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Heartland H-1bs: Foreign Tech Workers Beyond Silicon Valley

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Credit: Immigrant Software Inc.

The debate over foreign skilled workers in the U.S. divides along predictable fault lines. Tech CEOs complain that the country's flawed education system can't produce the talent they need to stay competitive. On the other side, labor and anti-immigration groups charge that companies just want to import cheaper labor from China and India at the expense of qualified U.S. workers.

In a new study, Brookings Institution researchers have drilled down into the numbers and found that the data doesn't neatly support either side. Despite the interconnectedness of the global economy, the economics of bringing skilled foreign workers to the U.S. remains very much local.

Companies that want to bring in college-educated foreign workers must apply for what are known as H-1B visas. The Brookings study looks at H-1B applications at the national and the metro level.

"The data is showing it's not just a national debate," says study co-author Neil Ruiz. "We need to understand at a local level that this is where economic activity happens. The skills have to happen at the local level."

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