H-1B Visas- 101

The H-1B visa program has in the last few years come to light and has its proverbial pros and cons.

In a nutshell the the intent of the H-1B program was to allow companies to draft(if you will) qualified applicants from other parts of the world, if the workforce here could not accommodate.

The debate essentially boils down to to the question, are immigrants from the program taking jobs from American citizens? And does the benefits of the program outweigh any negatives.

The H-1B visa program was launched in 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the “Immigration Act of 1990.” It is intended to help American firms deal with labor shortages in rapidly growing fields that demand specialized skills, such as research, engineering and computer programming. 

Each application or “petition” is submitted by a sponsoring company that foots the bill on behalf of a candidate it seeks to employ. The program has an annual cap of 65,000, and an additional 20,000 visas are granted to employees with master’s degrees from American universities.  If the number of applications exceeds the cap, the government conducts a “lottery” to decide who gets to stay. Every year 6,800 visas are reserved for workers from Chile and Singapore in accordance with free trade agreements those countries have signed with the U.S.

What You See:

More than 85,000 immigrants get H-1B visas for skilled workers annually, including more than 1,000 apiece for workers at tech giants such as Google and Amazon. The demand for these visas consistently outstrips the supply.

But the New York Times reported Trump is considering barring the issuance of new visas in certain employment-based categories, including H-1B visas, as well as ending the Optional Practical Training program, or OPT, which allows foreigners on student visas to work in the US for up to three years post-graduation depending on their field of study.

If Trump moves forward with that plan, it would disrupt the job search for immigrant workers who rely on these programs and who, for the most part, have no other avenue of pursuing a career in the US. Many employers would face challenges filling positions requiring specialized skills, particularly in STEM fields where there are well-documented labor shortages, that help drive economic expansion and create jobs for native-born workers.

Republican lawmakers are pushing Trump to suspend the H-1B and OPT programs for a year or until the unemployment rate, which has reached almost 15 percent, returns to a normal level.

(Source-Vox-May 24th 202-Trump reportly wants to restrict visa programs for skilled workers)

(Bold Print is ours for emphasis)


The Complete Story:

There are provisions in place to make sure employers are paying their workers the prevailing wage and not replacing American workers. However, a giant loophole makes companies paying $60,000 .and above per employee – or hiring employees with master’s degrees – exempt from this rule. An author of the 1990 Act that created the H-1B program, Bruce Morrison, told The Atlantic it was “a dastardly deed,” and he blamed lobbyists for the caveat. The caveat is greatly relevant since more than half the approved petitions in 2014 had master’s degrees or higher making it perfectly legal for them to be paid less than an American worker they were replacing.

Prominent companies such as Walt Disney (DIS) and Southern California Edison have been accused of replacing American workers with cheaper foreign labor. A New York Times report showed that outsourcing companies were “gaming the visa system.” A study from the Economic Policy Institute showed that H-1B workers were underpaid at Indian IT firms providing outsourcing services in the U.S. for American companies. These companies saved more than $20,000 a year per worker when they hired Indians instead of Americans. The Migration Policy Institute found that the top H-1B dependent companies, or those whose workforce consists of at least 15% H-1B visa holders, meet the criteria to avoid extra scrutiny via the loophole “but still pay their H-1B workers less and employ fewer workers with advanced degrees than those that are not H-1B-dependent .

With all the above said, according to a survey done by pew research

One-in-four H-1B visa requests in fiscal 2011 were for occupations commonly staffed by workers with an associate’s degree, despite a requirement that applicants work in jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. By far the most common H-1B occupation that does not require a bachelor’s degree is “computer systems analyst,” with 94% of such jobs requiring less than a bachelor’s degree, according to the most recently available government data. Other jobs that often require less than a bachelor’s degree include operations managers and nurses. Fashion models received an education exception from Congress and are also eligible for H-1B visas.

An analysis led by Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University, found that the U.S. graduates more STEM workers than the tech industry needs and that STEM wages have stayed depressingly flat. They write:

 For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job. In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; Of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations.

Below you will find a real life example of how sideways this can get.

Craig Diangelo is  inside his home in New Britain, Conn. He used to work in IT for Northeast Utilities (now Eversource) before he was replaced by an employee on an H1-B visa from the outsourcing firm Infosys. (Asma Khalid/WBUR)

Diangelo said he had never heard of the H-1B program, but one of his higher-ups told him “global workers can adjust to change a lot faster than the American worker can.”

Via email, a spokesman for Eversource described the Infosys relationship as a reorganization decision following its merger with NSTAR: “Our transition to a new model for Information Technology services was one of many important steps in transforming our companies following our merger into one that would deliver superior service, value and savings for our customers.”

Diangelo said he had to train his replacement or risk losing his severance.

“The individual that came over from India, he started what they call ‘shadowing.’ So he would shadow me for the day, and I would show him what I was doing,” said Diangelo. “He sat next to me the whole time. He had a chair in my cubicle.”

In total, nearly 200 IT workers at Northern Utilities were affected and either lost their jobs or took early retirement. Diangelo eventually found a new IT gig making less money, but he considers himself lucky.

But, nationally, some of the biggest beneficiaries of H-1B visas are not high-tech firms. They’re outsourcing companies, like Infosys and Tata Consulting, who essentially hire entry-level IT workers, and import them from India to do the jobs Americans are already doing.

Most employers use the H-1B program sparingly, applying for just one visa per year. They target a particular worker for some reason such as a specialized skill. On the other hand, the top ten firms have made the H-1B program the chief way they fill U.S. jobs for key business segments. Top H-1B employer Tata Consultancy Services received 5,650 new H-1B workers in 2014 alone. That is more new workers in one year than many technology companies even employ. For example, at the end of 2015, social media giant Twitter employed just 3,898 workers worldwide.

The goal of the firms is to ship as much of the IT work and tasks as possible to offshore workers in low-cost countries like India, and the H-1B program plays the critical role in the transfer and maintenance of those contracts.

How IT offshore outsourcing firms use the H-1B visa to ship jobs overseas
  1. Employers hire H-1B workers and use them to directly replace American workers. In many cases the H-1B worker literally takes over the American’s work and sits at his desk. Employers prefer to hire H-1B workers because H-1B workers are much cheaper and compliant because of their visa status. I recently spoke to an H-1B worker at Tata Consultancy Services (the top H-1B employer) who described to me a never-ending workday. While he was paid for eight hours of work, he regularly put in twelve hour days and when he complained about the long hours, he was threatened with termination.
  1. The H-1B worker acts as a liaison to the offshore team. Language and cultural commonalities help with the transfer of work to the offshore team, and the maintenance of that coordination.
  1. The H-1B visa enables the foreign worker to come to the U.S. to learn the job. This is cheaper and easier than sending the U.S. worker to India to conduct the knowledge transfer.
  1. Then the H-1B workers return to their country of origin, taking the knowledge and jobs and tasks with them.

The upshot is that the government substantially lowers the costs of offshoring through the H-1B program. In essence, the government is heavily subsidizing offshoring through its lax H-1B policies.

Top H-1B employers regularly use the program to replace, or substitute for, American workers. Newspapers have reported some of these cases. Below are just a few examples, but keep in mind that most of the cases go unreported because American workers have to sign gag orders when they’re replaced in order to receive their severance pay, and newspapers don’t want to report the same story over and over again:

*Tata Consultancy has been replacing American workers for many years. In 2003, Tata replaced American IT workers at Siemens, and more recently it replaced workers at Northeast Utilities and Southern California Edison.

*`Cognizant replaced workers at Disney.

*Infosys replaced workers at Southern California Edison.

*`Wipro replaced workers at Abbott Labs in Chicago.

*Accenture is being sued by a former L-1 worker who accuses the company of systematically paying its guest workers less than American workers.

IBM settled a U.S. Department of Justice claim that it discriminated against American workers, “when it placed online job postings for application and software developers that contained citizenship status preferences for F-1 and H-1B temporary visa holders.”

Exploitation of immigration loopholes by offshore outsourcing firms is an international phenomenon. iGate used guestworkers to replace Canadians at the Royal Bank of Canada.

It makes perfect sense that company executives would send jobs offshore, since it can increase their profits. But it makes no sense for the government to facilitate this offshoring. That’s precisely what the H-1B program, as currently constructed, does.

The only way we’re going to reverse this course is if American Citizens show up to vote on Nov 8th.. 1 percent of the millions who did not vote in 2016, could and most likely will set the direction of this country. Exercise your privelege and right on Nov 8th.

You can  contact your representative on this site. click on the “For more Info” and go to your state, you will find a district map, followed by  Senate and congress information. Contact and let your representative that they are on notice. looking at 4 clicks and 5 minutes of your time..

Thanks for reading. God Bless and Godspeed. Stay safe

(Source: The American Citizens Handbook on Immigration due to publish this summer.)