More H-1B Immigrant Demand in Metro Areas

There are some jobs that American business owners just can't fill fast enough. No, these aren't low-paying, backbreaking jobs in agriculture or factories, but in high-paying gigs in science, engineering, and health care fields. And most of the demand is in metropolitan areas.

A triangle of Northeastern states — New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — have the greatest need for these super-skilled workers, according to a newly released report "The Search for Skills: Demanding for H-1B Immigrant Workers in U.S. Metropolitan Areas" by the Brookings Institute.

The full report will be discussed in a panel on Wednesday.

An H-1B worker is a highly skilled employee who enters the U.S. under a specialty visa and is sponsored by his or her employer to work for a certain period of time.

The bulk of the demand, from the Northeast, accounts for 16.3 percent of the visas.

The top four metropolitan areas, each with between 14,000 to 18,000 H-1B visa worker requests, are Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and the greater Washington, D.C., area.

In some cities, such as Columbus, Ind., and Fayetteville, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores, Patni Americas, and other private employers drive the demand.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee made it easier for these highly educated temporary workers to obtain visas, especially from China and India. The annual H-1B visa cap is set by Congress at 85,000 people. This year, the cap was met three times faster than last year.

Key policy recommendations from the report:

  • Create an independent commission that can recommend timely changes to immigration policy to respond more quickly to high-demand job markets.
  • Target H-1B visa fees to geographical areas to upgrade the skills of the existing workforce, especially where needed.
  • The six most in-demand occupations are computer specialists; engineers; health practitioners and diagnosticians; financial specialists; business-operations specialists; and life scientists.