How The Highly Skilled Visa Program Is Cutting Women Out

The latest word out of the Senate gang of eight is that an immigration deal may adopt a Republican proposal to shift the focus away from family-based immigration in favor of employment-based immigration. A new report shows how that approach would particularly hurt women: Data acquired by Contra Costa Times shows that men are much more likely to receive visas for highly skilled labor than women.

There is at least one type of employment visa that favors men over women: H-1B visas, which cover highly skilled workers and are popular in the heavily male tech industry. In 2011, 70 percent of H-1B visas for highly skilled workers were men:

The U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics recorded 347,087 male H-1B visa holders entered the country during the 2011 fiscal year compared to 137,522 women. The data is imperfect because it includes many H-1B immigrants traveling to the United States after visits to their home countries, not just first-time arrivals.

Examples of the gender gap go beyond H-1Bs: “Among professional and management workers, about 67,000 immigrant men and only 39,000 immigrant women earned green cards last year for permanent U.S. residency.” The result is men receive 63 percent of green cards, even though women hold a majority of those jobs.

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee examined immigration reform’s impact on women immigrants. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), addressing an audience of just three other senators at the hearing, said there should be no “either-or proposition” between family-based and employment-based immigration. In fact, President of Asian American Justice Center Mee Moua shut down Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) argument against admitting family members, arguing that Sessions’ proposal would “disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country.”