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Off The Chart

September 2, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 35

The pie chart in “Arguing over Science Visas” is misleading (C&EN, July 8, page 11). It breaks up the STEM H-1B visa applicants by degree.

But the focus of the article is about foreign workers competing with U.S. citizens for scarce jobs, in which case, only the number of issued visas matters. Also, the number of issued visas per field matters more than by degree; H-1B visas issued to physicists have relatively little impact on chemists, for example. Finally, the number of issued visas only matters when compared with the number of U.S. STEM job seekers and the number of STEM job openings.

With this information, we can make the following calculation: If there are really not enough U.S. STEM workers, then fill those jobs with H-1B visa holders or expedited citizenship. However, if there is a large excess of U.S. workers compared with available jobs, then visas need to be issued only in special cases.

The goal is to produce just enough homegrown STEM workers that most of the jobs can be filled by U.S. workers. That is fair: The H-1B visa is not a welfare program for foreign nationals—or for corporations that prefer workers who will accept less than market salary.

Bob Butler
Passaic, N.J.


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