Work Visa Standards Relaxed
More Foreign Workers Coming to the U.S. under Biden Administration
During the peak days of coronavirus, Amazon delivery trucks were a familiar sight in neighborhoods across America. Amazon’s logo is a smiley face arrow pointing from “A” to “Z” indicating that the company offers customers products that range from those with names that begin with the letter “a” and all through to the letter “z,” in other words, everything. Shopping at Amazon, the smiling arrow promises, will make consumers happy.
What began in 1994 in Jeff Bezos’ garage as an online bookstore, then called “Cadabra” and with initial earnings of $20,000, Amazon is now recognized worldwide as the place to shop for products as diverse as AAA batteries or zinc tablets, and have them promptly delivered to your front door quickly. Today, Amazon’s market cap is $1.7 trillion. As of January 2022, Bezos is the world’s richest man with a net worth of $195 billion. Amazon is a great American success story. If only Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos could use their billions-strong financial strength to share their wealth by hiring more Americans and paying them fairly instead of opting for lower-cost overseas workers, their accomplishments might be more broadly hailed.
But when Amazon wants to hire workers, it too often relies on the insidious H-1B, guest worker employment-based visa to fill its needs. In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, at 6,182, Amazon received more approvals for H-1B visas than any other corporation; Microsoft, Google and IBM received 1,200 or more. Worse news for U.S. tech workers is that the decline rate for H-1B visas has, under President Joe Biden, dropped to its lowest level in history which means that more tech jobs will go to Indian and Chinese nationals instead of U.S. citizens.
The National Foundation for American Policy calculated that only 4 percent of petitions were denied in FY 2021, down from 13 percent in FY 2020 and down from the high of 24 percent in FY 2018. NFAP wrote that the status of many H-1B extensions was reviewed under a more restrictive standard than the Trump administration. Those tighter guidelines gave officers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services more discretion to require additional proof that entry-level computer programming jobs qualify as a “specialty occupation,” a basic requirement for receiving an H-1B visa.
Courts later ruled that the Trump era memo was unlawful. NFAP also wrote that “employers and attorneys have credited USCIS Director Ur Jaddou and the Biden administration for rescinding the October 2017 memo.” Big business, lawyers and the Americans Last Biden White House, all unlimited immigration advocates, hailed Jaddou’s intervention, and defended the H-1B revision as helpful to corporations struggling to find what they term as “high-skilled” or the “best and brightest” employees, myths that have been perpetuated for decades.
The Census Bureau’s 2019 Community Survey, Single-Year Estimates found that among the 50 million employed college graduates ages 25 to 64 in 2019, 37 percent reported a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering but only 14 percent worked in a science, technology, engineering or math-related (STEM) occupations. U.S. tech workers are plentiful, but employers have to seek them out.
Through a series of loopholes, Congress has enabled H-1B visa holders to, instead of the initial six-year time cap on their visas — one three-year period followed by a three-year renewal — remain to work indefinitely, and become U.S. citizens. Because of the “dual intent” provision, H-1B visas holders can now displace American workers, and are rewarded with citizenship. Stated differently, admitted under the guise of being temporary, H-1B holders can become the most permanent of residents, a U.S. citizen.
The decline in H-1B denials trend is guaranteed to continue during Biden’s remaining three years in the White House. The president’s critics wonder why he’s so steadfastly determined to harm both high- and low-skilled U.S. workers. The border influx of mostly limited-skilled and under-educated migrants harms Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum, while, at the same time, loosening the H-1B visa standards puts college-educated Americans behind the eight-ball when it comes to securing a white-collar job.
Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and syndicated columnist who writes about immigration issues and impacts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.