Demand for H-1B Visas in New England: An Analysis of Employer Requests for Highly-Skilled Guest Workers
The H-1B visa program allows employers to hire guest workers in "specialty occupations" and allows these workers to apply for permanent residency while working on the temporary visa. Some immigration reform advocates argue for an increase in the number of H-1B visas to address a shortage of STEM labor and to allow businesses to compete globally for the "best and brightest" talent. Others argue against increasing the availability of such visas for fear the program allows firms to employ guest workers at lower wages than domestic peers and is heavily used by outsourcing firms to transfer jobs to less costly destinations.
This debate about the role of H-1B visas is based almost entirely on analysis at the national level. To better inform policy discussions in New England this report provides new insights into the geographic variation of demand for H-1B visas, the types of workers requested and their regional concentrations, and the types of employers that demand H-1B visas in the region.
This report finds that New England has some of the highest levels of demand for H-1B workers nationwide, relative to employment, due to significant demand from a few metropolitan labor markets in Connecticut and Massachusetts. This analysis also shows that there are various intended uses of the H-1B visa: it is not solely used to address a STEM-skills shortage nor is it used principally to outsource work to less costly locations. Finally, the report recommends developing a clearer policy goal for the H-1B visa program, which would support more coherent criterion for admitting highly skilled guest workers and provide a context within which to determine the desired admission levels of the program.