On the final Thursday of each month you'll get this in your inbox featuring digests from my personal blog, Reflections, and updates and news related to career and professional development for advanced-degree holders. This effort has grown out of my experience as a graduate student and postdoc and now as a professional working in postdoctoral affairs.
While a postdoc is meant to be a temporary training position and the compensation may not be great, it can be useful to build skills and expertise as well as allow you time to consider your next career step.
Automation and digitization were rapidly changing the workforce years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends. And if you think a knowledge-heavy career is immune to these changes, think again.
This important work dispells many preconceptions around how the temporary work visa (H-1B) and path to permanent residency affects wages and career pathways for STEM Ph.D. holders.
In addition, it illuminates the fact that while the H-1B is meant to be a temporary work visa, most Ph.D. H-1B holders (76%) progress to or are in the process of being sponsored for permanent residency after 3 years of employment in industrial research and development (R&D).
The authors propose that the H-1B is most likely being used to overcome inefficiencies in the move from international student visa (F-1 OPT) to permanent resident.
Among their findings:
Overall levels of scholarly productivity and innovation do not differ for industrial R&D Ph.D. STEM holders first sponsored for H-1B vs first sponsored for permanent residency under the EB-2, exceptional ability process.
Industrial R&D H-1B STEM Ph.D. holders salaries and work hours do not differ from United States citizen workers, suggesting the H-1B process does not depress citizen wages nor does it exploit H-1B workers (at least in this dataset).
Industrial R&D H-1B STEM Ph.D. holders are twice as likely to work for a big technology company compared to other employers, presumably due to these firms having the resources to navigate the visa sponsorship process. The current visa and immigration system impacts the ability for smaller, start-up firms to access talent.
Implications provided by the authors:
The inefficient visa path through the H-1B increases not only uncertainty for workers but also the costs for many employers who spend thousands of dollars per employee to first sponsor them for an H-1B and then several thousand more for permanent residency. These inefficiencies suggest that a streamlining of the path from doctorate to permanent residency or changes to the H-1B program may be warranted.