78% Americans support high-skilled immigrants to US: Survey

Updated on Jan 22, 2019 11:38 PM IST

A new survey shows that majority of Americans support high-skilled immigration contrary to a perception that high-skilled immigrants are displacing Americans as argued by the Trump administration to overhaul the H-1B programme, a major route for foreign professionals.

The finding for the United States runs contrary to negative perception of the H-1B visa programme, which is a major route for high-skilled immigrants, among critics who say it has been misused to displace Americans with cheaper workers provided by outsourcing companies.
The finding for the United States runs contrary to negative perception of the H-1B visa programme, which is a major route for high-skilled immigrants, among critics who say it has been misused to displace Americans with cheaper workers provided by outsourcing companies.
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

A new survey shows that majority of Americans support high-skilled immigration contrary to a perception that high-skilled immigrants are displacing Americans as argued by the Trump administration to overhaul the H-1B programme, a major route for foreign professionals.

Roughly eight in ten adult Americans — 78% — support encouraging highly skilled people to immigrate and work in the US, a report by Pew based on a survey of 12 countries said on Tuesday.

The support was around the same as in other advanced countries, but lower than in Sweden (88%) , the United Kingdom (85%), Canada (84%), Germany (81%) and Australia (79%).

The finding for the United States runs contrary to negative perception of the H-1B visa programme, which is a major route for high-skilled immigrants, among critics who say it has been misused to displace Americans with cheaper workers provided by outsourcing companies.

Supporters of the programme have argued it helps American companies make up for the shortage of locally available hands.

Siding with the critics, the Trump administration is in the midst of overhauling the system by raising the bar to qualify as highly skilled, and tightening rules for entry of foreigners in US schools and colleges, which industry sources say, have made the process cumbersome, unpredictable and expensive.

Asked about this gap between the opposition and public support, Pew senior researcher Phillip Connor, who also co-authored the report, said, “Those in the US who have more education are more likely to support the immigration of highly skilled people. Similarly, those in the US with a higher income are more likely to support the immigration of highly skilled people.”

Thousands of foreign professionals enter the US workforce every year through optional practical training (OPT) for students and H-1B. A large number of them stay on, if sponsored, by their employers to join the queue for citizenship, going first through acquiring permanent residency (Green Card).

There is a long waiting period for Indian applicants for Green Card, with one estimate putting over 100 years, because of backlog that piles up higher every year, because of a system that places a country-cap, a limit on the number of Green Cards given to people from any one country. And efforts are on to find a solution, legislatively, as the debate continues on the advantages and disadvantages of high skilled immigration.

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