jobs is a problem which the American government should feel obliged to fix.

It’s time to end the debate on whether or not to grant these visas.  We are not getting more American workers hired, we are just encouraging companies to send American jobs to foreign countries, and are, therefore, fueling foreign economies.  Instead, we should open up Visas for highly skilled labor so that American companies can bring in people who can do the job.  In the short run, this will increase American innovation and provide incentive to keep American jobs within national borders.  As an encouragement to lawmakers who are weary of opening the job market to legal immigrants (that are highly skilled from a scientific standpont), we suggest the levying of a 5% tax for hiring non-citizen legal aliens.  To help the American worker in the long run, the tax collected on non-citizen legal aliens would fund technical and scientific education so that we can begin producing an American labor pool for these highly skilled positions and reduce the need to farm these jobs out to non-citizen immigrant labor.


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December 29 at 01:33 am
There are plenty of technically trained americans, corporate greed is why many companies to outsource to foriegners so they can get a cheaper work force. Another problem is the hiring game. My experience is that the interviewer is more interested in the sophistication of ones people game than ones technical skills. I am a laser electro/optic technician with 14 years experience. Who would jump on the chance to get back into my career field. If interested here is my email.
July 10 at 02:06 am

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