The Remodel Minority Series: H-1B Visas & the Model Minority Myth

Notice: Hi! This article is a part of a series in line with a community awareness campaign I am co-leading by the name of Remodel Minority.

Amidst the rankings of family-sponsored visas and undocumented immigration, temporary work permits and student visas have also provided significant pathways for Asian immigration to the United States. According to Mary Hanna, a former research intern at the Migration Policy Institute, and Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Insitute and manager of the Migration Data Hub, “Many immigrants from Asian countries, especially India, are employed in high-skilled jobs and enter the US on temporary H-1B visas for specialty occupation workers. Of the 388,000 H-1B petitions approved in fiscal year (FY) 2019, 72 percent of beneficiaries were born in India, followed by mainland China (13 percent). A combined 2 percent of approved H-1B petitions went to beneficiaries from South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan.” These Asian countries alone made up 87% of approved H-1B petitions in 2019. 

And these visas could be why the model minority myth continues to flourish in present society. As written by Boundless, a Seattle-based immigration law firm, essentially, the “H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for specialty jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (and theoretical or technical expertise) … in fields such as IT, finance, engineering, architecture (accounting, mathematics, science, medicine, law, education) or more.” Therefore, when US Citizenship and Immigration Services grants an individual with an H-1B visa, said individual is entering the US with the surety of a job offer in an often respected field and can apply for a Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) to live and work permanently in the US later on. 

This affair aligns with the model minority myth, a perception that all Asian Americans are successful in the US. As per the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin, this myth implies that Asian Americans are always “smart (i.e., naturally good at math, science, and technology), wealthy, hard-working, self-reliant, living the ‘American dream,’ docile and submissive, obedient and uncomplaining, and … spiritually enlightened and never in need of assistance,” and it is plausible that H-1B visas are contributing to the “smart,” “wealthy,” and “living the ‘American dream'” factors of the model minority myth. From the get-go, the H-1B visa requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in the specialized occupation they are pursuing, and having a bachelor’s degree often implies one is “smart.” Furthermore, the concept of an H-1B visa contributes quite a bit to the idea that all Asian Americans are “wealthy” and “living the ‘American Dream'” to the fullest, as those with H-1B visas are granted said visas because an employer has guaranteed them jobs in fields often associated with success. 

The model minority myth perpetually hurts people of color, as it pressures Asian Americans to be successful no matter what. Moreover, the myth propagates the message that if other groups of color “would only work harder, have stronger family bonds and get over their histories of oppression, they too would succeed,” as noted by Sarah-SoonLing Blackburn, an associate director of Learning for Justice. However, in reality, it is not Asian values that contribute the most to the perceived success of Asian Americans in the United States. Instead, as Janelle Wong, a Professor of American Studies, Government and Politics, and core faculty member in the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park, aptly put it, it is “U.S. immigration policy (that) creates a highly educated Asian American class, and this group sponsors for immigration highly educated family members.” 

The truth of the matter is that Asian Americans most likely would not have been the “model minority” if not for the US hyperselecting who is given entrance to the country depending on their degrees and expertise in specialized occupations, making it apparent there is no reason to insist on weaponizing the model minority myth against people of color. Thank you for reading this article, and stay tuned for further articles regarding the model minority myth <3

Works Cited

Blackburn, Sarah-Soonling. “What Is the Model Minority Myth?” Learning for Justice, Learning for Justice, 21 Mar. 2019,

“The H-1B Visa, Explained.” Boundless, Boundless, 8 Sept. 2022,

Hanna, Mary, and Jeanne Batalova. “Immigrants from Asia in the United States.”, Migration Policy Institute, 8 Nov. 2022,

Model Minority Stereotype for Asian Americans. Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin,

Wong, Janelle S. “Editorial: The Source of the ‘Asian Advantage’ Isn’t Asian Values.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Oct. 2015,