Some immigration opponents want lawmakers to cancel the H1B visa lottery, which admits 85,000 skilled immigrants per year. Their position may reflect a belief that high‐skilled immigration is especially dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic. If so, they have the analysis backwards.
Not only do highly skilled immigrants help U.S. companies develop new technologies and innovations; many serve on the front lines of the medical response to COVID-19.
Medical professionals make up roughly 5 percent of H1B visa applicants out of the top 100 occupations. These doctors, nurses, and technicians already face overly strict regulations that limit their ability to provide care. In addition to the thousands of immigrants working in medicine, adjacent industries – including biotechnology, pharmacology, and more – rely heavily on skilled immigrant labor.
Policymakers should make it easier, not harder, for skilled immigrants to perform these critical duties. Suspending the H1B lottery is even more misguided now than it would be in normal times.