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May 7, 2013 at 7:03 AM
Recent Seattle Times stories about the H-1B visa program offered a lot of food for thought on immigration reform. The first story explored whether technology companies and other leading industries use this area of the immigration law to favor skilled foreign workers over equally skilled American workers. Some labor economists argue that American companies take the easy way out by hiring from abroad rather than choosing unemployed American workers with similar skills. Other labor economists, joined by Microsoft, Facebook and other technology companies, argue that thousands of jobs would go unfilled if not for the visa program.
The second story shined a spotlight on the lives of spouses of H-1B visa holders. They hold the immigration status of H-4 visa spouse. They are often educated and experienced in their field but they are not legally authorized to work. They do not have a Social Security number. Some are able to seek H-1B visas on their own – a time-consuming and expensive process for employers – or the spouses may take classes and hold out hope for one day returning to the workforce either here or in their native country.
These spouses, largely women, are not sitting idly at home. (more…)