On April 17, 2017, USCIS announced it received just under 200,000 H-1B petitions. Speculation is circulating this year as to why the significant decrease in H-1B petitions. The most likely reasons are probably the most obvious: a shift in our economy and a shift in how companies are conducting business. Notwithstanding, the President still signed an Executive Order yesterday highlighting the need to reform the H-1B program.
Shift in Our Economy & Business Practices
It’s no surprise that since the November election, the protectionist rhetoric stemming from the White House has been strong and increasing in volume. No doubt this has had an effect on not just foreign job seekers, but also on U.S. companies considering how to balance their global workforce. Should they stay in the U.S. and continue to struggle to hire high-skilled workers amidst this anti-immigrant sentiment coming straight from the administration? Or should they develop subsidiaries in immigration-friendly countries (like Canada) and move a good portion of their workforce there, resulting in a loss of jobs in the U.S.?
On the other hand, market forces may also be at play, forcing a significant dip in the number of H-1B petitions this year. This may well be the harbinger of an economy that is downshifting gears.
Executive Order “Buy American Hire American”
Despite the changes in our economy, we hear the same resounding sentiment from this Administration: the H-1B Program Needs to Be Revamped. Of course, anyone who knows anything about the H-1B program would agree; but many can’t agree on how to revamp the program. Yesterday’s Executive Order “Buy American Hire American”, while grandiose in its release, lacked substance in its execution. The order merely instructs various federal agencies to conduct research and make recommendations on changes to the program, as soon as possible. In other words, a big snoozer, if you ask me!
The interesting irony is that the company that hosted the signing of the Executive Order, Snap-On Inc., is actually a great example of how successful the H-1B program can actually be. In fact, it is representative of many U.S. employers who employ a small fraction of high-skilled foreign workers as part of its U.S. workforce, in order to continue to innovate and grow.
Almost 1,500 economists recently banded together to sign a letter about the critical benefits that immigration brings to the U.S. This, coming from experts in how our market forces work and what will make our country prosperous! And yet… it seems the cry has gone unheeded.