A crackdown on foreign work visas would devastate the US economy

  • If the Trump administration and Congress crack down on H1-B visas, it won't just hurt immigrants, it will hurt all of us.
  • Immigrants have had a profound effect on innovation in the U.S. Consider Russian-born Sergey Brin, who co-founded Google, and South African-born Elon Musk, who founded Tesla and SpaceX.
  • Immigrants are twice as likely as U.S. born citizens to start a business and small business accounts for a whopping 99.7 percent of U.S. businesses.
President Donald Trump
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President Donald Trump

The Trump administration has launched a crackdown on immigration and that includes a serious effort to make it harder for companies to hire foreign workers.

Recently, a bill was introduced to Congress that would tighten the restrictions on visas available to highly skilled immigrants as an attempt to increase the number of Americans present in the workforce.

This legislation would specifically impact those companies considered "H-1B dependent," causing serious hurdles for businesses trying to fill jobs and making it more difficult for immigrants to enter the country to work in the coming years. It would also have a serious impact on the U.S. economy.

And, while no legislation has yet passed, the administration is already more closely scrutinizing applications for these highly skilled visas, sending back more than one in four applications between January and August for "further evidence," compared to one in five a year earlier, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"H-1B workers help to create new jobs and opportunities for economic expansion, enabling money to flow throughout the country. Restricting this opportunity won't just hurt immigrants, but all of us."

H-1B visas offer an opportunity for highly educated foreign workers to obtain work visas from the United States, often for jobs in fields such as science, engineering, and information technology – areas in which highly skilled workers are in high demand. Each visa lasts for three years, and the application process is extremely competitive. The government receives H-1B applications by the truckload, and in 2017, the application quota was reached in just four days.

H-1B visa holders bring skills that help fill knowledge gaps in certain fields. And, the more advanced companies become in specialized areas, the more competitive they become globally, creating better revenue and growth opportunities and an opportunity to seriously impact the U.S. economy.

Foreign-born workers are often leaders in ventures that drive innovation and change within the U.S.; without their contributions, it is very possible that growth in these areas will face major setbacks. For example, 45 percent of high-tech Fortune 500 firms were founded by either an immigrant, or the child of an immigrant. Examples of the profound impact that immigrants have made on U.S. companies are impressive and endless: Google, Tesla and even eBay have founders hailing from across the globe, including Russia, South Africa and France, respectively. These corporations are headquartered in the United States, and are all industry innovation leaders used consistently by consumers around the world.

These visas also allow a major demographic of business owners – immigrants – to get their chance at launching American ventures, further stimulating the U.S. economy. According to the American Immigration Council, increasing H-1B visas will allow for almost 1.3 million new jobs to be created by 2045.

A lot of people don't realize the direct correlation between immigration and entrepreneurship in the U.S. Although immigrants represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they're twice more likely to start a business than a U.S.–born citizen.

There are over 28.8 million small businesses in America, accounting for a whopping 99.7 percent of all businesses. These businesses employ almost half of the country (48 percent), which helps to stimulate the well-being of the economy as a whole.

If the Trump administration and Congress do decide to further tighten the rules around the number of H-1B visas available, then the U.S. would face serious repercussions in both small businesses and major corporations. H-1B workers help to create new jobs and opportunities for economic expansion, enabling money to flow throughout the country. Restricting this opportunity won't just hurt immigrants, but all of us.

Commentary by John Suh, the CEO of LegalZoom. He was the co-founder and CEO of several companies, including StudioDirect, the Internet division of a global supply chain company, Li and Fung. Follow him on Twitter @_JohnSuh.

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