An H-1B visa began in 1990 to allow a foreign workers come to the United States and promise to work for the same company for six years, usually at lower wages than under a free market. Free enterprise economist Milton Friedman observed, "There is no doubt," he says, "that the [H-1B] program is a benefit to their employers, enabling them to get workers at a lower wage, and to that extent, it is a subsidy."
The H-1B program brings into the United States hundreds of thousands of workers from foreign nations at lower wages and restrictions on job mobility. This program keeps real income for Americans from increasing, particularly in high-tech fields. When there are layoffs, H-1B visa-holders grab scarce jobs easily, thereby displacing opportunities for Americans. For example, in 2023 an astounding 90% of H-1B visa-holders obtained new jobs within 60 days of being laid off. "In fact, compared to native workers, immigrants found work 10 days faster ...."
There are conceptual similarities between the H-1B program and the unsuccessful indentured servant program used in colonial Virginia, particularly Jamestown, in the early 1600s. But there are no shortage of American workers today, while there was in Jamestown in 1607, so the H-1B program is little more than the enrichment of large companies at the expense of American workers.
Large companies in the high tech industry, such as Microsoft, prefer to hire workers on H-1B visas because those workers are unlikely ever to compete with their employers. The law generally requires those workers to remain with their initial employer for six years and remain working on the tasks specified in the original visa, or else leave the country. It is difficult to switch employers and even if there is a switch in employment, the worker must continue to work as specified in the original visa. After the six years elapses, the worker must leave the country unless the employer obtains an extension, or invites the worker back after a year outside the country.
The opposite side of the coin, the worker who applies for and is granted a visa, gains something he would not otherwise have. He gains temporary residence in the US of A and the benefits that accrue therefrom. He has reliable community services, most of the freedom enjoyed by every citizen and opportunity to better his position in life.
The number of H-1B visas issued per year cannot currently exceed 65,000, plus another 20,000 for those with U.S. graduate degrees. There is no limit on H-1B visas for universities, non-profit research laboratories and government research laboratories. However, Barack Obama has by executive order allowed H1-B holders to overstay their visa time limit of 6 years indefinitely. On June 23, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on the question of whether President Obama's 2014 immigration actions were valid. There is a controversial bill in Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas allowed.
- "Obama greenlights high-skilled immigration; relief for H-1B visa holders, spouses, students", November 21, 2014. Retrieved on August 20, 2017.
- "Supreme Court ties in case challenging Obama's immigration actions", June 23, 2016. Retrieved on August 20, 2017.