Why 100,000 American Jobs May Soon Be Filled By the Spouses of Immigrant Workers

Homeland Security is proposing to allow tens of thousands of foreign workers’ spouses to fill U.S. jobs in a bid to retain immigrant talent

May 18, 2014 at 11:00AM

HelpSource: Flickr / Andreas Klinke Johannsen.

Scarcely one month after U.S. companies snapped up 85,000 H-1B visas allowing businesses to bring highly skilled foreign workers to this country for full-time work, the Department of Homeland Security is floating two new proposals on the immigration front.

One would help extend the amount of time certain skilled workers could remain in this country, and the other would allow dependent spouses of many H-1B workers to seek employment in the U.S. – a condition not previously allowed.

The draft regulations – which were recently submitted for public comment by July 11, 2014 – would affect up to 100,600 spouses of guest workers already working in the U.S, and another 36,900 annually thereafter. The move, according to DHS, is meant to "ensure that the U.S. has the most skilled workforce in the world."

An effort to retain foreign workers
The motivation behind these changes is to make staying in the U.S. easier and more attractive to immigrant employees. Spouses of H-1B workers, currently classified as H-4, would be allowed to request employment authorization under the new law. Only those who are married to a worker who has petitioned for permanent residence will be covered.

While this benefit would surely be a boon to the H-1B workers and their families, it is hardly good news for the 9.8 million Americans still without work – 3.5 million of whom belong to the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Some critics, such as Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, notes that allowing this change will increase the number of positions already occupied by guest workers, estimated to be about 700,000.

U.S. companies would be well served by this change, as well. Tech and manufacturing industries have lobbied hard to expand the H-1B program, while congress remains bogged down on the issue of immigration reform. U.S. businesses filed 172,500 H-1B petitions for the available 85,000 visas last month, and adding approximately 100,000 more foreign-born workers into the mix would essentially accomplish their goal.

Lots of STEM graduates, with no place to go
Is there really, as tech and other companies complain, a shortage of available American workers?

As DHS says, H-1B visas are used to secure foreign workers in such fields as "science, engineering, or computer programming". But evidence strongly suggests that there are plenty of science, technology, engineering, and math graduates right here in the U.S.

The problem isn't that there is a dearth of qualified STEM applicants right here at home – the issue is that U.S. firms aren't hiring them.

The Center for Immigration Studies, for instance, has noted that the number of STEM degrees awarded consistently outnumber the job openings available in the field, and will continue to do so well into the future. An article in the Columbia Journalism Review last year concurred, and pointed out that, in 2012, only 38% of STEM PhDs had found work in their area of study, as had 50% of master's degree recipients. Only one-third of bachelor's degree graduates had procured full-time jobs, as well.

While there is no reason to doubt the qualifications of foreign workers – or their spouses – the idea that the "best and brightest" employees required to "support companies here at home" must necessarily hail from countries outside of the U.S. is more than slightly insulting to American workers.

To somehow infer that domestic workers cannot learn what foreign workers apparently can is just patently false.

Is the DHS saying, then, that U.S. colleges are somehow inferior to those in other countries? It would seem not: 20,000 of the 2015 85,000 H-1B visas are reserved for foreign students graduating from American institutions of higher learning – for whom domestic companies seem to have a preference, despite the high numbers of U.S. citizens graduating with similar degrees.

If the U.S. government and American businesses really want to help expand the economy, money spent searching overseas for workers could be put to better use right here, making sure that the country reaches full employment sooner, rather than later.

Fight back with this little-known tax "loophole"
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers