Baker Institute immigration expert provides insights on visas


David Ruth

Jeff Falk

Baker Institute immigration expert provides insights on visas
Tigau: Pulling H-1B visas could result in major restructuring of US business practices

HOUSTON – (April 27, 2017) – A decision by the federal government to restrict or abolish H-1B or TN visas would significantly reduce the number of skilled Mexican immigrants working in the United States, according to an expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Credit: University

Camelia Tigau, a visiting scholar in the institute’s Mexico Center, researcher at the Center for Research on North America at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and expert in skilled migration and Mexican diaspora, outlined her insights in a new issue brief, “U.S. Visas for Foreign Professionals: Insights on H-1B and TN Visas.”

The H-1B category is for people who are coming to the U.S. to be temporary workers in a specialty occupation. The TN (Trade NAFTA) category was developed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens to the U.S. to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis.

Tigau said a move to pull these visas could cause individuals to adopt alternate strategies to stay in the U.S., such as marriage or studying and working on a tourist visa. There is also talk of multinational companies moving their facilities from the U.S. to other important countries that receive skilled migrants, such as Canada and Australia, she said.

“If the H-1B visa program were to be canceled, some professionals from Mexico may consider returning to their home country — thus fulfilling the dream of neoclassical economists who support the repatriation, return and retainment of skilled professionals who have been educated using the public resources of the professionals’ undeveloped or developing home countries,” Tigau wrote.

Tigau also warns that the Trump administration’s proposal to restrict — rather than expand — the number of H-1B and TN visas challenges the theoretical premises of the knowledge economy.

“Under Trump, foreign professionals would apparently be considered unnecessary for economic growth; they could even be seen as an obstruction to social development,” she wrote. “As a result, foreign workers in the U.S. could be expelled from the country that currently admits the highest number of legal immigrants in the world.”

The brief questions whether the U.S. has enough skilled nationals to replace the foreign professionals who might leave if H-1B visas are cancelled.

“The path to an answer may first require the choice to protect U.S. nationals over foreigners,” wrote Tigau. “There is no doubt that such a choice would lead to a major restructuring of U.S. business practices and important changes to the definition of a knowledge economy.”


Follow the Baker Institute Mexico Center via Twitter @BakerMexicoCtr.

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Related materials:

Issue brief:

Tigau biography:

Baker Institute Mexico Center:

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top five university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at or on the institute’s blog,

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.