NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

How Restricted is the Job Mobility of Skilled Temporary Work Visa Holders?

Jennifer Hunt

NBER Working Paper No. 23529
Issued in June 2017
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Using the National Survey of College Graduates, I investigate the degree to which holders of temporary work visas in the United States are mobile between employers. Holders of temporary work visas either have legal restrictions on their ability to change employers (particularly holders of intra-company transferee visas, L-1s) or may be reluctant to leave an employer who has sponsored them for permanent residence (particularly holders of specialty worker visas, H-1Bs). I find that the voluntary job changing rate is similar for temporary visa holders and natives with similar characteristics. For the minority of temporary workers who receive permanent residence, there is a considerable spike in voluntary moving upon receipt of permanent residence, suggesting mobility is reduced during the application period by about 20%. My analysis of reasons for moving suggests that applicants are prepared to pay a small but not large professional price for permanent access to the U.S. labor market.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23529

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