Immigration and the Labor Market:

Nonimmigrant Alien Workers in the United States

PEMD-92-17: Published: Apr 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO analyzed nonimmigrant employment in the United States, focusing on: (1) class H-1 nonimmigrants, aliens of distinguished merit and ability who are admitted temporarily to perform services of an exceptional nature; and (2) L-1 nonimmigrants, aliens who enter the United States to work for an international employer as a manager or executive.

GAO found that: (1) the H-1 Program served about 16,000 petitioning companies in the northern states employing an estimated 60,000 H-1 nonimmigrant workers during 1989; (2) about 65 percent of the H-1 petitioning firms were U.S.-owned, and they employed 64 percent of H-1 nonimmigrants; (3) the much smaller L-1 Program involved an estimated 2,100 firms employing nearly 18,000 L-1 nonimmigrants; (4) only 25 percent of the L-1 petitioner firms were U.S.-owned and they employed 41 percent of L-1 nonimmigrants; (5) H-1 nonimmigrants were concentrated in such specialized service sectors as computers, engineering, science, research, health-related occupations, entertainment, athletics, and the arts, while L-1 nonimmigrants were broadly distributed among manufacturing and service industries; (6) firms indicated that about half of the H-1 nonimmigrants for whom they petitioned were occupying regular positions that were intended to be permanent, suggesting that a succession of temporary nonimmigrant workers were filling permanent jobs; (7) 85 percent of nonimmigrants in hospitals and related health care industries were occupying jobs intended to be permanent, raising the possibility that the wages and working conditions of U.S. health care workers were not being adequately protected; and (8) there was no widespread practice of nonimmigrant aliens using their H-1 or L-1 visas as a means of securing immigrant status.

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