Quantitative Impact of Reducing Barriers to Skilled Labor Immigration: The Case of the US H-1B Visa

By Hyun Lee


In this paper, I develop a novel two-country general equilibrium model of immigration and return migration with incomplete markets and heterogeneous agents. I use the model to quantify the short-run and the long-run macroeconomic impacts of permanently doubling the US H-1B visa quota. In the short-run, I find huge endogenous increase in visa application by less talented skilled foreigners, which increases the probability of obtaining the H-1B visa by only 11 percentage points. In the long-run, US experiences a modest gain in output per capita. Most importantly, I find that there exists a sizable mass of US native skilled workers who—despite the decrease in their equilibrium wage—gain in welfare because of their accumulated capital holdings. Furthermore, I highlight the importance of including return migration in a quantitative model of international labor mobility by showing that shutting down return migration in my model results in overestimating the magnitude of the welfare changes by more than sixfold for certain cohorts.

The temporary visa question is a hot topic now, and this paper shows that looking at the answer in general equilibrium may lead to some outcomes you would not necessarily have thought about beforehand. Let us hope policymakers will look at the issue with some good thought.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: