Beware the H-1B Visa

To protect U.S. jobs, the government needs to tighten the rules for use of H-1B visas, which allow foreign nationals with tech skills to work in the U.S.

Pro: License to Exploit and Betray

The rationale for the H-1B program is straightforward. The U.S. has a shortage of workers with specific skills, and the H-1B program allows firms to import the best and brightest to fill those gaps. Proponents claim the program prevents the outsourcing of jobs to low-cost countries and increases the U.S.’s competitiveness. Here’s why they are wrong.

The H-1B program has been corrupted by a large and growing share of firms that use it for cheap labor and to facilitate the outsourcing of jobs. Gaping loopholes make it very easy and legal to pay below-market wages. In fact, employers admitted to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog agency, that they use the visas to hire less-expensive foreign workers. And examples of approved H-1B applications show how the program undercuts American workers. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Labor rubber-stamped HCL America’s bid to import 75 computer software engineers at $11.88 per hour.

The problems don’t stop with cheap labor. The H-1B visa is so critical to the offshore outsourcing industry that India’s Commerce Minister has dubbed it the "outsourcing visa." Seven of the top 10 H-1B employers are offshore outsourcing firms, none of whom hire many Americans, gobbling up tens of thousands of H-1B visas along the way. Rather than preventing it, the program speeds up the outsourcing of high-wage high-technology jobs.

None of this should be surprising given the raison d’etre of modern corporations, maximizing profits. Businesses do not exist to maximize their U.S. workforce or improve competitiveness in the U.S. If companies can lower costs by hiring cheaper foreign guest-workers, they will. If they can hire vendors who hire cheaper foreign guest-workers, they will. And who can blame them? If they don’t take advantage of blatant loopholes, their competitors surely will. Cheap labor and outsourcing explain why the H-1B program is oversubscribed.

A sizable share of the U.S. high-tech workforce understands this logic, and justifiably views the H-1B program as a threat and a scam. That’s the real danger to U.S. competitiveness. Young people considering a technology career see that industry prefers cheaper foreign guest-workers and that the government uses immigration policy to work against technology professionals.

Policymakers need to thoroughly reform these corrupted programs. Legislation introduced by Senators Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) would accomplish this while still giving firms access to the best and brightest. Simply hoping, rather than requiring, corporations to shun the temptation of cheaper labor is not only naïve but also dangerous to the future of U.S. competitiveness.

Con: Mutually Beneficial and Fair

The H-1B visa issue reminds me of the debate on offshoring a few years ago, when the public complained that skilled, cheap Chinese and Indian labor would steal jobs from U.S. engineers and software programmers in developed countries. However, the buzz diminished when the speculation failed to match the reality: A 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey showed that only 4% to 5% of layoffs in the U.S. and Europe resulted from offshoring, while domestic factors such as downsizing caused most job loss.

Now a similar scenario has arisen in regard to H-1B visas. Admittedly, the H-1B visa program, supposed to benefit U.S. companies by allowing them to hire well-educated workers from foreign countries, is being exploited by some businesses that are paying these H-1B employees poorly. Nonetheless, the low cost of labor could be just one of the reasons many companies prefer H-1B holders.

Some employers with openings for high-end IT positions say they simply cannot find enough adequately trained professionals in their localities to fill their open positions. It’s only natural for them to tap into candidates from India and China, where IT education is strong.

And even if H-1B visas sometimes result in the hiring of H-1B candidates over American ones, H-1Bs benefit all U.S. citizens. Rather than pay for more expensive American workers, corporations could otherwise choose offshoring in developing countries, where they can hire cheaper workers. Or they could shift to relatively immigrant-friendly countries such as Canada, where Microsoft (MSFT) recently established some operations. That means the U.S. loses out on the tax revenues and consumer spending from H-1B workers they would have hired if it weren’t for restrictions and caps.

Reducing the number of H-1B visas would cheat the U.S. out of other revenue as well. The top graduate science and engineering schools in the U.S. have a large proportion of Asian students. Many of them are Indian and Chinese citizens who have been provided with fellowships or scholarships from U.S. universities. This group of well-educated workers is finding it hard to win good jobs because of the tightened H-1B visa policy. Consequently, they cannot contribute their intelligence and diligence to the U.S. economy, although the U.S. funded the development of their competence.

Finally, the H-1B visa is, as a matter of fact, a scapegoat for the failing education system in the U.S. One theory says the real problem in the U.S. is the lack of focus on, and attention to, fundamental education. The U.S. needs graduates with stronger math and science skills. Restrictions on H-1B visas will not save the future of the U.S. but rather downgrade its vigor and competitiveness.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

Greg Kearney

Enough already. I'm as capitalist as the next guy, but I would rather be working for a decent wage than some fellow in India.

Test Test

"And even if H-1B visas sometimes result in the hiring of H-1B candidates over American ones, H-1Bs benefit all U.S. citizens."

They don't benefit U.S. programmers one bit. If the law mentions programmers and benefits other U.S. citizens at U.S. programmer's expense, it's unconstitutional.

Importing large numbers of fry cooks would benefit all Americans who eat french fries, at the expense of fry cooks. You shouldn't work at an organization such as BusinessWeek if you don't understand the economics behind this--read it again if you didn't get it the first time.

Importing large numbers of fry cooks to benefit the majority of Americans--at the expense of fry cooks--would be unconstitutional. It's unconstitutional to pass laws that benefit the majority at the minority's expense simply because the majority has more votes.

H-1B is unconditional for the same reason.

"Rather than pay for more-expensive American workers, corporations could otherwise choose offshoring in developing countries, where they can hire cheaper workers. Or they could shift to relatively immigrant-friendly countries such as Canada, where Microsoft (MSFT) recently established some operations."

If H-1Bs are more expensive than offshore workers, why wouldn't they do this anyway--even with H-1Bs? H-1Bs don't compete with overseas workers--they're too expensive. They compete with American ones.

The same number of jobs will go to Canada--and to India--with or without H-1B. The jobs that can't be moved will be completed by Americans and H-1Bs.

"That means the U.S. loses out on the...consumer spending from H-1B workers."

The U.S. also loses out on the inflation caused by the increased consumer spending from H-1B workers. From a U.S. programmer's perspective, they're only going to see two effects:

1. Lower wages from H-1B programmers
2. Higher prices caused by H-1B programmers buying stuff

Do other people benefit from this spending? Yes, the higher prices (inflation) means higher wages for other people--not programmers. Once again, since the law mentions programmers--and hurts them--this is just another reason H-1B is unconstitutional.

Free-market laws don't mention occupations. Laws that mention occupations are not only not free-market but also are unconstitutional.

Jeff Gosnell

I have been an IT worker for 20 years and in that time have had my position outsourced to India. These days I work in concert with my Indian counterparts--it is just the way it is, and I find no conflict. But to say that the IT talent is not available from the pool of American citizens is just another ruse from corporations to hold wages down and keep existing American IT workers in semi-fear of job loss.

Bob

Can you handle the truth? Do you want the real story on the H-1B issue? Then check out www.eng-i.com/E-Newsletters.htm.

PD

The H-1B (and L1B) should be scrapped. I am an Indian software IT professional and have recently moved to the UK from the U.S. after spending six years on an H-1B. The H-1B appears to be bad for everyone--bad for U.S. workers (wages are depressed as H-1B employees can be exploited), bad for genuine U.S. employers (who cannot hire people as the H-1B program has become a lottery), and bad for the U.S. as a nation. (Consider my example--I was given state-of-the art experience in the U.S., and now the benefits of the experience are going to the UK.)

The U.S. can probably learn from the UK and have a program along these lines:
A) Allow a temporary (point-based) visa in areas of high demand (like IT). The visa should not require employer sponsorship. The point-based system can ensure that only high-skilled workers with good educations and past earnings get through).
B) After two years, evaluate the performance of the person. A very quantitative measure like salary (factored by cost of living in each area) can be used. If the person meets the measure, allow him to stay; otherwise, he goes back.

Frank

This is a complex debate. The original H-1B cap was 195,000, and then it was dramatically reduced to 65,000 in 2004. The return to the previous limit would be beneficial to both businesses and communities in the U.S. The H-1B program was positive since those workers would come to America and work for high-wage jobs, eventually trying to get green cards and establish lives as Americans. This was positive to local businesses whose goods and services were used by these workers who paid taxes in the communities in which they worked and live. These workers contributed their talent to expanding the economy of the United States, and their innovation and hard work contributed to the goods and services produced for export and consumption in the U.S.--thereby contributing and adding value and increasing in real terms the U.S. GDP. These users of H-1Bs were usually highly educated and would support their local communities, unlike now when mostly low-wage local "Wal-Mart" jobs have become the norm and are expected to support the tax base of communities. It is short-sighted to look at the pool of talent through nationalistic eyes. We are in a globalized world where talent, capital, and technology are quite transportable and usable by America's competitors. Better to have people come and work. There has to be common ground in this debate that both sides can agree upon. Aspects of the H-1B visa program have merit but may require more controls to reduce abuse by employers and workers.

Ashish

Why so much fuss and discussion about the H-1B? As BW mentioned, there are only 65,000 visas in a year, and half of them are used up by Indian companies. Out of the remaining half (32,500), there are engineers, programmers, doctors, pharmacists, biotechnologists, etc. Let's say for argument's sake that you are a mechanical engineer, which is 5% of the 32,500, i.e., 1,625. Out of the 1,625 jobs for mechanical engineers, more than half are defense/aerospace-related. Which brings it down to 812. In one year, out of 812 jobs in the entire USA, if an American is not able to find a job, who is to blame? The H-1B worker who gets the job, or the American who thinks he is perfectly qualified for the job?

This is the age of globalization, folks. Sooner or later, all jobs that can be outsourced, will be outsourced. Reducing H-1Bs is not a solution to it. If you think it is, go ahead and reduce them. The "highly qualified low-paid" Indians will return to their country and start businesses that will compete against the U.S.--in India.

Deepak

What makes you think I'll work for less than a decent wage, Greg?

David

I think the H-1B programs is nothing more than slavery in the 21st century. And it is helping destroy the livelihoods of many Americans. That said, once [the foreign workers] are here, they should be treated like everyone else. And every time companies cry that they need this program desperately but don't dare change the rules so it's more fair to the employee, they back down on the changes. Since companies want these so desperately, you would think they would accept changes to get what they wanted. But no, they are so used to getting their way that no compromise is acceptable. Which leads me to believe the worse of the program.

Bill Jacobs

U.S. industries can have as many H-1B visas as they want, but the visas don't follow the employer; they are fixed-length stays whereby they work with whoever wants to pay them.

Let the immigrants negotiate market wages, and we'll just see how tough it is to find local talent. I think we'll be amazed at the innovation of the HR departments once companies have to fly them over here and pay a competitive wage with benefits.

Once the cheap source of brains vanishes, brains become valuable again and college kids start taking computer science again. Why bust your brains for the same pay as the English majors? Love of science alone isn't enough for everybody.

usengin

The pro-H-1B article drags out the false rationalization that the U.S. education system is to blame for the "shortage" of native U.S. engineers. Perhaps if U.S. companies that have benefited from the U.S. legal, economic, and educational infrastructure to become globally competitive could hire and provide training to U.S. workers who are not "adequately trained," rather than hiring foreign guest workers. In this global economy, it's now survival of the fittest, and countries that do not maintain a strong and skilled native tech labor force will not do well. Future engineering leaders will come up through the ranks after graduating from U.S. universities, and H-1Bs displace these folks before they can get the industrial experience. Why would a student major in engineering if there are no jobs available for new graduates due to guest workers and outsourcing?

John Spens

OK, when will we stop running in circles? H-1Bs are needed because there is such a skills shortage here. Outsourcing is needed because they are low-end jobs anyway and it makes more sense to ship the jobs overseas. Our schools are very bad, and there is an educational crisis. But the undergraduate programs are doing great and people from foreign countries rush in here to do graduate and doctorate programs. These arguments have become so trite that I find it difficult to believe the proponents believe it themselves. Unless they are cherry-picking.

Fred Smith

Ms. Yu says we need H-1B visas because of our failing education system. Yet she says we need H-1B visas for the foreign students coming through our failing education system.

Yet another H-1B paradox.

Harish

Greg, maybe you should take a few minutes to actually read the arguments above. The issue here is not about working for someone "in India." But you might just find yourself working for someone from India one of these days. Like many uninformed Americans, you're confusing offshoring with H-1B visas.

sreekanth

Greg: Do you think $100,000 is a decent wage? I am an Indian working in the computer field on an H-1B visa, and receive that much salary. I don't mind working for any people as long as they respect me.

joe fivepack

Michelle Cham Yu writes: "H-1B visa is, as a matter of fact, a scapegoat for the failing education system in the U.S."

The number of computer science graduates has dropped substantially over the past several years. This dramatic change over a short period is not due to any shortcoming in the U.S. educational system, but rather the supply/demand impact of Congress' increase of H-1B quota.

Certainly there are problems with the U.S. primary and secondary education system. A key problem is immigration, which has resulted in tower of babel ESL, high birth rates of immigrants that overcrowd our schools, and the resultant "dumbing down" so that "no immigrant child is left behind." To that extent, Congress should fix the problem rather than displacing Americans from the job market. Regardless, the solution is not "more immigration."

To the extent Yu is referring to the U.S. university education system, she is incorrect: H-1B proponents claim they need to raise the quota so that they can hire more grads from U.S. universities.

Tarendra

Dear Ron Hira,
Seventy-five computer professionals from HCL does not represent an entire software community. When you look at the problem, look at the broad effect.

Jake Leone

Listen, this debate should be about discrimination. Indian outsourcing companies use a lion's share of H-1B visas, and they don't hire U.S. citizens. Many U.S. hi-tech jobs now are H-1B-only. This represents massive open discrimination against people just because their point-of-origin happens to be the United States.

We just want an open and fair competition for U.S. jobs; that is all. Not preferential hiring, which is what many H-1B employees depend on.

This program is not good for the competitiveness of U.S. companies, as many H-1B visas are sold by unscrupulous Indian recruiting agencies. This program must be reformed if we are going to stay competitive in the U.S.

I know, because I have seen it firsthand. I recently interviewed several candidates working for job shops (one was contracted to Google). One couldn't even tell me how to kill a process on a Unix system. So much for the best and the brightest.

The H-1B visa brings in the job candidate with the highest bid, not the best and brightest.

Executives love formula; that is why they are so ga-ga over the the H-1B visa. When they actually do their job and see what they are getting, then they wise up and realize they actually have to look to find good workers.

And they also love indentured servants (modern slavery), they love to bring in the H-1B worker, and then hang the requirement of employer sponsorship for a green card, like a Sword of Damocles. That is why "Compete America" (Oracle, Google, and Microsoft) was against the last immigration bill, because it would have taken away the green whip.

I was largely for the last immigration bill.

Linda

I agree that the H-1B visa program is not guilty itself. Companies are taking advantage of it, but even with fewer visa holders, the jobs will not move to the American labor market but rather to the Canadian, Indian, or Chinese market eventually.

Alan

It seems to me that higher productivity for every dollar (or rupee) spent on programming wages leads to a higher cost-adjusted quality of life for everyone in the U.S.

U.S. IT professionals who can't provide the same productivity per dollar that is available on the global marketplace will face this reality sooner or later, whether it's a) through direct job losses to outsourcing firms, or b) reduced sales of their U.S. companies causing reduced hiring and potentially even downsizing.

This is the same phenomenon that played out with U.S. manufacturing jobs, and if anything, the IT industry has fewer inherent barriers to globalization (fewer fixed costs, ease of code/data/media transportation, etc). I think the lessons learned from the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs apply here, namely a) retrain, retrain, retrain--it's the least painful way to get out of the mess and, b) protectionism and artificially imposed government barriers do not solve the problem but rather further erode U.S. competitiveness. The good news is that the average U.S. IT professional should have an easier time transitioning to other, more productive jobs than the manufacturing worker.

The American higher education system and the flexibility of the U.S. labor pool are the strengths it should be leaning heavily on.

Separately, a quick comment on the abuse of the H-1B program by outsourcing firms. I think it's important to note that very few of the H-1B visa holders I know who come to the U.S. would not prefer to bring their families across and stay. In order to do this, they would need to apply for a green card. As we are beginning to hear from the increasingly vocal H-1B community, this not only takes inordinately long but also, while they are applying for the green card, any substantive increase in their wages actually delays the process. I would guess that this plays a significant role in keeping wages in the U.S. IT industry lower.

Peter Cohen

The H-1B program pays billions in fees to train the U.S. workforce, and they pay Social Security taxes though they don't benefit from the same.

The cap on H-1Bs should be removed to make America competitive. Look what protectionism brought to our auto industry. Also, calling them "cheap labor" makes no sense. Indians have one of the highest per-capita incomes in this country. God bless America. Let us open our doors for the best and the brightest.

Puneeth Joseph

In a competitive business world, every company looks out for cheaper labor. That equates to more profit. All toys sold in the U.S. are from China. If the U.S. bans Chinese manufacturers and makes its own toys, a simple toy car will cost $100 because of the high wages paid to U.S. workers. So outsourcing and H-1B visas are here to stay and will stay for a very long time.

Rolando

If you hire people only to exploit them, there will be a negative reaction. You have to offer stock and other benefits like medical coverage to guarantee fidelity and a good outcome in the long-term planning agenda.

GettingFooled

I have two master's degrees--one is CS and the other in Finance. I am also of Indian descent. I have been working in the IT field for 12 years now. I can confidently state that the H-1B program has been perverted to suit the needs of MNCs at the cost of American IT jobs.

American IT workers are getting the shaft, and if they had any sense, they would revolt in the streets just like these H-1B workers did, except this time to revert the program to what it originally was intended to be.

These Indian H-1B workers simply wish to make a high salary so they can go back to India and live like kings and queens. Making even $40-50K per year for three years is enough to live like royalty in India. I should know, because I was born in India and have worked in SE Asia.

These H-1B Indian 'high-skilled' workers are apocryphal wage slaves, seeking only to profit for themselves at the expense of American workers.

keertik

Exactly. Sreekanth, you are right. I really pity folks who are under the impression that H-1B workers are low-paid.

I am on an H-1B and make 200K a year(including bonus). I know people who make 50-60k a year, but they are entry-level programmers.

Jerry

There are too many qualified experts in this country. The H-B1 visa is an excuse to avoid hiring those experts or to lower the wage level of American experts.

Peace

I don't think any debate, rules, protection, racism, or nationalism will change the long-term course a bit. The rules of economy will decide it.

If someone/country/region can do the same job cheaper, he or she will get the contract. I don't think anyone can stop it.

To all the fellows fighting from either side, make sure you get the right skills, and keep yourselves healthy and be happy. The world has something for everyone, and it is not a zero-sum game.

another one

How about this solution?:

There should be mandatory pay scales for these H-1B visa folks. The scale is adjusted by factors such as cost of living in a location and skill level. Additionally, 10% pay a surcharge over going-U.S. rates so that it can be assumed whenever qualified U.S. citizens make themselves available, they will get the jobs. The higher mandated pay will assure that only the best of the H-1B class folks come to the country for work, as the competitive environment will be slightly stacked against them.

Enact these changes, and abolish the limits. Let's propose this, and see how Corporate America reacts. I'll bet they will pitch a fit. And this will be the proof that it is wage deflation that is wanted, not a correction of a shortage. How about CEOs?

jay

The most general assumption everybody is making here is that H-1B counterparts are getting lower salaries than their American counterparts.

This may be one side of the truth, that some companies are abusing the system for their benefit.

But at the other end, there are many world-class talented, educated people coming to work in this country who are contributing to the growth of the U.S. and helping it stay competitive and ahead of other, emerging economies.

Now the choice is up to us whether to stop the influx of these talented people, be happy that we are saving these jobs for citizens, or let the H-1B workers go to other countries and contribute to their growth.

The choice is ours, and we are going to feel the impact in few decades.

JJ

"Statistics can be selectively chosen to make either side's case look better."

ARZ

Most American natives don't choose high-tech or science majors during their college years not because those majors will lead them to jobs that don't pay enough (hence, because of the low-wage competition from Indians and Chinese), but rather, they choose other majors because those science majors are too hard. In my college, nearly one-third of all Chemistry PhD students are Chinese and other foreigners. I don't think the university has quotas, and they probably are happy to see more American students apply for those majors. Then, here comes the IT and computer science arena. But these two fields have been highly competitive in terms of wage wars for years, even before the introduction of foreign skilled workers. For instance, it's a known thing that middle management high-tech managers often lose their jobs, because fresh out of college, graduates do exactly the same thing for much less the money. On top of that, the IT/software industry is changing dramatically. While the price of a refrigerator has not changed much in the last 20 years, the price of a state-of-art computer has come down from several thousand dollars to a mere few hundred.

So Lou Dobbs' sensational "attack on American middle-class" statement is largely untrue. American middle-class is composed of so many groups of professionals that most of them don't feel the competitive pinch whatsoever. For instance, do you see Chinese and Indian journalists, actors, school teachers, firefighters, and policemen taking over Americans' jobs? I don't see that happening.

Khengsiong

Joe fivepack writes: "The number of computer science graduates has dropped substantially over the past several years. This dramatic change over a short period is not due to any shortcoming in the U.S. educational system, but rather the supply/demand impact of Congress' increase of H-1B quota."

Drop in that the number of computer science students is actually caused by fear of outsourcing, not immigration. The cap for H-1B has been reduced from 195,000 to 65,000, as pointed out by Frank.

No doubt some outsourcing is abusing H-1B, but it would be better to close the loopholes rather than to scrap the program altogether.

Puneeth Joseph writes: "So outsourcing and H-1B visas are here to stay and will stay for a very long time." If you can, and must, choose one, which one do you prefer? Immigration or outsourcing?

Test Test

"Most American natives don't choose high-tech or science majors during their college years not because those majors will lead them to jobs that don't pay enough [hence, because of the low-wage competition from Indians and Chinese], but rather, they choose other majors because those science majors are too hard."

We aren't talking about most Americans. We're talking about paying enough so the Americans that are smart enough, can.

America has 3 million people in the upper 1% of intelligence and 15 million in the upper 5%--and only 3 million or so high-end technology jobs.

There are definitely more Americans that can do the job than will. It's not a matter of difficulty; it's a matter of financial motivation--not only the short-term salary but also an assurance from society that the government will not pass laws to deliberately lower wages going forward.

Adjusted for risk--and one of these risks being the high likelihood that Congress will raise the H-1B cap--IT jobs don't pay well enough to motivate talented Americans. A solid assurance that the cap will not be raised in the future will get more Americans back into the profession.

Test Test

"If you can, and must, choose one, which one do you prefer? Immigration or outsourcing?"

Outsourcing. It means less direct competition and allows Americans to specialize in jobs that must be performed on site, at substantially higher wages. That means less inflation within the U.S. due to fewer immigrants here, spending money.

Outsourcing is going to happen anyway, so it's not really the either/or choice you presented. It's more like:

1. Would you prefer to have to deal with every job that can be sent overseas being sent there--and with immigrants, here, lowering the wages on jobs that are left?

2. Or, would you simply rather deal with every job that can be sent overseas being sent there?

The second option is much better.

AMERICAN WOMAN

Hey people, let's just try to keep on track. Your immigrant elders helped build this country. They fought arm and arm with American soldiers and allies. When the horrible wars came to an end, those who came home rebuilt this proud country. Now we have a new generation of immigrants. These people rush to cross our borders and want to dictate how our governing policies should be, especially where they're concerned. Anybody understand where I am leading? Do you know how to pledge allegiance to the American flag?

CINDY

I really don't see too much of a debate neeeded on this issue. The U.S. government policies should take care of, and better the American citizen, first and always.

jimb

Why not just scrap the H-1B program? If, in fact, the number of H-1B engineers is just a small percentage of all engineering employment, why bother with all the headaches the H-1B program causes? Why train our future competitors in the global economy? It's only a matter of time before all those software engineers in India working for U.S. companies decide to start Indian companies to compete against their old employers. BTW, I would work at one-tenth the salary if my cost of living is one-tenth what it is in the U.S. But I would not want to compete on the basis of salary globally if my cost of living is 10x my competition.

pv

American Woman: Do I understand where you're leading? Hmmm...maybe something like: Because immigration is sometimes in some sense good, immigration is always and in every sense good, and anyone who disagrees is some sort of hypocrite.

Is that where you were leading? Come on, almost all of Europe has a tech immigration policy that favors citizens, and they're doing fine. Don't confuse "Americans first" arguments with "Americans only" arguments.

Test Test

"Your immigrant elders helped build this country. They fought arm and arm with American soldiers and allies. When the horrible wars came to an end, those who came home rebuilt this proud country. Now we have a new generation of immigrants."

Irrelevant. We are going to have a new generation of immigrants whether the government chooses to tamper with the labor market and deliberately select programmers or not.

If we do nothing with the H-1B law, and allow the market to be free and normal, we will still have a new generation of immigrants, most of whom will speak Spanish and not code in C#. This makes sense--the number of people a few miles south of our border vastly outnumbers the number of programmers 3,000 miles away.

American Man - Java Developer

Hey, American Woman,
Remember that the robber barons of the 1800s used immigrants as indentured servants to break the backs of American workers who had organized into labor unions. I know how to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I think there's a line in there about liberty and justice for all. The top 1% of Americans profit by breaking the backs of America's workers. Do not challenge our patriotism or our knowledge of American history simply because we have an opinion different from yours.

Sid

My cousin came to this country in 1993 on an H-1B (he's now a LPR and soon to be citizen), and he says there were very few Americans in hi-tech in those days and huge demand for foreign workers. Only during the boom years of late 1990s did Americans started enrolling heavily in CS/IT programs, because the barrier for entry into IT jobs was low, and lots of money was to be made. Also, there was the lure of an early retirement via becoming a dot-com millionaire. After the bust and the huge layoffs and the horror stories of offshoring, enrollment in CS programs decreased. That's because now only people who are passionate about CS and software development/research are enrolling in such programs.

The truth is that software development has always been considered an unglamorous job by most Americans. When I came, I enrolled as a graduate student, and I was a teaching assistant for undergrad CS courses, and most of my students would complain that they did not enjoy programming and were more interested in business courses.

It's true that the U.S. has been the leader in science/technology for a while and it's dominance is unlikely to erode in the near future, and the main reason for that is the high quality of research/graduate programs offered by American universities. The Internet has made is possible for people in other countries like India and China to close the gap since so much information is readily available on the net for those who want to learn but don't have the resources to enroll in high-ranked universities. MIT and Berkeley even offer free Webcasts of classroom lectures. Some Americans might be tempted to call them traitors, just like they call business owners in the U.S.

Test Test

"The truth is that software development has always been considered an unglamorous job by most Americans."

I doubt that, given a high enough real wage, including risk, programming would be considered an unglamorous profession. The issue is money. Lots of quantitative, analytical jobs--CPAs, financial analysts, patent attorneys--are considered to be glamorous jobs. The difference is the absence of H-1B slaves, and the presence of high wages.

People see through the starting salaries in IT. They see that despite these high starting wages, programmers don't wind up with big houses, fancy cars, and fat retirements. The huge and constant oversupply of IT workers and the finicky employers created by the presence of large numbers of H-1Bs belie the high wages--all programmers, including the best ones, spend significant amounts of time unemployed or retraining during their lifetime--resulting in a lower average wage that belies the high starting salaries. In addition, the fickle nature of IT employers often forces programmers to move frequently to find work within their specialty--creating additional costs that belie the high wages. In reality, the average IT wage is lower than in the business majors once risk is factored in--that's why Americans are shying away from the profession. The complex equation of evaluating risk is summed up in a much easier fashion: At age 40, most accountants are living in bigger houses and driving nicer cars than 40-year-old programmers. And there isn't a college student out there that isn't smart enough to ask where a classmate's dad, the programmer, lives.

"When I came, I enrolled as a graduate student, and I was a teaching assistant for undergrad CS courses, and most of my students would complain that they did not enjoy programming and were more interested in business courses."

I doubt that. Given sufficient financial motivation.

"It's true that the U.S. has been the leader in science/technology for a while and it's dominance is unlikely to erode in the near future, and the main reason for that is the high quality of research/graduate programs offered by American universities."

These are the same high-quality universities that have pretended for the last 20 years that Microsoft doesn't exist? I also have a graduate degree (business)--but I would be willing to bet that dollar for dollar, more effective comp-sci research happens in the private sector than in universities.

These universities are also rejecting 50% of America's best and brightest. Princeton rejects 50% of the applicants with perfect SAT scores. If we did away with Affirmative Action, we'd find that there are tons of Americans out there as smart, or smarter, than the foreigners in our comp-sci programs.

Universities don't apply Affirmative Action to foreigners--only to Americans. The criteria for a Chinese American is much different than that for someone living in China; this double standard creates the appearance of an absence of smart Americans to fill classes--when in fact, the Americans simply have been excluded for political reasons.

"The Internet has made it possible for people in other countries like India and China to close the gap since so much information is readily available on the net for those who want to learn but don't have the resources to enroll in high-ranked universities. MIT and Berkeley even offer free Web casts of classroom lectures. Some Americans might be tempted to call them traitors, just like they call business owners in the U.S."

Actually I'm not too worried about that. I'd be more worried about what's being developed in the private sector leaking out through H-1B.

Sid

"These are the same high-quality universities that have pretended for the last 20 years that Microsoft doesn't exist"?

Microsoft became a dominant force in IT only after the launch of Windows 95--that was 12 years back. CS departments use Unix due to historical reasons: AT & T distributed the copyright/source code for Unix to a lot of top universities for research. They never made a switch from Unix distributions to Windows because of the popularity of Linux. Most CS students prefer Linux over Windows due to the easy availability of information/documentation and the kernel source code. Any CS student will tell you that it's easier to learn more about how Linux works than Windows because it's free and easily available. Students don't like to pay for music or software.

"Universities don't apply Affirmative Action to foreigners--only to Americans. The criteria for a Chinese American is much different than that for someone living in China; this double standard creates the appearance of an absence of smart Americans to fill classes--when in fact, the Americans simply have been excluded for political reasons."

This is completely untrue when it comes to graduate programs. I don't know enough about undergrad programs to refute your argument. Universities/professors have a really hard time trying to find Americans to fill up graduate TA/RA positions in CS departments. The opposite of what you said is true--Americans who apply to grad programs have it a lot easier than international students, who are competing with a lot more international students to get accepted by a good school.

Sid

"The complex equation of evaluating risk is summed up in a much easier fashion: At age 40, most accountants are living in bigger houses and driving nicer cars than 40-year-old programmers. And there isn't a college student out there who isn't smart enough to ask where a classmate's dad, the programmer, lives."

So why are those smart college kids not becoming doctors or MBAs or lawyers? I'm sure that people who are successful in those professions make more money than a programmer or an accountant. Is the choice only between accountancy and programming?

I think career choices are a function of interest and ability.

I don't know about all 40-year-old American programmers, but some of them who work with me live in million dollar homes in the Bay area (that was redundant) and drive at least a BMW or Mercedes. People who are good at something are usually successful even in the face of increased competition.

"In addition, the fickle nature of IT employers often forces programmers to move frequently to find work within their specialty--creating additional costs that belie the high wages."

I'll agree with that. It is in this regard that H-1Bs have an advantage over a 40-year-old American programmer.

An H-1B with a few years of experience would be more flexible about relocating for a new job than a 40-year-old American programmer with a family and house--the reason being that H-1B's come to this country with very little and don't make significant investments in durable goods till they get a green card--in other words, less baggage.

ash b

I am an American citizen of Indian descent and not in the IT or engineering field. I know for a fact that the H-1B visa program is being abused by both Indians and American companies.

We should blame our greedy senior management for outsourcing good-paying jobs in all fields--law, finance, accounting, and not only IT. These idiots think only of short-term profits to enrich themselves, and they are destroying the middle class here. Bring back all these jobs, and our kids will benefit. Tell the Indians on H-1B visas to go back--we don't need them here; only our greedy CEOs do. In fact, take these greedy idiots back with you.
ash b

Test Test

"So why are those smart college kids not becoming doctors or MBAs or lawyers? I'm sure that people who are successful in those professions make more money than a programmer or an accountant."

Well, technically orientated MBAs frequently go into accounting or finance. At one point in time, they chose IT--although I'm sure you see fewer MBAs picking this concentration, due to the vast number of H-1Bs out there.

You're talking out of both sides of your mouth to justify H-1B. First you say Americans aren't smart enough--then you say if they're smart enough, why don't they do something else? Since we know programming is already flooded with immigrants, why not, you ask, do something else instead?

My point was that it's un-Constitutional to deliberately select programming in the visa laws, and that this selection has distorted effects. Since you recommend Americans who are smart enough do something else, you seem to agree with me on the "distorted effects" part.

"I think career choices are a function of interest and ability."

And visa laws. Not an American out there who isn't taking them into account.

"I don't know about all 40-year-old American programmers, but some of them who work with me live in million dollar homes in the Bay area [that was redundant] and drive at least a BMW or Mercedes. People who are good at something are usually successful even in the face of increased competition."

The programmers I know in that situation are much more worried about their ability to keep their jobs than a manager or an accountant with the same salary.

That would imply that through hard work, and some luck, they succeeded temporarily in a field that has higher risk than management or accounting. However, they are also aware they have gotten lucky so far and are more likely to lose their jobs than the manager or accountant.

"I'll agree with that. It is in this regard that H-1Bs have an advantage [in the ability to move frequently] over a 40-year-old American programmer.

An H-1B with a few years of experience would be more flexible about relocating for a new job than a 40-year-old American programmer with a family and house--the reason being that H-1Bs come to this country with very little and don't make significant investments in durable goods till they get a green card--in other words, less baggage."

So that translates into higher risk and lower wages--in order to compete? Moving translates lower real wages--even for those who can relocate easily. At $7,000 per move, 10 moves over 15 years is around a $100,000 loss in wages and interest. That prospect would discourage many Americans.

Test Test

"This is completely untrue when it comes to graduate programs. I don't know enough about undergrad programs to refute your argument.

Universities/professors have a really hard time trying to find Americans to fill up graduate TA/RA positions in CS departments. The opposite of what you said is true--Americans who apply to grad programs have it a lot easier than international students, who are competing with a lot more international students to get accepted by a good school."

Americans are routinely rejected for reasons due to Affirmative Action. In my MBA program, white and Asian students had to score 100 points above the average on the GMAT (an 800-point test) to get admitted.

My MBA program also admitted many foreigners--I would guess around 20% of the class was foreign, which is much higher than for English majors but much lower than for comp-sci. The foreigners didn't get the same GMATs as the Americans, of course, due to the English section, but I'm sure their math scores were very good.

As far as competition, they did have it tougher than the Americans in many ways. They couldn't work off campus, and financially things were difficult for them.

However, there are many Asian American citizens who complain that they would better their chances of being admitted to a good school by going to China and applying from there. Those are their words, not mine.

You don't understand how pervasive Affirmative Action is in the U.S. because you weren't subjected to it. You're comparing yourself to the class after Affirmative Action was applied and conclude that the standards for foreigners were higher. This ignores the fact that many bright Americans were declined due to their race--and if they had been admitted, it would look as if the school had been more selective regarding the Americans.

Together, Affirmative Action and H-1B exclude many bright Americans from many fields. It is very hypocritical to reject 50% of those with perfect SAT scores and then claim later that we need to sponsor foreigners.

Sid

To ash b:

If you know for a fact that the H-1B visa program is being abused and is harming the interest of fellow Americans, isn't it your duty to report cases of fraud to the USCIS/DHS so that these people/businesses can be punished? We need people like you to do something about these issues to prove that you're not one of those who've been misguided by Lou Dobbs and his political goons and are going by hearsay rather than facts. Please don't make generalized statements based on a few cases. I've read about a lot of criminals, and frauds committed by U.S. citizens, but I don't make statements like, "All Americans are criminals."

I've seen/read a lot of cases of racism in this country, but I don't make a statement like "The U.S. is a very racist country." Please try to understand the difference.

You've only mentioned that you're of Indian descent but haven't mentioned whether you're a naturalized U.S. citizen or were born to Indian immigrants in the U.S. Either way, I don't think you or your parents were handed the green card on a silver platter while being in India. You/they probably came through the same route as most of the H-1B workers (or maybe family-based immigration). For you to make a statement like "Tell the Indians on H-1B visas to go back--we don't need them here" reeks of hypocrisy.

Sue

I recently had dinner with a friend in the computer-engineering business, who advised me that most of his employees are immigrants from other countries. The hiring was not based on excluding American citizens but rather was based on the lack of qualified American applicants. The issue isn't salary; it's competence. If we want to compete in the global economy, our educational system has to keep pace.

Honeybl

I am a recent graduate with an MS in information technology. I am also a natural-born U.S. citizen. I have not been able to find a job in the tech sector since 2002. I figured getting a graduate degree would help me, as most companies complain that they cannot find "qualified" applicants. Yeah, right. They can't find cheap American labor. There are plenty of qualified American applicants, but we know our employment rights. I'm given all kinds of excuses as to why I'm not even interviewed, let alone hired. Overqualified, underqualified, not a good fit, etc., but it just comes down to one thing: not cheap enough. U.S. corporations are more concerned with the bottom line than their immediate neighborhoods.

I worked with a team of Indian grad students from IIT on a project for grad school. I must say I was rather disappointed with the quality of work and the time frame we received it in. It was poorly done, and the Indian students acted as if we were being "too picky."

Sid

"You're talking out of both sides of your mouth to justify H-1B. First you say Americans aren't smart enough--then you say if they're smart enough, why don't they do something else?"

No. You are distorting what I said. Try to point out where I said that Americans are not smart enough. I said that apart from the dot-com boom period when programmers were treated like rock stars, the majority of Americans who have the ability to be good at whatever profession they choose, are/were not interested in being programmers. It's not a question of ability but of interest. You argued that American students see that programmers don't make as much money as accountants and decide to choose accountancy instead of CS. I argued that if money is the only factor and not interest (given that ability is not a factor), they can choose other professions that have higher pay scales.

"And visa laws. Not an American out there who isn't taking them into account."

You mean there is zero enrollment in CS programs, or American students who are studying CS are doing it because they are ignorant about visa laws?

"So that translates into higher risk and lower wages--in order to compete? Moving translates lower real wages--even for those who can relocate easily. At $7,000 per move, 10 moves over 15 years is around a $100,000 loss in wages and interest. That prospect would discourage many Americans."

Or you could just be practical and move to a place like the Bay Area or Seattle or the NC research triangle or Austin or Boston or New York City--the tech hubs.

Sid

To Honeybl:

Did you get offers that you rejected because they were too low (and instead continue to stay unemployed since 2002)?

I can't comment on other tech hubs, but if you are an American programmer in the Bay Area and you say that you cannot get a job right now, then IMHO you are (in no particular order of preference):
1) Not trying
2) Lying
3) Really incompetent

The job market in the Bay Area is red-hot right now. If you don't believe me, ask your fellow American friends who are employed in the tech sector in the Bay Area.

Sid

"Americans are routinely rejected for reasons due to Affirmative Action. In my MBA program, white and Asian students had to score 100 points above the average on the GMAT (an 800-point test) to get admitted."

I don't know if it's due to Affirmative Action or not, but b-schools are very much into diversity and that has nothing to do with race. Many of my undergrad friends from India are currently enrolled in b-schools right now. According to them, it's got nothing to do with race but rather with your overall profile. For example, let's consider two Indian guys with equally high GMAT scores, with the same GPA, both graduated from IITs, but one has a bachelor's in mechanical or civil engineering and the other has a degree in CS. Both have good job experience, but the CS guy has worked for a software company and the mechanical guy has worked for an automobile company. According to what I've heard, the mechanical guy will get picked over the CS guy almost 99% of the time, because he's competing with fewer people with his background. I don't know if it's right or wrong or if it's due to affirmative action, but that's the story with b-school admission policies right now.

"The foreigners didn't get the same GMATs as the Americans, of course, due to the English section, but I'm sure their math scores were very good."

I don't know about foreigners from other countries, but most Indians who get into b-schools do as well as Americans in the verbal section. Most of my friends hardly studied for their GMAT and got scores above 750. The GMAT, like the GRE, is becoming increasingly irrelevant since competition for b-schools has really gone up.

"However, there are many Asian American citizens who complain that they would better their chances of being admitted to a good school by going to China and applying from there. Those are their words, not mine."

That is probably true, since they would differentiate themselves from other Americans who've only worked in U.S.-based companies. I think b-schools have a more global focus right now. Many Indians who eventually get into b-schools shied away from IT jobs and worked in Europe or Australia or the Middle East to differentiate themselves from the competition. I'm sure Americans who are serious about getting into b-schools are also doing that.

"You don't understand how pervasive Affirmative Action is in the U.S., because you weren't subjected to it."

I agree.

"You're comparing yourself to the class after Affirmative Action was applied and conclude that the standards for foreigners were higher."

What I said about CS grad programs is not my opinion at all. This is what I've heard from the professors of my CS department. They used to say that they have research grants but don't find enough American PhD applicants to work as RAs. Maybe someone should do a survey of the Top 50 CS grad programs in the U.S. and come up with actual stats to settle the debate.

BK

Another angle to this issue: The population of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) is fast approaching 1.5 billion with at least another 50 million people dotted around the world. In short, the relentless birth rate and growth of population has resulted in the subcontinent forming nearly 25% of the entire world’s population.

Since effective family planning is almost nonexistent in that part of the world, the trend is only likely to continue, and sooner or later they will run of space in their homeland. Therefore, the overseas migration of people from the subcontinent will only accelerate, adding to the tens of millions of others who have already made their lives elsewhere in the world. And it is the U.S. (and Canada to a lesser extent) that has replaced the UK as the most-favored immigration destination.

Storm

It's a myth that H-1B grads are paid far less. Most H-1B folks are paid highly. Little wonder that Indians make up the top of the richest group in America. Just a few low-paying examples are not reason enough to stop the H-1B. Besides, look at the bigger picture: H-1Bs are crucial to America's success as a front-running economy. As an H-1B programmer, I have consulted for six years in the U.S. and trained hundreds of Americans on cutting-edge technology. My contributions by far surpass what most Americans could have ever done in a similar line of work in America. God bless America for the opportunities it provides to folks like me. I enjoy my work, because I am able to give back to the American society in a big way and also am extremely happy with my work.

Abhijit

H-1B Indians work for less than a decent wage? Really?
"According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Indian Americans have the highest median income of any national origin group in the United States...," wikipedia.org says.

Diego Wayne

There is no shortage of U.S. citizens able and willing to do this work. There is no need for H-1B guest-workers, because there are plenty of old pros and new grads capable of doing the job.

USCIS has been approving 116,000 H-1B visas each year, not 65,000. There has been an excess of E-1, E-3, F, H, and L visas and green cards handed out over the last couple decades.

H-1B visa-holder are paid well below U.S. citizens in the work locations, who have the same credentials, experience, etc., and have below local market compensation.

H-1B visas are used to facilitate off-shoring and age discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Strategic Plan on page 35 states:
"H-1B workers may be hired even when a qualified U.S. worker wants the job, and a U.S. worker can be displaced from the job in favor of the foreign worker."

The Federal Register 2006-06-30, Sec. 2, paragraph 4: "The statute does not require employers... to demonstrate that there are no available U.S. workers or to test the labor market for U.S. workers as required under the permanent labor certification program."

H-1B visas are limited to:
1,400 nationals of Chile
5,400 nationals of Singapore
20,000 with master's and doctor's degrees from U.S. colleges and universities
58,200 with "bachelor's degrees or equivalent experience" from any hole-in-the-wall in the world
unlimited visas for those employed by non-profit research outfits
unlimited visas for those employed for local, state, and federal research
unlimited visas for those employed by U.S. colleges & universities.

The NSF knew in the 1980s that the increase in student visas and creation of the H-1B visa would create a surplus that would drive down compensation and discourage U.S. citizens from getting master's degrees and doctorates in the affected fields:

"A growing influx of foreign PhDs into U.S. labor markets will hold down the level of PhD salaries to the extent that foreign students are attracted to U.S. doctoral programs as a way of immigrating to the U.S.A. A related point is that for this group, the PhD salary premium is much higher [than it is for Americans], because it is based on BS-level pay in students' home nations versus PhD-level pay in the U.S.A... [If] doctoral studies are failing to appeal to a large (or growing) percentage of the best citizen baccalaureates, then a key issue is pay... A number of [the Americans] will select alternative career paths... For these baccalaureates, the effective premium for acquiring a PhD may actually be negative."

"A decade after lambasting the National Science Foundation (NSF) for botching a study of the science job market, Congress has asked the agency to once again take on the politically risky task of predicting how many high-tech workers the United States will need over the next decade... Nonetheless, such projections can spark a political firestorm, as NSF learned after a 1987 study, led by Peter House, warned of a coming 'shortfall' of several hundred thousand scientists. After the forecast proved false, law-makers questioned the agency's reputation for dispassionate analysis (Science, 1992 February 14, p. 788)."

McCool

Edward Said once said, "Nations are Narration." The power of a narrative defines the national boundaries. This concept of national boundaries is fast loosing relevance in the connected and wired world.

The debate about H-1B is essentially a question of importing workers or exporting jobs (which is more predominant in IT-related areas). Using physical borders as a reference is loosing relevance as the supply chain become global, first for goods and then for services.

By the way, it didn't seem to hurt here if workers in Chinese factories did the drudgery at abysmal wages in pathetic conditions as long as it made the cheap goods available here and kept the shoppers happy.

It hurt the blue collar worker here. Nobody seems to fret for those workers here or for their Chinese counterparts, constituencies that are far more numerous but lack a share of voice.

And when the same spills to services, it suddenly seems painted as something too painful at both ends,a programmer who lost a job here and exploitation of his Indian replacement, who may be getting lower wages but actually enjoying excellent working conditions.

Perhaps the U.S. should further liberalize H-1B. At least these imported workers have some multiplier effect on the economy, and in this way it is more beneficial than the simple export of jobs, which would otherwise take place. And its keeps the economy most agile, adaptive, and globally competitive in many other areas.

The real challenge is about chasing a global dream as opposed to an American one. Only when politicians and public accept this reality, will a solution be found. Transformation is going to be tough. It is an unfortunate irony that those who are foot soldiers of change and lead from the front (such as IT programmers/telecom workers, whose endeavors flattened the world) are also often the first ones to get steam rolled by the impact of change.

AJmal

Greg,
What's up, man? I don't want to generalize, but your arrogance will take you down very soon. In general, most Americans--and by Americans, I mean Indian-Americans, Caucasian-Americans, African-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Arab-Americans--are all very nice. But you are one of those ignorant, arrogant, and plainly stupid I-don't-know-what Americans.

Dr. Gene Nelson

What part of "corrupt government subsidy program" don't H-1B advocates understand?

For the "government subsidy" part, please refer to the 2002 article quoting the late free-market advocate and Nobel economics laureate, Milton Friedman. Google the three phrases "Milton Friedman," "H-1B," and "government subsidy."

For the "corrupt" part of it, Google the phrase "Abramoff Visa." Microsoft hired corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 1995. Abramoff and his network helped to procure beneficial (to Microsoft) changes to H-1B legislation in 1996, 1998, and 2000. Just from 1998 to 2000, Microsoft expended $20 million in lobbying expenditures. "Team Abramoff" worked closely with yet-unindicted former U.S. Representative Tom DeLay (Republican-Texas). RICO anti-corruption statutes should apply in this case where "things of value" were exchanged for "official acts."

pv

McCool, I don't know why you think Americans didn't fret over the loss of blue-collar jobs. It seems to me that most Americans were very nervous about it, but both political parties ignored them, promising that people could move up the food chain to better jobs. Well, that looks like a lie now, thus the increased objections.

Anyway, H-1B is essentially a subsidy to companies employing in America. But if such a subsidy is justifiable, shouldn't America as a whole shoulder the costs rather than one small group (tech workers)? The argument that targeting tech workers is justifiable because it benefits American society as a whole could also be applied to any arbitrary group. One could say that everyone who has a job title beginning with the letter "M" will be subject to direct competition from global labor, and others will not. Yes the cost to employers would go down, making them more competitive, but it's arbitrary and unfair.

McCool

PV, I agree that ideally society should equally bear the brunt of the change. But the harsh reality of the world dictates otherwise. Change is always like a tsunami. Seafarer and fishermen in search of bounty (or fishes) are the first to face the wave and not the bakery guy and hair-cutter back home. I think the alternative would be to have a flexible safety net. Those who are exposed at edge and hence are more susceptible to disruptive change (as opposed to those who were less adventurous) deserve stronger support.

Government or industry associations could take a lead in that direction, for example, by creating a fund (from tapping into profits made from the change in first place), which can be tapped by those (needing re-education) whose roles are eliminated by the change.

pv

McCool, points taken, although I'm not sure unrestricted global trade is inevitable. Tariffs have gotten a bad name, but I think they could be very beneficial if applied intelligently.

Yogesh

The debate seems to focus on one main theme. H-1B workers are cheap, and that's why they are getting work that Americans can do.

The H-1B law says that companies have to pay the prevailing wages. The wages are defined by wage surveys. I know few Indian and American companies that use H-1Bs, and they for sure pay the legally required salary.

Maybe Congress can tighten the law and make sure prevailing wages are paid. Once that is done, a lot of people who are cribbing here will not have much reason to complain.

Let's take out the money part and see if the companies still keep looking for H-1B candidates for skills and work ethics.

One point to remember: The U.S. became a great country because of immigrants. They worked hard, and wanted to succeed. The same is true for these new immigrants or non-immigrant visa guys. They beat the people here, because they work so hard at updating their skills--and applying those skills and putting everything on the line to make sure they succeed here.

Ravi

H-1B and other such immigrant visa regimes are just another stage of transformation business is going through the world over. H-1B may be bad for 65,000, but seems to better a lot more than that, and this is the governing logic.

I wonder if the next stage is imminent--if the wages of so-called cheap labor will remain that cheap forever.

Ismail

American citizens needs to be given training in IT. Send them to Hyderabad, India.

Ravi

The merits of this debate seem to be consumed by a socio-cultural-regional divide between the beneficiaries and the rest. Right and wrong cannot entirely be defined by one's convenience or the lack of it.

ob137

I have a PhD from a top U.S. school and am currently making above $200K in the financial industry. I am on an H-1B visa.

I see a mixed picture around me. I cannot deny that I see H-1B holders doing grunt programming jobs and who are hired mainly because they are willing to work for less.

But there are also highly qualified H-1Bs desperately needed because there just aren't enough American citizens holding PhDs and MS degrees. The highly qualified H-1Bs are therefore paid top dollar--higher than the natives on average.

So the H-1B is both necessary and at the same time, misused.

I don't agree that Americans are staying away from graduate school because of competition from foreigners. The real reason, which no one seems to say, is that American popular culture does not place value on intellectual achievements. And certainly not in math and science. I mean, this is the only developed, literate nation in the world where a majority of the population thinks evolution is a bogus theory and the Earth is a few thousand years old! It is willful ignorance and lack of interest in science, from the man occupying the Oval Office all the way down to the common citizen.

Disrespect and ignorance of science are everywhere, and surprising, given that this is the most developed nation in the world. This is the only Western country where global warming is treated by the media as a "scientifically controversial" theory and swallowed as such by a population despite protests from the scientific community.

In addition to that, as compared to Asian (Indian/Chinese/Japanese) cultures, there is not much parental push toward academic achievement in school.

For all these reasons, when American high school students show up at college, they are totally unprepared for college-level science, compared to the foreign students.

I was a TA for six years while doing my PhD, and I saw evidence of all this before my eyes. It is not the politicians or anyone else at fault. It is the culture that openly mocks the acquisition of knowledge instead of giving it the respect it deserves.

Experience of an H-1B wanna be

I have a postgraduate one-year work permit and am seeking an H-1B sponsorship next year. Based on my experience, the H-1B program is working very well if you can eliminate Indian outsourcers. Employers are doing everything in their power to look for U.S. citizens/green-card holders to fill their available positions, and will take less-qualified U.S. citizen candidates over more qualified H-1B candidates. I should know; I was the top graduate of my CS department, and the interviewers who review my resume routinely confirm I have the strongest academic credentials among applicants. So you would think someone like me (the best-qualified willing to take $10,000 less) would have no trouble finding H-1B jobs, right? Hell no, I was turned down three times at the last stage solely based on immigration issues, and employers took less-qualified American candidates over me. The only employers considering me are those who couldn't fill their positions with American candidates for at least three months. So hear the word of an H-1B wannabe: The H-1B program isn't working too well from the H-1B job-seeker's perspective.

Jay

The H-1B visa is an unnecessary subsidy that allows firms to lower their salary expenses. It's nothing more than that.

India especially is quite sophisticated in its exploitation of the H-1B program--fraud is rampant. Furthermore, the visa program is just another door to immigration, when the H-1B visa is specifically called a non-immigrant visa; the foreigners are supposed to leave the USA when the time period expires.

Instead, they often bring their extended families, sign them up for Social Security and Medicare, and never go back home.

The American people have finally realized that, just as throughout U.S. history, there must be periods of low immigration, and we as a nation are just entering that "time-out" period. It's time to reduce all forms of immigration, including the business subsidy, the H-1B visa scam.

Simple_Immigrant

"Remember, remember always, that all of us...are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."--Franklin D. Roosevelt

Singh

This is definately a very interesting discussion. I come from a Indian Outsourcing Company. A few very imp observations:

1. H1B visa workers employed by these firms are at Minimum wages as allowed by INS - Not the going market rates
2. The Indian outsourcing companies Like TCS, FORCE their employees to sign bonds (huge moneThis is definitely a very interesting discussion. I come from an Indian outsourcing company. A few very important observations:

1. H-1B visa workers employed by these firms are paid minimum wages as allowed by INS--not the going market rates.
2. The Indian outsourcing companies like TCS force their employees to sign bonds (of huge monetary value) to act as an inhibitor in case the employee changes employers.
3. Employees on L1s are squeezed further as they cannot change employers (the process is cumbersome) and are forced to work at the lowest rates.
4. A qualified IT professional (five years experience) is available in the market at $80 an hour, but Indian outsourcing companies offer them at $50 an hour as they are paying low salaries to their employees, and the employees are bound to them.tary value) to act as inhibitant in case the employee changes its employer
3. Employees on L1 are squeezed further as they cannot change employer (the process is cumbersome) and are forced to work at LOWEST rates
4. eg - a qualified IT professional (5 yr exp) is available in market at $ 80/hr but Indian outsourcing companies offer them at $50/hr as they are paying low salaries to their employees and the employees are bound with them.

Sid

Jay said:
"Instead, they often bring their extended families, sign them up for Social Security and Medicare, and never go back home."

Could you define "extended families"? H-1B workers can bring spouses and kids on dependent visas. Do you mean that they bring parents and other relatives as well? In that case, you are wrong. The U.S. does not allow that. Parents can only come on visitor visas and have to leave within six months of entry. I hate to burst your bubble, but most Indian parents have no intention of living on the U.S. after having lived in India all their lives. Most of us have to plead with them to visit us for a few months, because they hate the 20- to 30-hour air travel at their age.

Could you also explain how one can sign up extended families for Social Security and Medicare? Maybe you know something that we H-1Bs don't.

Another clarification, H-1B is a non-immigrant visa with a "dual-intent," meaning that their companies can sponsor their green cards.

One common misconception is that H-1Bs overstay their visas. While there might be a few cases of that, most H-1Bs stay beyond the six-year limit only if they get green cards (in which case they don't need a visa) or if they have pending green-card applications (in which case, they have to extend their H-1B work permit every year as long as they are employed).

H-1Bs can work for another six years after their initial six years are up if they leave the U.S. for a year. The reason H-1Bs don't overstay their visas (and become out of status) is to keep this possibility open. Overstaying the visas could result in jeopardizing future entry into the the U.S. on any kind of visa. Since the Indian IT industry is heavily dependent on U.S.-based customers, most people on H-1Bs are sensible enough to follow all visa laws during their stay, often going through great pains to do that.

OrangeBlood

The corporations are to blame for the lack of American skilled labor. Two things need to happen:

1. stability
2. entry-level jobs

Otherwise, we're going to be one of the last generations of high-tech workers in America.

There is no problem with the capability and intelligence of the population. That is a lie.

amit

All I know is this: I came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa, and I have been paid very well all through my career. I have closely compared my wage with American citizens' and have found my wage to be almost always higher than the average. So H-1B visa holders working for peanuts is a big misconception--99% do not work for lower wages.

If you work for a reputable Fortune 500 company and have a better education and better credentials, your wage as an H-1B visa holder is on par (if not more) than U.S. citizens'.

Andy

H-1B visas are a boon to the U.S. (and global) economy, and we need more of them issued, not fewer. The notion that U.S. jobs (net) are reduced by these visas is simply fiction, and that position is articulated only by those who unleashed from the constraints of actual facts. When U.S. companies prosper, the economy grows, and more jobs are created for all. I am a strong believer in the free movement of capital, goods, and labor across international boundaries. We are a wealthy society because we are an open society; talented foreigners who want to work here should be welcomed with open arms.

Outsourced American

Would you believe that I am an American citizen doing outsourced work for a company in Shanghai? There are plenty of good jobs in the USA that I have had to turn down, because my wife is Chinese and it takes months and dollars for her to get a visa. Yet, if I went to work for a company in Canada, Europe, or just about anyplace else, she'd be able to relocate there with me in the same airplane.

I've never had any problems working in Europe or Asia, but nobody that I've worked with in either of those places would be allowed to do their job in the States, regardless of their qualifications. Why?

America used to be such a welcoming place--my own grandparents came there without a visa or a dime in their pockets from Europe, but now things are turned upside down. It's actually easier for me as an American to live and work with my family anyplace else but in my own country. And the USA government keeps out good, skilled people and their families simply because of their place of birth. Is that right? Is "fortress America" really what the American people want? Be careful what you ask for, because you will eventually get it.

Urvashi

H-1B visas are mutually beneficial for both the U.S. and developing countries like India. With high skills and lower labor costs, U.S. companies prosper--and on the side of developing countries, H-1B visas create a good number of job opportunities, and H-1B visas offer an opportunity to utilize the skills in a better way. So, saying that the H-1B visa is a threat to jobs for American is wrong. Whoever is skilled and has capability should get a chance to show that. Reducing the number of H-1B visas is not a solution to generate opportunities for U.S. citizens. If you need good job opportunities, you need a good economy and good industrial growth. And for that, skilled labor is the main requirement.

Sunny - H1 B {US Educated}

I came to the U.S. as a student for graduate work. I saw that there are genuinely talented people on H-1Bs who work very hard to make their U.S. employers millions of dollars, whereas there are other folks called bodyshoppers who abuse the H-1B program. These bodyshoppers supply manpower for short-term projects to clients, which is their front business, while they take money to sponsor permanent residency for folks who don't even work for the company.

The H-1B program should be in place, but checks should be made to make sure that the system can catch the abusers and stop overseas companies flooding the U.S. with cheap labor.

Test Test

"Talented foreigners who want to work here should be welcomed with open arms."

Who gave the technology industry the sole right to determine who is talented? According to your argument, Sammy Sosa is untalented and should be sent home, but the first average, run-of-the-mill Oracle developer who lowers wages for Oracle programmers here is vitally talented and needed?

You're defining "talent" as "whatever lowers the median wage for programmers." It's a rather odd definition.

Test Test

Free movement of labor would not, under normal circumstances, be limited to the talented. It definitely would not, under normal circumstances, be limited to the tech industry's lobbyists--very weird definition of "talented."

Free movement of individuals would normally mean the right of millions of completely untalented people to come here--as well as a few talented ones.

What the tech industry wants is anything but free or free market. We shouldn't allow them to define what a "free market" is--economists and the average schmuck on the street know what a free market is; the tech industry's definition only belongs in a new version of the English language in which "free" is defined as "very restricted and slanted toward the tech industry's whims."

usengin

Just wondering...how easy would it be for me, a U.S. software engineer, to get a visa to work in India? My understanding is that it is very difficult (more difficult than in the U.S.) for a foreigner to get a work visa in almost every country. Why?

Sid

I think if you have a U.S. passport, getting a tourist or work visa to most countries would not be an issue. In fact, in the Gulf countries, if you have a U.S. passport, your salary scale is typically higher than other nationalities.

Sam

It is a two-way road.

All multinational companies (90%U.S./European interest) want free access to all markets and recommend free-market economics. Well, some would like to keep it that way and restrict free-market services (doctors/engineers/lawyers), which are also part of a free-market economy.

Developing and developed countries have struck a deal to move some jobs to developing countries and some visa quotas in return for access to their markets.

In the end, it does everybody good.

I wish H-1B/L1 visas were not restricted to engineering (mostly) but involved doctors and lawyers to make life better in the U.S. In India, basic doctor office visit fees are $5 instead of $150 in the U.S.

The U.S. needs more H-1B and L1 visas to keep real inflation in control. The published inflation rate is always a good number below 2%.

jim

Ron,
Last time I read Dodge v. Ford Motor Company I seem to recall that a corporation's sole purpose is to make money for its shareholders.

Michael L. Wagner

The very sly Madame Yu informs us that a 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey showed that offshoring caused only 4% to 5% of the layoffs in the U.S. and Europe. She fails to mention that the U.S. government didn't track the number of jobs lost to offshoring until 2005, by which time, one figures, the vast majority of those going had already gone. What about the difficulty of setting up shop in a foreign country? Imagine--you're rich, so why even bother "taking on" a frustrating foreign bureaucracy that doesn't speak your language?

Then Yu seems to contradict herself: Even if H-1B candidates are hired over American ones, this stops offshoring.

Does she really think that rationalizing breaking the law validates doing so?

Yu comes up way short where she says it's only natural to tap into the Indian and Chinese workforces because their IT education is strong, but then she complains that U.S. educated foreigners aren't being allowed to contribute here. What?

Khengsiong

Americans, rather than whining about loss of jobs, must become more mobile

We have a comment here from "Outsourced American," who works in Shanghai. I personally knew of an American who worked in Malaysia. My sister, who lived in Singapore, had a few co-workers from the U.S. Finally, many Americans teach English in Thailand.

Do note that Shanghai is attracting talent from all over the world--something America used to do.

Vinayak Gurjar

There is no doubt that the H-1B program has helped the American economy and its number one position in technology and innovation.

The problem with the H-1B program is a classic economic issue that fortunately is already solved. It's called the effect of floors and ceilings on prices in an open-market economy.

Take for example the rent control act in New York City. Rent control is nothing but a ceiling on prices. The landlord cannot charge more than a certain amount of rent in a rent-controlled building. At first this may seem like a good idea (socialistic ideas always appeal initially), but a closer look at the housing situation proves it to be a complete disaster. There is rampant corruption, black marketing, and an artificial shortage of housing driving real estate prices even higher.

The H-1B program is very similar in terms of labor pricing. It has a floor for wages. H-1B-sponsored candidates must be paid a minimum wage by their U.S. sponsors. Again the idea was to protect American workers from a downward spiral of wages where "aliens" drive down prices. Again the fallout is completely different. There is rampant corruption and misuse of the program. As mentioned in several research reports many times, the actual wages paid are half the minimum stipulated in the H-1B program.

The problem has entirely different roots. All H-1B-sponsored candidates are tied to their employers for visa validity. This makes labor movement impossible, further exacerbating the wage problem. For example, in the case of legitimate use of the program, a new H-1B hire starts with the floor salary. She or he works for several years and becomes a senior programmer. Now the sponsor only has to pay minimum wages and legally uses the labor arbitrage, benefiting from the lower-than-market salary for this sponsored candidate. Meanwhile, the candidate has applied for permanent residency, which takes five to six years to process, and cannot change employer because that would put him or her at the back of the line every time the employer is changed.

The net effect is the candidate is exploited. The sponsor benefits from labor arbitrage, and American workers see lower-than-market wages in the industry.

The solution to the problem is out there in the UK. The immigration program there screens for qualified candidates just as in the U.S. but does not tie him or her to the sponsor, enabling free labor movement. If there is mobility in labor, there is no exploitation and no labor arbitrage, and labor is priced at market rates.

Clearly the U.S. needs no lesson in open-market economies and capitalism.
--Vinayak

Shaq

"There are definitely more Americans that can do the job than will. It's not a matter of difficulty; it's a matter of financial motivation."

Aren't there a whole lot of other jobs with even higher financial benefits? If your statement is true, we should see a whole lot of Americans becoming lawyers, investment bankers, doctors, etc., where there is hardly any competition from H-1Bs. But you don't see that happening. There are enough opportunities, but people just prefer whining over working.

The argument that H-1Bs lower average salaries has no basis, but people just love to use that since it gels with their argument. Telling a lie 100 times does not make it truth.

Test Test,
It's hypocritical on your part to blame Affirmative Action. You say Americans are talented enough to do H-1Bs jobs, but they are refused. Similarly, minorities are talented, but they were put in a second-class citizen bracket, which made it harder for them to compete with the majority. So instead of being called stupid, they should be encouraged.

Tahir

Not only should the entry of highly skilled foreign workers into the U.S. be banned, but the state of California ought to enact legislation to prohibit the hiring of any non-California natives into Silicon Valley companies. All these "outsiders" are depressing wages for decent hard-working middle class Californians.

Shaq Hater

Shaq,
How would you define a lie? If Test Test has empirical evidence that shows that wages for American IT workers have not kept pace with inflation or even declined, would that convince you? The simple fact of the matter is that American IT workers' salaries have remained flat to slightly higher at best. Do not discount the effect of bringing in cheap labor to the salary equation.

Matt Nickerson

H-1B isn't bad in theory, but in practice it is grossly abused. I agree with an earlier comment saying the system should be moved from H-1B, which encourages exploitation, to a point system (as seen in Canada, UK, Australia, etc.). If a person is good enough to come and work under H-1B, he or she should have the same right I do to find a better-paying job. That will stop wage depression. These people should also have a defined path to U.S. citizenship so the country doesn't lose the skills of highly trained individuals. We have an excellent pay scale in the U.S., which will go a long way toward keeping skilled migrants here.

Test Test

Vanayak:

"The H-1B program is very similar in terms of labor pricing."

The real problem I have (and most programmers have) is the deliberate selection of programmers in the H-1B visa bill; 58% of H-1Bs work in IT.

Let me ask you this: Do you think this represents the pool of people applying to get into the U.S.? In which country is 58% of the population programmers?

I have nothing against immigration. However the deliberate selection of IT people in the H-1B law is a form of market tampering.

Non-programmers deserve a chance to come to the U.S., too. For that reason, occupations should not be mentioned in the visa laws at all.

AG

I disagree with some of the people who say companies have to bring people from overseas because workers in the States are "poorly trained." The U.S. has one of the best higher education systems in the world, so people that go to college are highly trained. The same cannot be said of K-12 education, but that is not the issue here. After a foreign student graduates, the U.S. has to take advantage of the training he or she has acquired on its territory. Unfortunately, the system has been corrupted, and it is only used to hire cheap labor. As an international student who is graduating soon, I am hoping that the number of H-1B visas gets increased, because I would like to settle in the States for a while. But I also expect that the system will improve so that qualified foreign workers get paid accordingly, and the U.S. gets the best labor and not the cheapest.

Sid

"The real problem I have (and most programmers have) is the deliberate selection of programmers in the H-1B visa bill; 58% of H-1Bs work in IT."

Can you name another industry that has seen this level of growth in the last 10 to 15 years?

The only other industry that comes to mind is the health-care industry, and to take care of the labor shortage there, registered nurses are brought in to work on H-1A visas.

Why would an industry import thousands of workers with a specific (non-IT) skill set if it is not growing at the same rate as the IT industry?

"Non-programmers deserve a chance to come to the U.S., too. For that reason, occupations should not be mentioned in the visa laws at all."

There is no sub-quota for IT workers in the H-1B annual quota. If a U.S.-based company wishes to sponsor an H-1B visa for an English major to write columns, it is allowed to do so.

You should ask yourself the question: Why is it that other industries are not requesting as many H-1B visas as the IT industry?

Test Test

"There is no sub-quota for IT workers in the H-1B annual quota. If a U.S.-based company wishes to sponsor an H-1B visa for an English major to write columns, it is allowed to do so."

Baloney. The law mentions technical professions requiring a "specialized application of technical knowledge." In addition, government agencies interpret this law according to published rules.

A DOL rule requires the agency to give preference to IT workers in order to carry out the "legislative intent" of the law.

You can apply for an H-1B visa for an English major, but it will not be approved. The government deliberately approves many more programmers than any other occupation.

Brian

I've been in an industry that promotes H-1Bs for 20 years and have seen the pros and cons. In the 1990s, I would agree, there was a shortage of people in the affected fields, but today the program is only a stopgap for companies delaying a move to offshore operations. Working for one of the Fortune 50 companies that has seen numerous head count reductions as it moves chunks of development activity overseas, [I've seen] that there is often preferential treatment given for the purpose of retaining those on H-1Bs over the Americans, who are put out of work.

shivbhakt

Many moons ago, a similar debate was going on, and businesses banded together to achieve their objectives. They destroyed the salaries of electrical engineers. Now, they are bent on destroying the fabric of America for their bonuses and profits.

The greed has taken over the businesses, unions, and the individuals. There is no way out but to suffer through this. Free trade and NAFTA will come back to bite us.

Sid

Test Test wrote:
"You can apply for an H-1B visa for an English major, but it will not be approved. The government deliberately approves many more programmers than any other occupation."

Google for "foreign labor certification data center" and look up the data regarding H-1B applications. They have the data since 2002. I could find at least one approval for the position of "Editor/Writer" and a few approvals for "Reporter."

There are many applications (including Certified and Denied) for IT workers. There were fewer non-IT applications. It doesn't establish the fact (claimed by you) that IT workers were preferred over non-IT workers. You have to compare the approval rate for IT/non-IT.

Take a look. Maybe it will clear up some misconceptions for those who are interested in digging deeper into the truth. Maybe like the CIA motto: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Sid

The public opinion of globalization is often negative because the economic benefits of globalization are often transparent to the end user--the negatives (like job losses) are not.

If the checkout receipt said that you saved $100 because this product was made in China--instead of you saved $10 because you used your club card--the public opinion would be more favorable toward globalization.

another one

Is there any downside to the end result, which is a depression in interest in tech careers among U.S. nationals?

What if due to currency valuation changes, importing tech workers suddenly became expensive? Then we'd have very few homegrown bodies to fill the slots.

Test Test

Sid:

"I could find at least one approval for the position of editor/writer and a few approvals for reporter."

That's not very many compared to hundreds of thousands of programmers over the last five years--and a million programmers over the last 10.

Here are the approval percentages by occupation:

Programmers were four times more likely to be approved than the next highest--college faculty.

The point system being debated is even more slanted against tech workers.

Sorry, the truth is the government is playing games, and the law is not free market. That's the truth.

Test Test

"The public opinion of globalization is often negative because the economic benefits of globalization are often transparent to the end user--the negatives (like job losses) are not."

Globalization is not the issue. Market tampering is.

If the immigration law wasn't radically slanted toward programmers; if about 3% of all H-1Bs were programmers--just like 3% of the labor force is programmers--no American programmers would be spending their time here, debating.

We're arguing here because we see it as vitally important to our careers to keep the cap low. The reason we see it this way: H-1B visas, by and large, mean programmer visas. It is not a free market law; it is a market tampering law.

There is no more reason programmers need to be more scared about globalization than data-entry clerks or telemarketers, who also face some offshoring. However, H-1B is a unique problem for programmers--58% of H-1Bs are programmers, and IT accounts for only 3% of the labor force.

Market-tampering and the deliberate selection of programmers in the visa laws is the issue here.

Sid

Test Test wrote:
"That's not very many compared to hundreds of thousands of programmers over the last five years--and a million programmers over the last 10. Here are the approval percentages by occupation: Programmers were four times more likely to be approved than the next highest--college faculty."

Do you understand the difference between number of applications and approval rate?

Total number of applications = (number of applications approved) + (number of applications denied).

Approval rate = (number of applications approved)/(total number of applications).

Obviously when you compare the approved applications, you'll find more programmers. That's because the number of applications for programmers were also very high. How does that prove market tampering? It only indicates higher demand for IT professionals.

To prove your claim that programmers were preferred over other professionals, you need to prove that the denial rate for programmers was much lower than that for other professionals.

How is it that you are not protesting the H-1A visa program, which is specifically for bringing in registered nurses or H-2A for agricultural workers?

Sid

Test Test wrote: "Globalization is not the issue. Market tampering is."

Globalization is the main issue. You're upset because you only want the positive effects of globalization. You don't give a damn about American workers in the manufacturing sector who've lost jobs as long as you can buy cheap stuff in the departmental stores. You're upset because globalization is causing job displacement and increased competition in the services sector as well, and that's affecting your livelihood. You're just hiding behind terms like "market-tampering."

Gaurav Gupta

Dear Friends,
Everyday, everyone seems to be talking about globalization and the world economy. The world economy is like a family in which all the participants enjoy the similar benefits and share similar responsibilities. Moreover, in case of a perfectly globalized world economy, there is perfect mobility of factors of production, which include land, labor, capital, and technology. Obviously, land cannot be moved, but other factors can be. I think this world is competitive, and competitive men should follow success. If the U.S. wants to be perfectly competitive, as it has been for ages, I personally feel that it should not impose any restrictions on H-1B visas. The H-1B is definitely giving jobs to non-Americans, but with the help of these immigrants, the U.S. is attracting the best available talent, which is needed far more for the success of an economy. And whether Indians work for less or not is highly debatable. Indians by virtue of their long-hours working capability and high skills are sometimes earning the highest pay, and sometimes not.

To complete the definition of globalized world economy, perfect mobility of labor is required.

Test Test

"Globalization is the main issue. You're upset because you only want the positive effects of globalization. You don't give a damn about American workers in the manufacturing sector who've lost jobs as long as you can buy cheap stuff in the departmental stores. You're upset because globalization is causing job displacement and increased competition in the services sector as well, and that's affecting your livelihood. You're just hiding behind terms like market-tampering."

You don't know who I am or what upsets me. Please judge my argument and don't make assumptions about who is making it.

H-1B mentions "technical application of a specialized body of knowledge." It does not affect factory workers one bit.

If it did affect factory workers, the law would be more fair. It doesn't.

The H-1B law--and the fact it is market tampering--is what is being debated here.

Programmers have a right to not be subjected to market-tampering laws. We deserve equal treatment under the law.

H-1B is not free market; to call it such and blame its effects on "free-market economics" is being deliberately ignorant.

pv

"You don't give a damn about American workers in the manufacturing sector."

Sid, are you sure you want to base your argument on being able to read someone's mind?

Sid

Pv wrote:
"Sid, are you sure you want to base your argument on being able to read someone's mind?"

Test Test wrote:
"You don't know who I am or what upsets me. Please judge my argument and don't make assumptions about who is making it."

I apologize if you genuinely care about the American workers in the manufacturing industry who lost their jobs to offshoring, and make an effort to buy U.S.-made products.

Till now, whenever I've made a valid point to refute your arguments, you've conveniently ignored it.

You've never answered why every smart American kid is not trying to become a doctor or an investment banker if money is the only criteria (and it is the only factor that dissuades kids from studying CS).

You've never answered why Americans are still studying CS in spite of knowing that they have to fend off competition from H-1Bs and offshoring. Is it possible that they really love CS and are really good at it? Is it true that the best people in any field don't have to worry about their future as much as the lower rung?

You've never answered why you don't consider H-1A and H-2A visas for nurses and agricultural workers to be market-tampering.

You've never proven your claim that H-1B is used for market-tampering when I pointed you to the foreign labor certification data. You only quoted the final approval rates. That doesn't prove that programmers were preferred. To prove that programmers were preferred, you need to prove that the denial rate for other professionals was significantly higher than that for programmers.

The low-end jobs in IT and other fields will be either be outsourced, or there will be increased competition. Find me an American programmer who works on device drivers and does kernel-level programming and is without a job.

I'm saying that the people who've been displaced were not really doing cutting-edge stuff. That way IT is a difficult field because technologies change within years instead of decades. Those who are not constantly improving their skills are in danger of losing their jobs--doesn't matter whether they are Americans or from any other country.

Finally, mobility of workers in the services industry is inevitable, irrespective of whether the U.S. scraps the H-1B program or not. Programmers from all over the world will always move to countries where there is high demand and better compensation. Many European programmers have moved to India in the past few years. Australia, Germany, and the U.K. have made it easier for programmers and other technology professionals to come and work and become permanent residents. Most of these people are very well educated and will be successful anywhere. My prediction is that if the U.S. does not change its immigration policies to make it easier for highly skilled professionals to work here and become permanent residents, it will be bad for the economy in the long run. You're welcome to disagree with me. The effects will become obvious in 10 to 20 years. So, it's likely that most of us will live to know who was right.

Nitin

The problem is that job loss is an emotional issue and is seen as a direct effect of skilled immigration, whereas the benefits derived from the secondary effects of skilled immigration are harder to see. Having barriers to immigration would tend to insulate the workforce in the U.S. and will lead to a protected economy in an advanced stage of decay.

Craig

Abolish H-1B visas and let market forces attract Americans to these fields.

Test Test

Actually, I did answer some of these questions, but not all my posts were published.

"You've never answered why every smart American kid is not trying to become a doctor or an investment banker if money is the only criteria (and it is the only factor that dissuades kids from studying CS)."

If you're justifying H-1B because Americans can avoid all effects of the law by studying something other than computer science, it's impossible to justify the law by saying "not enough Americans study computer science." This line of argument is basically admitting that the law is driving Americans from the field.

"You've never answered why Americans are still studying CS in spite of knowing that they have to fend off competition from H-1Bs and offshoring. Is it possible that they really love CS and are really good at it?"

You're saying that the only the Americans who have a strong liking for CS will do it despite the fact that the compensation will be lower than it should be? I'd agree.

"Is it true that the best people in any field don't have to worry about their future as much as the lower rung?"

Define "worried about their future." All people are worried about their futures. Even the best. They want to retire someday.

"You've never answered why you don't consider H-1A and H-2A visas for nurses and agricultural workers to be market-tampering."

I consider those laws to be market tampering. The nurses have a union already that speaks on their behalf; it's not my responsibility to speak for the nurses. No doubt this union speaks up anytime the H-1A visa is increased; that's probably the reason the visa hasn't been increased significantly despite a huge demand for nurses.

I don't know what to say about the agricultural workers. They are 100% foreign these days; they usually claim to be happy. However, increased numbers of immigrants will not make their lives easier. Once again, if these workers choose to limit the numbers on the visa--I would support that; the law is market-tampering.

The vast majority of Americans, as you know, are not programmers, nurses, or agricultural workers--and that's why these types of laws are market-tampering.

I'm pretty consistent in my opinion; laws that mention occupations are market-tampering. I would have that opinion whether I worked in IT or not.

another one

The H-1B is a subsidy for American corporations. I say this because first we had immigration laws. Then allowances were made for special groups. It is a perversion of the free market to make policies for a subset of the group of importable labor. Let's either let in everyone who wants to work here without conditions (except those with criminal records, of course ), or let's let in no one. This would solve the tech-worker issues in the long run and improve productivity.

Sid

Test Test wrote:
"Once again, if these workers choose to limit the numbers on the visa--I would support that; the law is market-tampering."

It's interesting that you don't consider setting limits on visas to be market-tampering. You must have developed your own theories on economics.

I'm beginning to like the term "market-tampering." It's not likely to become as popular as "weapons of mass destruction," but get Lou Dobbs and Tom Tancredo to repeat it enough times, and it might catch on.

What you are essentially suggesting is that anyone with good qualifications should be allowed to immigrate instead of letting market forces dictate it--essentially something like the point-based system Canada has. The nice thing about the point-based system is that the workers are not tied to their employers, which gives them equal rights as Canadian citizens. The problem with that system is that many highly qualified people manage to become permanent residents but don't get jobs unless they are in a high-demand field. There are so many tales of PhDs in physics and chemistry driving cabs in Canada, because they can't get a research or teaching job. Also, all degree-holders are not created equal, and all universities are not equally good. If the point-based system uses some kind of ranking to give preference to people who've graduated from the world's top universities, it might work better.

Test Test

"It's interesting that you don't consider setting limits on visas to be market-tampering. You must have developed your own theories on economics."

The visa itself is market tampering. The limit on it, therefore is less tampering.

"What you are essentially suggesting is that anyone with good qualifications to immigrate..."

I never said that. I have no problem with people with bad qualifications immigrating. It's the deliberate selection based on some arbitrary criteria the the government determines to be "qualified" that I object to.

"...instead of letting market forces dictate it..."

I would like to have market forces work freely. The government shouldn't be picking and choosing who comes here. No laws that mention occupations.

"...essentially something like the point-based system Canada has..."

No. A point system is even worse.

"There are so many tales of PhDs in physics and chemistry driving cabs in Canada, because they can't get a research or teaching job."

There are also unemployed H-1Bs in the U.S. staying here out of status.

Why aren't there immigrant cabdrivers...driving cabs? Isn't the deliberate selection of "qualified" what's wrong with the visa--the cause of the problem to begin with?

An immigrant should be able to say "I'm a cabdriver, and I have an equal right to immigrate as a PhD does. When I get there, I plan to drive a cab. OK?"

An immigrant can't say those words very easily in the U.S. or Canada.

Sid

Test Test wrote:
"Why aren't there immigrant cabdrivers...driving cabs?"

You obviously haven't been to New York City.

I get your point--many of the cabdrivers in New York City were probably not driving cabs in their home countries.

You have to consider that there's also family based immigration--the numbers are much higher than employment-based immigration. Immigrants who come in through family-based immigration are not necessarily well-qualified, and often they end up doing jobs that don't require a college degree.

"An immigrant should be able to say 'I'm a cabdriver, and I have an equal right to immigrate as a PhD does. When I get there, I plan to drive a cab. OK?'"

It's a nice thought. The problem with that is that the rest of the world does not always drive on the right side of the road or have the same traffic laws or road conditions as the U.S. Then you would be discriminating against cabdrivers from U.K., India, and several other countries.

"There are also unemployed H-1Bs in the U.S. staying here out of status."

There are very few cases of those. Most H-1Bs are not stupid enough to do that. It's way easier to track down and deport someone who's entered legally than someone whose presence is unknown to the USCIS/DHS because he or she entered illegally. How do you think H-1Bs would support themselves after losing jobs? You think a software engineer would work as a waiter just to live in the U.S. instead of going back to their home country? They might do it if they are from places like Iraq or Afghanistan or Sudan. For someone from India or China, it would not make any sense to live illegally in the U.S. if you are well qualified.

What is well known is that thousands of IT workers lost jobs during the dot-com bust. What is not so well known (or publicized by the media) is that many of them were H-1Bs and they had to leave the country within a month. Offshoring to India and China in IT has been going on for more than a decade. Why do you think there was an increase in the trend (leading to a public outcry) right after the dot-com bust? That's because all these H-1Bs who had to go back after losing their jobs joined all these offshoring companies. They had worked in the U.S. for a few years, so businesses figured out that they could be tapped to get the job done in India or China.

Craig

H-1Bs are admitted because their (allegedly) high-tech skills are (allegedly) in short supply. H-1Bs are capped at 65,000. But 407,418 were actually admitted in 2006.

That's because the "cap" pertains only to persons working in the private sector.

Universities and nonprofits can apply for an unlimited number of H-1Bs--even though most of these so-called exempt H-1Bs eventually get green cards.

And in case you're wondering, the anchor baby loophole applies to guest workers also. H-1Bs are allowed to bring in spouses (and children). These are not counted toward the "cap."

And, as with illegal aliens, a baby born here means they are hard to deport and can ultimately be sponsored in by their citizen child.

Rohit Jain

All the companies have the right to minimize cost and engage the best skills at relatively cost effective prices. The U.S. administration should try to improve its domestic manpower if it wishes to compete with Indian skilled labor. Using H-1B restriction may reduce its domestic quality and cost effectiveness specially in IT industry.

Test Test

"All the companies have the right to minimize cost and engage the best skills at relatively cost effective prices."

Then why have a law that deliberately focuses on technical workers with a "specialized application of a technical body of knowledge?" If all companies have this right--equally--we should not be targeting an individual group for immigration and giving that group more rights than others.

H-1B targets individual groups, and therefore is market tampering.

Skeptic

I have no notion or comment on how things are done in India. But on matters relating to U.S. employment, I am not bashful about saying that high tech H-1Bs, while intelligent, do not possess any skills more specialized (like those of Einstein, Enrico Fermi, etc.) than what can be found domestically in the U.S. workforce. How are things in India? If it's your country of birth, why wouldn't you want to stay there and enrich your home country's full potential?

Bill

I love being lectured on free-market economics by guest workers. "All the companies have the right to minimize cost and engage the best skills at relatively cost effective prices." I agree that all companies have this right. In America, all citizens have a right to voice their opinion when they feel that they are being treated unjustly. Rohit, why do you assume that bringing in cheap foreign labor improves domestic quality? Quality and cost are two different things.

Test Test

"I love being lectured on free-market economics by guest workers."

I hear you. Especially since H-1B is not a free-market law, but rather one that targets technical workers with a "specialized application of a technical body of knowledge."

What's interesting, though, is this: What good do more H-1B programmers do for the existing H-1B programmers? None--it's negative for them.

Let's suppose I was an H-1B programmer in the U.S. What would I want? Mostly:
1. High wages--H-1B workers want to save money; that's why they're here.
2. Job security--H-1Bs. Without a job, they lose status.
3. A green card. The shorter the line in front of me, the better.

Now, what do more H-1Bs mean for the existing H-1Bs?
1. Lower wages--and less savings.
2. Less job security and consequently, less residency stability.
3. A longer line for a green card.

A greater acceptance----by American programmers--of the H-1B workers who are here will probably help ease some of their concerns. Ultimately we're all in the same boat--it's not a matter of us vs. them; it's a matter of high wages and good careers vs. artificially low wages and job (and residency) instability. We should all work together to ensure that the cap stays low and that the H-1Bs who are here feel welcome--and that they have a short wait for their green cards.

A lower number of new H-1Bs means more money, more security, and a faster green card for the ones here already.

Sid

I think the main problem with the H-1B program right now is the same as with any other law--lack of enforcement.

Once USCIS cracks down on the employers who are using the loopholes in the program to abuse the law, quota will not be an issue. If the current quota is lowered without fixing the loopholes in the H-1B program, the ones who commit fraud will often get H-1B visas instead of the really deserving candidates.

This year the USCIS received 150K applications on the first day itself. Given that, it'll be hard to pass legislation to lower the quota.

Steve

What a sham. I must know 100-plus software engineers in the U.S. who are looking for work. H-1B is bad for everyone.

Yogesh

The U.S. sells its products worldwide. Go to any country--India, China, etc.--and you will see Nike, Apple, Microsoft, etc. The U.S. exports brands of high-end products. China exports products to the U.S. And India and similar countries export intellectual property in the form of its engineers who come and sell their services here.

An H-1B discussion is not an immigration discussion; it's also not about U.S. needs.

It is about global trade. If the U.S. can make money selling ideas and products to the rest of the world, it has to be ready for other countries to sell services to it.

I think the U.S. should abolish H-1B visa caps. Let there be free market movement of services through movement of people--like the movement of products. And let the American labor force compete in the world.

Why does the U.S. labor force want to hide behind visa caps to compete in the world. If you are better than others, the world will pay you a premium.

AMF

I agree with PD on learning from the U.K. and implementing a visa program based on qualifications and awards points based on degrees, job experience, etc.

I myself am an American but chose to move to the U.K. after graduation (graduated with an MBA), thanks to its Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. I found a job and have been here for two years. I am now a resident and can apply for citizenship in my fifth year.

The U.S. is probably losing smart and educated individuals to other countries with more flexible visa arrangements.

Brian Bonitelli

There are plenty of engineers in the U.S. We don't need foreign engineers here. Let's cancel the H-1B program.

Chris

"I am on an H-1B and make 200K a year(including bonus). I know people who make 50-60k a year, but they are entry-level programmers."

That's 200K (including bonuses) a U.S. citizen could be making.

Chris

"There are plenty of engineers in the U.S. We don't need foreign engineers here. Let's cancel the H-1B program."

That's what should happen, but people like Maria Cantwell--who is in the pocket of Bill Gates--and many like her, of both parties, are part of the Big Business machine that pours money into their soft-money campaigns to keep the flow of cheap labor going.

Insider

All the arguments seem to be discussed in a vacuum.

If a person offers a general statement as the basis for an argument, the retort's using specifics is pointless. There are always exceptions.

I'm a CPA with seven years of accounting experience who earns more than $100K. I'm also Canadian on an H-1B visa. My skill set is somewhat unique, and many big companies are having difficulty finding qualified workers. The majority of H-1B holders aren't low-paid or even close.

It costs a company a lot more money to hire an H-1B worker than an American. In my particular field, there are plenty of difficulties finding qualified workers. The market dictates the action.

It seems as though the "con" argument is that companies hire lower-paid workers because it's cheaper than American workers. When that is no longer proven to be the case, what then will your argument be?

The big companies go off shore and build facilities to do their programming. I've seen it in my field. There are plenty of engineers here, but a lot of them no longer want to work at those companies. There is a wide variety of issues that need to be addressed, so stop debating in a vacuum.

American

"I'm a CPA with seven years of accounting experience who earns more than $100K. I'm also Canadian on an H-1B visa. My skill set is somewhat unique, and many big companies are having difficulty finding qualified workers. The majority of H-1B holders aren't low-paid or even close."

What are you basing your "majority of H-1B holders aren't low-paid or even close" comment on? There is much empirical evidence to support the contrary. By the way, you're a CPA with seven years experience: I'm pretty sure that is not really a unique skill set. I'm pretty sure that the U.S. had quite a few of those before your company decided to grace us with your presence. H-1B may be used to bring over folks with unique skills, but you must admit there are many who are being brought into the U.S. to lower wages in a given career field (IT). Let's have a more honest assessment of labor markets, shall we?

pv

"It seems as though the 'con' argument is that companies hire lower-paid workers because it's cheaper than American workers. When that is no longer proven to be the case, what then will your argument be?"

Insider, you seem to be confused about the basis of H-1B opposition. The premise that H-1B workers are on average underpaid is not based solely on anecdotal evidence but rather, for example, the USCIS report to Congress. You seem to be using the exception from your personal experience as evidence, which is what you started out condemning.

The arguments and evidence (not all mentioned above) go well beyond mere cost. They go to the fundamental unfairness of arbitrarily targeting tech workers, and also to the long-term wisdom of relying on global IT labor and discouraging Americans from pursuing technical careers.

In any case, many H-1B opponents simply want equally qualified (or reasonably close) Americans to be given preference in their own county, like most of Europe does.

An employer

I am in HR at a small silicon valley company that requires highly specialized scientists in computational physics/chemistry/engineering. Guess what: Only 5% of interview candidates who survive the technical interview round are non-H-1Bs.

If you don't know how cumbersome the H-1B process is for an employer, please do find out. As an employer, I am looking for people I can hire now, not 10 months from now when the H-1B will come through. But my choice is this--hire 10 months from now or don't hire at all.

Foreign-skilled workers are necessary. They make Silicon Valley the technology hotbed. Most workers here are or were H-1Bs at some point.

As an employer, all we want is some sanity in the process so that big companies like IBM and Infests don't gobble up all of the H-1B quota.

The whole USCIS process regarding H-1Bs is lacking in thought as well as execution. Much like a street requires signal calibration every three years, so does the H-1B quota system.

pv

Employer, the validity of your example is dependent on the degree of variation between your candidates. The less competitive the interviewees were, the more valid your point.

However, H-1B opposition is usually toward lower- or entry-level tech workers, not to those who are truly the best and the brightest and who bring something special to the U.S. One suggestion of opponents to H-1B is to auction off H-1B visas or put a hefty fee on them so that only the brightest and most valuable make it through. I have yet to hear a valid counter-argument to that from H-1B supporters. It's amazing how the diversion tactics start after that.

Anyway, I don't think you think you'd suffer from a system that truly attracted the best and brightest, which is not H-1B.

Sid

"One suggestion of opponents to H-1B is to auction off H-1B visas or put a hefty fee on them so that only the brightest and most valuable make it through. I have yet to hear a valid counter-argument to that from H-1B supporters."

I think auctioning H-1B visas is unfair to smaller companies and startups that may need fewer people but cannot compete with big companies like Microsoft during the auctioning process. Let's say you start an auction, and Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, IBM, and Intel, win all the visas. What happens to other companies that cannot even afford to open an offshore development center as an alternative? This will only help extend the monopoly of the big companies. Many H-1Bs come to teach in schools in small towns. You think those schools can compete with large corporations in an auction for H-1B visas? This is the stupidest idea I've ever heard with respect to reforming the H-1B program.

Placing a hefty fee on H-1B visas is a better idea, but there will never be a consensus on what is hefty enough since the pay scales are different based on the industry. Again, smaller companies and startups will suffer, because they have limited funding.

An employer

Sid, I agree 100% with you on auction fees.

By the way, at any time, there are only about 250,000 H-1Bs floating around. This number is too small to be a threat to the American skilled labor market.

Is there a study that shows clear correlation between the number of H-1Bs and the general health of the job market?

By the way, there is a limit on number of H-1Bs a company can hire before the company becomes "H-1B dependent". This number is fairly small. Since IBM/Infosys aren't H-1B dependent, the percentage of H-1Bs hired is probably relatively small.

I think only two categories get completely screwed in this current system. One is small companies like ours. The other category is the small number of H-1Bs who work as contract hires for "body shops." These poor sods get paid 40% to 50% of their actual salary--e.g. in Silicon Valley, they will be paid $40K to $50K by the contract company, while the contract company will get $80K to $90K. These are for your standard IT jobs. This is really sad. But this is a choice these people make, and eventually they move on to permanent jobs elsewhere.

Maybe the limit should be on people who have degrees from outside the U.S. For a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or PhD in U.S., there should be no quota.

pv

Sid, thank you for addressing the point directly. Those seem as though they could be legitimate concerns. The question is: Why should this subsidy to startups and schools be paid for by U.S. tech workers? If there is a benefit to U.S. society, shouldn't society pay for it (perhaps even from the proceeds of the H-1B auction/fee)?

I missed your point about the benefit of startups and offshore development centers.

BobNd

I'd be in favor of just ending the H-1B visa program.

Test Test

"Let's say you start an auction, and Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, IBM, and Intel win all the visas."

Highly unlikely. The winners would be:

1. Rich people buying themselves a visa to do nothing.
2. Basketball and baseball teams sponsoring foreign players
3. Entertainment companies sponsoring foreign musicians.
4. Investment banks sponsoring talented traders and bankers.
5. Hospitals sponsoring doctors.
6. Tech firms sponsoring truly talented programmers who are willing to pay for them--not, generally, Microsoft or Oracle. They're cheap in that order.

Note that tech firms are way down the list. If market forces (rather than lobbying forces) were at work, there would be a lot fewer tech visas.

Which, of course, is a very good thing for those tech workers here on H-1B visas already. It means higher wages, more job stability, more residency stability, and a faster green card for them.

Sid

"Sid, thank you for addressing the point directly. Those seem as though they could be legitimate concerns. The question is: Why should this subsidy to startups and schools be paid for by U.S. tech workers? If there is a benefit to U.S. society, shouldn't society pay for it (perhaps even from the proceeds of the H-1B auction/fee)?"

I think that most of the innovation in the tech sector has happened through startups and not the big firms. A lot of big firms like Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle have grown by acquiring some of these successful startups. I think the U.S. has been the leader in tech mostly because of the ease with which even a startup can enter the market and compete with bigger firms. Startups create opportunities for everyone--mostly Americans and some H-1B workers. They are already in a price war with bigger companies to attract the best talent. If you want to make it harder for them to hire H-1Bs and increase the barrier for entry into the market, you also have to deal with the fact that fewer people will be tempted to start their own companies, particularly in the tech sector. Some American tech workers are complaining about losing jobs and getting lower pay because of H-1B workers. Why can't they start all-American companies, pay themselves whatever they want, and compete with the big tech firms that everyone loves to hate these days? I disagree that tech workers are paying the price for allowing startups to hire H-1Bs. I think American programmers should be more concerned about competition from H-1Bs hired by outsourcing firms like Wipro and Infosys and not the ones hired by U.S.-based companies. The consulting model allows for these outsourcing firms to move people around the U.S. without changing the pay scales. They also happen to be the major users of the H-1B program. I think one way to reform the H-1B program would be to give priority to U.S.-based companies if the number of applications exceeds the visa cap.

The schools that hire H-1B teachers in science and math are usually located in remote areas with low populations, and it's difficult for them to attract American schoolteachers to move there.

These schools have limited state funding, so they cannot pay big bucks to lure American teachers. Ultimately, the students of these small town schools benefit from that, and some of them are able to go to good colleges.

The fee for H-1B visas is supposed to be used to fund American students and train American workers. If it is not being utilized properly, you should go after the DOL and ask for an explanation.

"I missed your point about the benefit of startups and offshore development centers."

First, if you are running a startup, it doesn't make sense for you to hire an H-1B. Startups don't have the luxury of having an immigration department and group discounts from big immigration law firms to help streamline the process of hiring an H-1B worker. If startups are still willing to go through that hassle, it has to mean that they really need that person. They usually have to pay more than big tech companies in order to attract the best talent. If they have to get into a price war over H-1B visas, it would seriously hamper their ability to grow and challenge the big tech firms. A big firm can hire more people in its offshore development centers if it can't get some H-1B visas, but most startups don't have that luxury.

Sid

"Highly unlikely. The winners would be:
1. Rich people buying themselves a visa to do nothing.
2. Basketball and baseball teams sponsoring foreign players
3. Entertainment companies sponsoring foreign musicians.
4. Investment banks sponsoring talented traders and bankers.
5. Hospitals sponsoring doctors.
6. Tech firms sponsoring truly talented programmers who are willing to pay for them--not, generally, Microsoft or Oracle. They're cheap in that order."

Numbers 2 and 3 don't need H-1B visas. They can use the O-1 visa for that. You think David Beckham came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa?

It's possible that hospitals and investment banks may pay more than Microsoft for H-1B visas, but the majority of visas will be left over for tech companies to fight over.

I think it's very likely that companies like Microsoft will pay a premium to win the visas and deny them to its competitors. Eventually, they'll pay the workers less for the next 10 years while they wait for their green cards.

"Note that tech firms are way down the list. If market forces (rather than lobbying forces) were at work, there would be a lot fewer tech visas."

I also noted that you made up that list. Unless you're a well-known economist, I will have doubts about the accuracy of your list. Even if the H-1Bs are auctioned, the companies that apply for it are not likely to change. Investment banks and hospitals are not going to apply for 65K visas between themselves. Most of the visas will still go to tech companies. Instead of their being distributed fairly, they will go to the companies with the most cash. You're right about the fact that Microsoft and Oracle are cheap. They are also very competitive and will use this as a golden opportunity to deny H-1B workers to their smaller competitors. Once they win the visas, they can pay the H-1B workers whatever they want.

Ramki

I think the whole H-1B debate has been fashioned as an "Us vs. Them" debate while everyone forgets the greedy corporate fat cats who are willing to do anything for short-term profits. Anyone who has worked in IT would know how ridiculous consulting rates are when compared to a regular full-time position.

As a person currently on an H-1B, I cringe at some of the people sent to companies as "specialists." These are nice people who, however, have no clue what they are doing, and they are paid "specialist" salaries (at least the body shoppers make out). Any doofus can recognize these people for what they are, but CIOs turn a blind eye for accounting purposes or in the name of doing the fiscally responsible thing, aka outsourcing.

I was hired at a $100 million company that had no history of doing H-1B visas. It was ready to go through the hassle to hire the right candidate. What the U.S. needs is proper enforcement that respects the spirit of the H-1B law.

Allow only the bright candidates to come in. Since there are only 65,000 visas, the struggle in the future is going to be between Indian body shoppers (the modern slave traders) and especially bright Indians graduating from Harvard, U of C, Stanford, and Wharton. Make sure that anyone who gets admitted in the program has a degree from one of the Top 100 schools in the country--not from the equivalent of Pat Robertson University somewhere in Bhutan.

Oh but wait, Pat Robertson University graduates are preferred over Harvard alumni in the Justice Department. Never mind.

Test Test

Sid,
"Numbers 2 and 3 don't need H-1B visas. They can use the O-1 visa for that. You think David Beckham came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa?"

Currently, no--because H-1B requires an application just like O-1. The question was, what would happen if H-1Bs were auctioned and sold off instantly to the highest bidder?

In such a scenario, David Beckham would choose to buy a visa rather than go through an application process--he's got more money than time.

So if H-1B visas were auctioned, O-1s would be mostly unused. Maybe they should both be auctioned off so this isn't an issue.

But yeah, there might not be 65,000 foreign millionaires, entertainers, bankers, and doctors coming here. Programmers would be next on the list, yes.

Also the U.S. has lost some of its luster as a tourist destination. So that would limit the number of rich people buying visas.

The point I was making is that the free-market way of auctioning visas would benefit us all--and it would prevent abuse and eliminate the need to raise the cap further.

Ramki,
"I think the whole H-1B debate has been fashioned as an Us vs. Them debate while everyone forgets the greedy corporate fat cats."

Agreed. The Us vs. Them debate is meant to divide and conquer.

I think any labor union of U.S. programmers should welcome all current H-1B programmers who want to join--provided they agree that keeping the cap low is the quickest way for them to get high wages, a stable job, and a shorter line for a green card.

Bottom line: Once you're in America, you're an American programmer. So you need to be welcomed here and encouraged to act in the interests of American programmers. Ultimately, American and current H-1B programmers share the same goals--a low cap on new H-1Bs, high wages, good jobs with security and residency stability, and a short wait for a green card.

RRS

H-1B visa sponsorship companies need to support a new law for U.S. IT workers' careers. Otherwise, it is again messing up U.S. immigration laws.

Sid

Test Test wrote:

"I think any labor union of U.S. programmers should welcome all current H-1B programmers who want to join--provided they agree that keeping the cap low is the quickest way for them to get high wages, a stable job, and a shorter line for a green card.

Bottom line: Once you're in America, you're an American programmer. So you need to be welcomed here and encouraged to act in the interests of American programmers. Ultimately, American and current H-1B programmers share the same goals--a low cap on new H-1Bs, high wages, good jobs with security and residency stability, and a short wait for a green card."

It sounds good in theory, but as long as H-1B programmers are tied to their current jobs for the green card, they can never have the same rights as an American programmer. The employers hold all the cards in the current scenario.

Making things worse is the fact that the employment-based green card system is completely broken. It takes six to 10 years for citizens of the heavy-usage countries like India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines to get a green card based on employment. Till then, they cannot change jobs or even roles within the same organization. There are many reasons for the current backlog--7%-per-country quota; processing delays (FBI name-checks can take two or three years); inefficiency on the part of USCIS (even with the huge backlog, green cards are wasted each year from the annual quota of 140K); reluctance on part of the U.S. government to properly fund the USCIS so that it can modernize and improve the process; and the corrupt senators refusing to fix the legal immigration issues if their demands regarding illegal immigration are not met, etc.

Even if future H-1B applicants are blocked out, those who have started their green card process this year (from the backlogged countries) don't have a chance of getting a green card for another 10 years without any legislative changes.

I think most Americans agree that the legal immigration issues should be fixed and they are the easiest to fix, but the senate has an all-or-nothing approach toward immigration issues. They know that if the legal immigration issues are fixed in a separate bill, they will not have any leverage to bargain for amnesty for illegal immigrants. The CIR bill was a complete joke. It was based on a lot of false assumptions about the capability of the USCIS and DHS. The USCIS is not able to handle the relatively low number of applications from legal immigrants, and they are expected to handle 12 million applications from illegal immigrants.

Anyway, the point is that the issue of H-1B visas is tied to the employment-based green card program and till the later is improved through legislation, lowering the H-1B quota and forming programmer labor unions will not solve anything.

david wang

Wow! So many people are considering this H-1 issue.

MBA in New York

I am graduating from a U.S. MBA program and have a job offer from a global bank. The visa situation is bad enough that my offer is good in New York if H-1B approval comes through and London or Hong Kong at the same pay if not.

I think the assumption that market-based forces would automatically raise local salaries if the program ended is a bad one. That might happen in the very short term, but those jobs' moving overseas and taking a few American jobs with them is more likely.

Microsoft opened a larger Canadian office in response to the visa problems.

dressking

When I went to graduate school at SUNY Binghamton for a master's degree in computer science 12 years ago, there was hardly an American in my class.

I had to pay out-of-state tuition. An American from New York would have had to pay only half of what I had to pay. And I was from China. So I was not allowed to work, not even part time. I had to use all the money I got from my grandparents to pay for everything.

But I never regretted going to that graduate school. In that master's degree program, I learned about Web search technology, which I later used to build my own Internet venture. Also, with the knowledge in Web search technology and the experience in writing Web search engines, I got a job at IBM's Internet division and an Internet startup that offered stock options. With the money I made from the stock options I earned from that startup, I was able to set up my own Internet venture. Also, when I was working, my salary went up by $5,000 every few months, up to $63,000 a year just one and half years after I got my master's degree.

I wonder why Americans don't take advantage of the opportunities that they have and then don't want to let other people take advantage of those opportunities either.

AmitJ

GettingFooled, you said:

"I have two master's degrees--one is in CS and the other in finance. I am also of Indian descent. I have been working in the IT field for 12 years now.

These Indian H-1B workers simply wish to make a high salary so they can go back to India and live like kings and queens. Making even $40K-$50K per year for three years is enough to live like royalty in India."

You should return to India--$40K-$50K is below average salary in India for someone with the qualifications you claim. With your qualifications you can easily make $70K-$100K if you are willing to accept a higher-level job (not an IT worker).

VJ

Bill: "I love being lectured on free-market economics by guest workers."

Why do you believe you have nothing to learn about free-market economics? Or do you automatically believe that you are a higher life form with more intelligence than any guest worker?

Steve

I encourage young Americans to abandon science and engineering because of the poor job prospects. Age discrimination is rampant, and once over 40, you may be lucky to find a job.

Michelle has it wrong:

1. Microsoft was going to open up a larger Canadian office regardless of immigration issues.

2. H-1Bs are often temporary workers to work side by side with Americans to permanently export jobs.

3. If a true shortage existed, salaries would go up to encourage people to enter the field.

4. Michelle may want to flood America with low cost labor. Sorry, you as an employer only have the right to hire workers currently authorized to work in the U.S. If IT is no longer cost effective in the U.S., then it is going to be exported. Some of us may not want this country to end up like the Third World. Much better to have the Third World take these low-paying jobs to the Third World than to make the First World into the Third World.

H-1B program mutually beneficial and fair? What a joke.

funny

Someone made a funny comment:
"Immigrant workers who are in the U.S. should join hands with some American workers and lobby for lower H-1B."

Good thought:
"Once you are in, close the door." Join forces with hypocrites and whiners.

clear

H-1B workers are needed to fuel Social Security, and this money is needed to cut checks for the future senior citizens, i.e., you Americans. H-1B workers will not get Social Security benefits unless they get a GC. Thousands of H-1B workers come to this country, and they are adding around 6% of their income to Social Security and Medicare, only to be kicked out after six years without any benefits.

Isn't this robbery?

blu

There is simple ignorance of the H1 concept by a lot of Americans. I have good friends in American communities who are well educated and understand the need for global talent.

Folks, get on the globalization train if not able to compete. Stop crying and start learning. That way everyone of every descent will learn to coexist.

Number of outsorced jobs?

Guess: the combined total of IT and call center guys working in India.

bobzibub

Steve, encouraging young Americans to abandon science and engineering is economic suicide. Individually and collectively, it is the wrong thing to do.

By and large, those who are good IT people in the U.S. have good jobs. (I've been involved in hiring some here, too). I'm a LAMP/Java guy on an H-1B. I see new jobs pop up every single day, for these technologies and salaries are going up.

Much of the engineering side of U.S. work (the high end) cannot easily be exported out of the U.S., because it involves close cooperation with clients. Much of the grunt work can be exported, such as low-end programming.

Consider it a filter for the good jobs.

As far as salaries, salaries in general have not increased in real terms since the 1970s in the U.S. That has a lot to do with the demise of unions, tax incentives to export jobs, health care inefficiencies, and the legal requirement to do what is best for some of the stakeholders only: the shareholders.

So while general salaries stagnate, IT salaries do increase much more.

I once pursued a career in finance, but IT is much better. Making things for "the man" is a much better life than managing "the man's" money.

Techie

There are several reasons countries like India and China produce more techies than America.

One of the reasons is very low tuition fees, and the government supports the students if they cannot pay their tuition fees.

The American education system is the best compared to other education systems, but still all the Americans cannot afford to go to school. Students are coming to America to enroll in American schools (mostly rich people who can afford to pay large tuition fees).

The American government should support more students; it should open more government schools. Why can't it compete with all these private universities and provide better education? (No need to provide free education, but at least don't charge $10,000 per semester.)

It's not that Americans do not want to enroll in tech-degree programs. There are a lot of people who want to study IT but could not afford to pay tuition fees. If the American government could encourage those students and provide better and cost-effective education, it would have a handful of workers in America, and there wouldn't be any debate like this in the future.

bobzibub

Most of those who have the gumption to get up and immigrate to another country are not statistically representative of that country. They are the go-getters. The U.S. is very lucky to have them. Case in point:

I ask you, oh xenophobes: What percentage of Americans in the U.S. have helped found a startup or filed a patent? The legal immigrant population is darn small in the U.S., and it is extremely overrepresentative action mentioned that creates jobs in the U.S..

Now I know all of you personally are indeed brilliant engineers/business people. But let us be honest: These people are the ones who'll be paying off your country's huge debt and helping finance your kid's schools, not the other way around.

gupta

Increasing H1 or L1 does not make sense. The consulting companies exploit the people by paying them as low as $50 per day. We have enough people who can fill the jobs. It is just a case of corporate greed. The funny thing is that the non-citizens raise voice over increasing H1 visas when in fact they are not even allowed to vote. People who protest should be sent back.

Foo

On July 19, 2007 12:44 PM, GettingFooled said:
Making even $40-$50K per year for three years is enough to live like royalty in India. I should know, because I was born in India and have worked in SE Asia.

- What have you been smoking? Have you seen the current salaries in India? Those folks make quite a bit and probably save more than what you and I do.

- Of course, you know nothing about the costs of living in California--$100K buys you a very low standard of living and virtually no housing worth living in.

- Given the calls and e-mail I get every week, I think there are plenty of jobs available right now if you have the right skills. Seriously.

JJ_EM

If this debate is truly about a lack of qualified resources and not the depressing of U.S. high-tech wages, then might the solution be a variable visa tax? Something like 50% of the prevailing wage within the technical discipline paid by the company. The IRS wins, wages increase, and companies get the people they say they need.

Teacher/X-IT Worker

The H-1B is just one manifestation of a multi-prong attack on the middle class that has been going on for three decades. It was started by President Ronald Reagan, the greatest enemy of the working and educated middle class--a man who vilified unions and agencies of education--an aristocrat in proletariat clothing. He began the degradation by vilifying and destroying both unions and the Department of Education. Like both Bush Presidents, he was more interested in sending 100s of billions to the deep pockets of the war machines, deepening America’s debt load. This was easily compensated for by stealing from the Social Security surpluses (think Reagan voodoo economics when he unified the federal budgets so he could steal from the Social Security Funds). Now in the present, more war spending requires cheaper tech workers. H-1B them and weaken the educated middle class further. Weaken the schools by promoting an inability to discipline children; vilify teachers, and import foreign students (think tuition dollars) to appease college professors with higher salaries and then send them back overseas to compete. Finally, to add insult, promote drug addiction and overpopulation with open borders to further stress out the middle class. Let's not forget: Add a Greenspan to instill and fuel a real estate bubble that leads to bankruptcies after the credit regulations were changed.

Sameer Ravindran

I think it is pretty straightforward. Give the H-1Bs their green cards, or as it is in UK, give them a high skill visa with no employer sponsorship. The biggest losers are not the Americans, but the H-1Bs who come to this country with a dream.

More of the Same

On the other hand, there are a lot of outdated IT professionals in their forties to sixties who are replaced, on a daily basis, by just-out-of-college Americans. If they also decided to complain, they would not only ask for all H-1Bs to be abolished, but also that the universities not accept anymore IT students. In this way, their position is secure.

Now reality: There is no job security, so do your best to keep yourself an attractive option in the market. This is a free market and, while I think H-1Bs must be reworked to better reflect reality as PD wrote above, what we need is a clear and fair system such as the one in place in the UK.

S M

I would like to add a note. The H-1B issue isn't black and white. There's no question that U.S.-based companies start off utilizing H-1B and other visa employees (L1, B1) to get work done for a lower billing rate. Almost all the time, it starts off so. But it changes later on. Again, it's not always so. Most people who continue to work for the same company who work for U.S. clients are paid relatively less--that's a fact. But others who really make an effort can and do change and make an extremely decent living. And I don't mean $70K by the age of 30. I am talking about $90 to $100K before the age of 30. Can they get more? Sure they can, but you should understand the difficulties while working on a visa. Changing jobs isn't an easy option. Getting a job you really want isn't as easy either. But since we are aliens in the U.S., we aren't in a position to complain too much. Just wanted to put some insight into the whole H-1B issue--there's a lot more than what meets the eye.
Cheers

Sheryl

Entire departments and groups at Yahoo have been transformed into Indian enclaves where no outside nationality is employed. How blatant can you get? How much do you want to rub it into Americans' faces that you are seizing their jobs? I was once interviewed by an all Indian group--reeled in by a Caucasian HR person--and guess what? I was fodder for justifying their further hiring of more Indians. The interviewers were just going through the motions and had no interest in hiring me.

Might as well wash exceptional American engineers down the drain. If I had known in the 1990s that this was to be the outcome, I would have never gone through all the effort to get a computer science degree from MIT. I don't even work in programming anymore. There's no room there for a white woman--are you kidding?

ex-engineer

Just a little logic will tell you what the H-1B program does. The law of supply and demand applies to labor.

When supply increases or demand decreases, the price of a commodity (like labor) goes down. Producers make less, supply decreases, and the price reaches a balance. It's a nice feedback system that works well. It's called capitalism and free trade.

When government interferes in the free market, that is socialism or Communism.

The cheap visa indentured servants lack the rights of Americans to change jobs, join unions, and negotiate salaries and are baited with the carrot of U.S. citizenship and the favorable exchange rate.

More visas = greater supply of engineers = lower wages = fewer Americans entering the field = lobbying for more cheap labor H-1Bs.

Fewer visas = increased wages for engineers = Americans entering field = fewer visas needed.

The companies who whine about the lack of engineers are the same ones who glorify free trade with countries that have lower standards of living and few, if any, enforced labor or environmental laws.

Also does anyone know the proportion of male to female visas? I see very few women getting these. Shouldn't it be around 50%, or is the program deliberately sexist?

ex-engineer

The H-1B is the most blatant racist, sexist program that dumps older (over-30) Americans in the trash heap. It, along with the L1 visa, are destroying tech careers. Engineering--eight years of training for a four year career.

mike

People must be deluded to think H-1B slaves get paid the prevailing wages. And Indian-American citizens are not H-1B workers. They are rich because they are doctors, lawyers, tech-executives, businessmen, motel owners, etc.--not cheap code laborers. H-1B coders are just slaves. And 99% of them get paid in India (in Indian currency) and get a stipend of $15 a day for food in the U.S. while they live here. Then if they start complaining and get too ambitious, they are shipped back, and a new batch of code slaves arrives.

John.

There are more than 2.3 million IT jobs in the U.S. Out of that, you guys are worried about 65,000. Get a life and do the math.

At least this way the American enterprises are somewhat regulated. Do you seriously think by restricting H-1B visas you are going to be able to stop companies outsourcing their needs to countries like India?

On the contrary, now it will be even better for companies like Infosys and Wipro. Now they have to pay U.S. wages to their workers--which, by the way, average more than $60,000 annually--but if a law passes restrictions on them to hire H-1Bs, they would be happier because they are going to move this work out of the country on this pretext but still charge their clients the same money. Yes, they will be happy because they will increase their margins.

Now consider this: Every H-1B that is hired usually creates two more plus support jobs, and pays U.S. taxes. In the other scenario, the company outsources the work to India, and an Indian company pays zilch in taxes to the U.S. economy.

You guys do the math. I say let's become better at what we do and do it smarter. Maybe even form a union of some sorts. But just restricting visas is not going to solve our problems. It will in the long run make it worse, as now the companies would be more used to sending their work overseas. That is what capitalism is all about.

indian_Yes we have brain

You will always need us. I feel bad for you.

Mark

The view off all USA technology corporations is that engineers over 45 years old are not affordable due to medical insurance expenses. When engineers hit the 45-55 range, they are replaced with H-1B and green card employees of a younger age group. The U.S. government appears to view all native-born American tax-paying workers as garbage that should be shot in the head when they reach 45. They continue to expand the H-1B and green card programs to help corporations lay off older American workers. Does anyone really expect the economy to recover under this system?

jh

I know lot of people on H1B visa who lost their jobs and had to leave this country. The current economic situation is tough for all--both citizens and non-citizens, and impacting all countries.

The U.S. sells its products worldwide. Go to any country--India, China, etc.--and you will see Nike, Apple, Microsoft, etc. The U.S. exports brands of high-end products. China exports products to the U.S. And India and similar countries export intellectual property in the form of its engineers who come and sell their services here.

An H-1B discussion is not an immigration discussion; it's also not about U.S. needs.

It is about global trade. If the U.S. can make money selling ideas and products to the rest of the world, it has to be ready for other countries to sell services to it.

I think the U.S. should abolish H-1B visa caps. Let there be free market movement of services through movement of people--like the movement of products. And let the American labor force compete in the world.

Why does the U.S. labor force want to hide behind visa caps to compete in the world. If you are better than others, the world will pay you a premium.

Sunny

Everybody these days talks about H1B and L1B visas and how they are impacting US citizens. Because H1B and L1B have got lot of attention these days, firms have resorted to other alternative like the B1 (Business) visa. Most of the high tech workers come on B1 visas and work as consultants for clients in the US for around 3 months. The firm does not have to pay salary to the candidate but only per diem, so they do not pay any taxes. All these resources actually do billable work in the US. Abuse of the B1 visa has to stop.

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