We wanted to make sure you’d seen that earlier this week, labor economist and Forbes contributor Ike Brannon published a piece outlining new data that shows the potentially devastating consequences of rescinding work authorization for eligible spouses of high-skilled immigrant workers.
Mr. Brannon is leading the process of analyzing data from a nationwide survey of H-4 visa holders who have been granted work authorization under the current law. Initial analysis shows that any rule change rescinding employment authorization for H-4 visa holders would result in substantial costs to the U.S. economy as well as Federal and State tax coffers. Mr. Brannon states, “Our initial analysis leads us to conclude that the rule rescission should not survive a thorough cost-benefit analysis, which is required for any new or rescinded rule. … Not only are the costs high, but we also find no evidence at all that there would be any new jobs made available for U.S. citizens.”
Since 2015, approximately 100,000 H-4 visa holders – overwhelmingly women with advanced degrees from U.S. universities – have been able to legally work in United States, provide for their families, and become economically independent while they wait in a decades long queue for their approved green cards to arrive.
The Trump Administration submitted its proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on February 20th, 2019 for a formal regulatory review before the proposal can be published in the Federal Register. This new research affirms that reversing this policy will impose significant costs on U.S. businesses and families alike, with no clear upside for American workers or employers.
View the full piece in Forbes below, or online here.
Forbes // Ike Brannon // At What Cost: Assessing the High Cost of Removing H-4 Visa Holders from the American Workforce
Late last month the Trump Administration sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review its proposed rule to terminate the work authorization of spouses of H-1B professionals who are patiently waiting in the extensive visa backlogs for their green cards. This policy, often referred to as H-4 EAD, has allowed tens of thousands of immigrant families to support themselves and contribute to their communities in America. Based on new research, we believe rescinding this rule will have significant economic and human costs.
In 2015, the Obama Administration authorized temporary work permits, called Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), for the spouses of H-1B visa holders who were awaiting green cards. These spouses hold H-4 status and according to DHS data, over 90,000 H-4 visa holders have received a work permit since that time, and our study suggests that about three-quarters of those currently hold gainful employment.
We are in the process of analyzing data from a nationwide survey we conducted of H-4 visa holders in which the sample we obtained is both representative and sufficiently large — approximately four percent of the population, an almost unheard-of ratio. Our initial analysis leads us to conclude that the rule rescission should not survive a thorough cost-benefit analysis, which is required for any new or rescinded rule.
Our initial analysis of the collected data shows that any rule change rescinding employment authorization for H-4 visa holders would result in substantial costs to the U.S. economy as well as Federal and State tax coffers. What’s more, those losses would not be offset at all by any increase in employment and income by domestic workers. The survey data demonstrates that H-4 workers are highly skilled, highly educated, and tend to pursue employment in fields with extremely low unemployment rates. There are simply not enough available U.S. workers with the sufficient background and education to fill all of the jobs these H-4 workers are currently doing. Our data suggest that the relatively small gains to U.S. workers in replacing H-4 workers would be fully offset by the jobs lost by other employees if the self-employed H-4 workers were forced to close their businesses and lay off their employees.
Providing H-4 visa holders with the ability to obtain gainful employment has provided an economic and fiscal boost to the U.S. economy, strengthened by the fact that most of this cohort has a high level of education and a substantial level training and experience in skilled fields where compensation is high and unemployment rates are low, which threatens to inhibit future economic growth as well as employment growth–for high-skilled and low-skilled workers alike.
The near-record-low unemployment rates in the U.S.–especially for educated workers–put lie to the notion that H-4 holders displace domestic workers in the occupations and industries where they predominate. Our analysis suggest that the jobs created by the H-4 holders who start their own businesses more than offset any job displacement of domestic workers by other H4 holders.