Author Information

Marina Smoske


On April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13788 calling for a review of the H-1B visa program, effectively taking the first step towards visa reforms to reverse what he dubbed the “theft of American prosperity” (Beckwith, 2016). Just over a week later, he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to American workers, stating in a subsequent speech that his foreign policy “will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else…. this will ensure that our own workers, right here in America, get the jobs and higher pay that will grow our tax revenues, increase our economic might as a nation, and make us strong financially again” (Beckwith, 2016).

For many political pundits and average Americans alike, Trump’s call for scrutinizing the H-1B visa program was hardly unforeseen, as he echoed a sentiment common in the public discourse on employment in the United States during the primaries: “They are taking our jobs. China is taking our jobs. Japan is taking our jobs. India is taking our jobs. It is not going to happen anymore, folks” (Worstall, 2016). Trump’s assertion has become so exceedingly commonplace in the context of economic uncertainty that it has morphed into a sort of truism in the collective consciousness of many Americans who fear for their jobs. As such, it is hardly a leap of logic to regard Trump’s desire to review the H-1B program, the country’s flagship employment-based nonimmigrant visa program for attracting temporary workers in specialty occupations, as a step toward curbing the outsourcing of American labor and hobbling foreign competition from “stealing” American jobs.

Yet despite the cultural fervor aimed at employing Americans first, there is little research that explores the role of the H-1B visa in this supposed phenomenon, particularly with respect to India’s role in the rapidly-evolving tech industry. That being the case, the goal of this research is to investigate trends in the volume of Indian H-1B recipients vis-à-vis economic, social, and political factors that may influence these trends in order to determine whether or not America needs H-1B labor. To this end, I will first supply a brief explanation of the genesis of the H-1B program. I will then identify and describe trends in Indians’ use of the H-1B in relation to other top recipient countries, occupational groups, leading visa sponsors, and the demand for temporary workers in specialized fields. Finally, I will attempt to draw conclusions which speak to whether or not America needs H-1B labor.

Note on the Author

Marina Smoske is a graduating senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Geography. Her research project was conducted in the summer of 2017 while visiting the global technology hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad, India, made possible with funding from an Undergraduate Research Abroad Grant. Under the mentorship of Dr. Madhu Rao and Dr. Martin Grossman, she continued her research project through Fall 2017. She plans to pursue graduate studies in International Affairs.

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