H1-B Visa Politics

Senators Durban and Grassley are now sounding the alarm over H1-B Visa applications, claiming that big evil Indian outsourcing firms are scamming the system to move American jobs overseas.

Sorry, but I don’t buy their reasoning.  The facts are laid out in the most prejudiced manner possible, and even then the numbers don’t add up to alarm.  Basically, we find that Wipro and Infosys “rotate” about 1,000 people from U.S. back to India per year.  That’s all.  That’s the whole story.

For starters, we’re talking about a pool of 65,000 visas that disappears in just 2 days.  If Grassley is worried that 1,000 of those visas could have gone to people who are more likely to put down roots in America, he should just vote to up the quota.  The demand so completely outweighs supply that it’s pointless to argue about 1,000 visas.

Next, the idea that people given H1-B Visas shouldn’t be permitted to go back to their country of origin is absurd.  Many outright citizens are going back to China and India to resettle and do business, why would it be different for H1-B visa holders?  Perhaps if the number were something like 50%, that would be a different story, but where do you draw the line?  Is 1 of 65 really a “scam”?

Finally, they seem concerned that Wipro and Infosys are “foreign-owned”.  Who cares?  If an American company bought Infosys, would that make everything suddenly better?  The fact is, the entire American industry depends on these two companies, and whether we decide to purchase them outright is a simple business decision that has nothing to do with politics.  These two companies have higher ratios of rotation, but that’s due to the nature of their business.  The senators seem to think that rotation should be evenly distributed across all companies, which makes no sense.  And the moment you admit that rotation will be distributed unevenly, you have a factor that can be used by alarmist senators to pick out and victimize some companies.

Of course, to the extent that these companies are using rotation to keep employees in virtual indentured servitude, we have reason to complain.  That is, if there is a significant portion of rotated employees who would rather stay in the U.S. and put down roots, the H1-B visa system should apply pressure to make that possible.  But I don’t see the senators investigating that, and in fact the alarmist and isolationist policies are largely to blame for the fact that skilled workers are being driven to leave the U.S. after getting experience.

11 Comments

  • You know you aren’t seeing the entire picture here and it’s disappointing to see you writing this when you probably don’t have all the facts.

    CNN did a report that I watched.. Originally this program was supposed to bring skilled workers into this country to bolster it’s high tech worker program. I think we can all agree that this in itself is a noble cause and worth having..

    However the real issues are the failings of the current program..

    One thing simply stated: because of the demand for these Visas our goverment has changed it’s policy about how it’s handled. It’s now handled via lottery. The following oversight items aren’t even checked.

    1) Whether or not the applicant is an advanced degree holder (the reason we are trying to import the talent in the first place.
    2) If the company is paying the applicant an acceptable high-level salary compensatory to the skill and talent being paid.

    Right now over the last few years these Visas were awarded by lottery to many people who don’t hold advanced degrees and who aren’t working in so called “high tech” industries. The reality of this is the program has been hijacked by US corporations looking to bring cheap unskilled labor forces, due to the implementation of the “lottery”. They don’t even check someone’s resume, if you get an application in and you are lucky enough to get picked then you are in, even if you don’t meet the requirements of the original program.

    Now that is sad, and while a big company like Microsoft wouldn’t do this, the research shows that the hospitality and agriculture industry are prime offenders. Someone actually surveyed the people issued these Visas over the past few years at CNN.

    You might not have seen this research but it’s been highly profiled on the Lou Dobbs nightly show.

    Durban and Grassley are responding not to what you are saying they but to a bill that was recently submitted to congress by Senators Hagel and Lieberman who has recently submitted a bill that would remove limits on H1-B Visa applicants and make that limitless. While that sounds to me like a great idea, with the program broken due to the current administration’s implementation of the “lottery” system to award these (to folks it was never intended for). It would make a broken program even worse.

    I don’t think the issue here is who own’s the companies looking for the Visa but if the people getting the awards do fit the original intentions of the program and follows the letter of the law.

    I think we should be lobbying our congress people for better OVERSIGHT of the existing program, not making the curently “BROKE” program and endless flow of people into the country that don’t meet the program requirements.

  • allenjs wrote:

    To be honest, I’ve never used CNN as an authoritative source on any important issues. I’ve been following the H1-B visa politics closely, and have reported here several times in the past. It is, indeed, unfortunate that so many people who have not followed this issue closely are now having their opinions formed by politicians on CNN.

    Perhaps there are problems with Hagel’s proposal, but throwing out dishonest smears against Wipro and Infosys is not a way to build credibility or force Hagel to fix the problems.

    Infosys and Wipro are not engaged in hospitality or agriculture industries, and it’s absurd to claim that H1-B visas are going in significant numbers to agricultural workers. We have 65,000 H1-B visas versus 10 million people proposed amnesty under current laws. To use words like “endless flow” for such a tiny segement of the immigration system, and attempt to conflate with 10 million unregistered hospitality and agricultural workers, is the worst kind of political pandering. I would expect it from CNN anchors, not from my loyal readers of this blog.

  • AwesomeArpit wrote:

    Doald,
    I graduated from the top university in Canada and was hired by microsoft last year. me and many others like me (3000+) have been waiting ever since for an h1b, only to be hit by the lottery system this year. Our lives and careers have been disrupted, all due to a random ‘cap’ and a lottery of all things! it amazes me that the US govt is ok with 12000000 illegal immigrants but makes life difficult for prospective skilled legal immigrants about 5% of that number.

  • As a software consultant, I have interacted technically with many H1-B visa holders over the years. One of the provisions of the H1-B visa program is that the visa holder stay employed. This requirement gave the sponsor of the visa holder tremendous leverage. Visa holders could be forced to take unattractive jobs i.e. low pay, long commutes, forced relocation. In some respects, the visa holder is like an indentured servant.

    For the visa holder, staying in the country is paramount, not the amount of money they make. Consequently, their presence in the industry has a downward pressure on rates/wages.

    I suspect that many visa holders, frustrated with dealing with the demands of sponsors, are now in the country illegally.

  • Norman wrote:

    Would you like to really know how H-1 Visa is abused.

    I will give you details (names and solid information with proof) of an Indian IT company collecting $10 K from prospective employers in currency in India, transferring that cash (and I mean currency) to Pittsburgh, laundering the money using an elaborate scheme.

    I can send you a fact sheet if I have your commitment to investigate it.

    Up for the challenge?

  • allenjs wrote:

    FedUp: What point are you making? I can’t tell whether you support removing restrictions on H1-B (as I do), or if you think that protectionism will prevent “dwonward pressure” on wages (it won’t).

    Norman: the last thing I want is to get sucked into an “elaborate” theory about some company somewhere committing fraud. If you believe there is fraud going on with a particular company, by all means report it to the proper authorities. On the other hand, the fact that people are shady and commit fraud does not mean that H1-B is “bad”, or that the people working as de-facto indentured servants should be treated like crap and kicked out of the country. The U.S. government frequently commits bribery and fraud, too — you can read about it in the papers everyday. It’s not even particularly elaborate. I suppose this means we should get rid of government.

  • I’ve put up my experience on a brand new blog.
    Will be updating it with h1b related issues, discussion regarding the “stealing” of “american” jobs, Microsoft and other random stuff.

    you can read about it here:

    http://awesomearpit.blogspot.com/

  • Jerry Lemieux wrote:

    Senator Durban and Senator Grassley are finally doing what is right for the citizens of the United States. I’ve worked at companies that now have over 50% of their IT staffs from foreign countries. Most of them from India. I’ve found that many of these people are liars and possess no special skills. The only skill they possess is the cheap labor skill. They come to me asking assistance with problems that any 2nd year computer science student could answer. I refuse to assist them in any manner. Reading the Indian nonsense being posted here makes me gag. Protectionism does not apply to the importation of inept foreign scabs into a country to secure employment. It deals with import of goods. I’m lobbying my Senators and Representatives weekly on this issue. I want to see this program squashed because it is based on lies and logic that is flawed in the extreme.

  • allenjs wrote:

    Jerry, I almost did not approve your comment, since it borders on inappropriate. But apparently you feel passionately about this. Perhaps you feel that it’s better for the country if people like you keep an unsustainable salary differential for just a few more years and flood the country with cheap manual laborers to make you feel like a king. Perhaps you think that the massive disparities in countries like Brazil and Indonesia are “just fine” for the U.S. Or perhaps you are just selfish and angry and don’t care to think beyond the short-term implications of your own situation.

    But for myself, I think it is a moral issue that we have so many people who come here looking to become Americans, who are cream of the crop compared to other immigrants (these are the people we *want* here) — and we underpay, abuse, and treat them like indentured servants. And then people like you have the gall to act the victim. As if *you* are being victimized by the hoops these people have to jump through. Try being an H1-B visa holder for a year, or even a month, and then come back here with your parsimonious entitlement talk. Your ancestors most certainly didn’t behave that way.

  • Well All Americans who complain H1B take this:
    You want to open McD Restaurants in India, Sell you TVs and machines in india, sell compressors and turbines in India/China – Dont local makers loose business when these companies invade the market. Dont locat restaurants get hurt when McD opens next door. They have to fire people or even shut down. Arent there job loses? American company sells product in India by causing loss of Indian jobs/busineses and pay millions in taxs to US Govt from their income and you want to enjoy that tax money which came from India/China…..
    OPEN YOUR EYES AND DONT CRY LIKE KIDS. YOU WANT TO ENTER OTHER COUNTRIES AND DONT WANT OTHERS TO ENTER YOURS…..you want to enjoy the fruits of global economy and complain and cry when others do it ….

  • [...] workers in USA are spies”.  This is part of the ongoing battle of the politicians to kick out anyone with education and talent, and instead turn USA into a low-cost labor [...]

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