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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Re: H1B visas, a proposal

Real Green Cards for all H1B holders!

Here's a stab at solving the H1B visa issue - give all H1B folks that enter the US a Real Green Card when they show up at the border. Here we are talking about a Real Green Card - one that would allow the worker to look for any job anywhere in the US.

Currently, H1B visa employee can only work for the employer that brought them into the country. With a real Green Card they would no longer be a techno-slave to the owner of the H1B visa technically they could look for another job as soon as they crossed the border and got handed the card. If they found they were being paid below average wages they could move to another job. If their boss was an ass they could split to another job. This would restore balance to the employer-employee equation for the H1B employee.

Of course the employers would not like this - they want the worker to be their slave. My guess is that Corporate support for the H1B program would dry up immediately. However, it would be a fascinating test of the program’s real intent. We, the IT worker in the US, know its all about getting high skilled workers for low pay but the Companies/Corporations that use the H1B visa system will never admit it. Logically they should support giving Real Green Cards to H1B visa holders but since they lie you can expect their bitter opposition.

[Note - this was also posted as a comment on another blog.]

H1B visas - a view from India

A posting from a blog called "Churumuri" called me to consider how the H1B visa issue was being seen from India. Although it views the process from the other end of the pipeline and finds other villains it struck me as being particularly enlightened. Frankly I have no wish to totally kill off the H1B visa program but remembering the old phrase "figures don't lie but liars surely figure" I wonder ifs its possible to structure the program in such a way that it won't be heavily abused.

How our IT firms wrecked the HIB visa program

DHEERENDRA GOPAL” writes: Later this year, the US Congress will sit down to discus reforms to the high-skill immigration policy. But if someone is to be held responsible for the current sorry state of affairs in the H1B visa area, it is Indian IT firms.

The H1B program was started in “Good Faith” by the United States to help people from “all over the world” to come to and work in the US.

Supporters of the program claimed that the H1-B helped meet the shortfall of scientists and engineers by allowing the import of guest workers, thus preventing the “outsourcing” of high-wage, high-skill jobs to low-cost countries. And they claimed the program paved the way for the immigration of the “best and the brightest” foreigners.

But large Indian IT houses have overexploited the loopholes in the HIB program to such an extent that they have made nonsense of its original intentions.

In their greed for higher and higher profits (every Indian firm hits 30% profits every quarter) they have spoiled a perfectly working program a few years ago to such a state that now getting an H1B has got less nothing to do with talent but has become like buying a supperlotto ticket.

A very good article by Ron Hira in the March 28 issue of the “Economic Policy Institute” exposes how Indian IT firms are playing around with the HIB program.

On the one hand, the HIB program, as is being used, is not encouraging the immigration of the “best and brightest”.
“The largest users of the H-1B program are offshore outsourcing firms, whose business model depends on moving as much work overseas as possible. And these firms do not use the program as a bridge to immigration, for they sponsor very few of their workers for green cards. For example, in 2006, Wipro Technologies applied for 19,450 H1B positions but only for 69 green cards, a 0.004 green card to H1B application ratio.”

And on the other hand, the Indian IT firms are blatantly using HIB for labour arbitrage. The H1B program’s primary safeguard for US as well as H1B workers was the requirement that an H-1B worker be paid the prevailing wage.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has a vast majority of its personnel in the US on either H1B or L1 visas. But its vice-president Phiroze Vandrewala has told Businessworld how his company derives a competitive advantage by paying its visa holders below-market wages.
“Our wage per employee is 20-25 percent lesser than U.S. wage for a simlar employee. Typically, for a TCS employee with five years experience, the annual cost to the company is $60,000-70,000, while a local American employee might cost $80,000-100,000. This (labour arbitrage) is a fact of doing work onsite. It’s a fact that Indian IT companies have an advantage here and there’s nothing wrong in that….The issue is that of getting workers in the U.S. on wages far lower than local wage rate.”

I cannot help agree with the facts in this article. I totally agree that firms like these which abuse the system ought to be severely punished and blacklisted, so that genuine US companies can get their required workers, when they need them.

Read the full story here: Outsourcing America’s technology and knowledge jobs

The H1B mess continues -

Sometimes I'm just too pissed to write about an issue - such as the case with H1B visa's and the recent Immigration Bill that just died in the Senate.

Buried in the questionable Immigration Bill was a massive increase in the number of H1B visas and a new L1 visa program. While its difficult to tell which is really worse right now I'll focus on the H1B visa issue.

Unfortunately the H1B visa program has bipartisan support. I expect Heather and Saint Pete to not care about the middle class or High Tech workers but when the Dems stab us in the back its hard to ignore. While I'm not sure how Rep. Udall views the H1B program I'm sad to say that it has received unwavering support from Senator Bingaman. My communication with his staff has been disappointing. Essentially when it became clear that I didn't agree with them they blew me off -

My first email -

--- intro stuff deleted-----
I'm writing to inquire about Senator Bingaman's views on H1B visas. I became alarmed recently when I discovered that the number of H1B visas would be increase massively by the new Immigration bill. I understand that the Senator was successful last week in cutting the number of visas issued in half but not sure how that effects numbers of future H1B visas.

I and others oppose H1B visas since they are simply a mechanism to cut high tech worker salaries. I personally know of situations where companies only hire H1B visa holders for certain types of jobs - US citizens/legal residents need not apply. The whole situation is simply a farce and the "safeguards" that are supposed to prevent abuse are a joke. I urge Senator Bingaman to join Senator Durbin in opposing more of these visas.

Thanks for your time and be well -
--- end stuff deleted-----

Their reply to the email above......
--- intro stuff deleted-----
xxxxxxx xxxx asked that I get back to you regarding your inquiry about H-1Bs. I am the Senator's staffer who works on immigration issues. As you know, the legislation that we are debating as part of the immigration bill raises the annual allocation of H-1Bs to 115,000, but also contains an escalator mechanism that allows this number to grow up to 180,000 if the cap is reached each year. The immigration bill also tightens the rules regarding the issuance of H-1Bs (these protections were added at the request of Senator Durbin).

Last week, Bingaman voted to impose a surcharge of $3,500 on employers who hire H-1B workers (in addition to the $1,500 fee) to raise scholarship money for American students to pursue degrees in mathematics, engineering, nursing, medicine, or computer science. Although he believes that we should ensure that there is an avenue for talented foreign-born immigrants to work and study in the United States, he also strongly believes that the best way to ensure our nation's competitiveness is to invest in educating our youth and improving the skill set of our workforce.

The amendment Bingaman offered reduced the number of guest worker visas allocated under a new program (separate from the H-1B program) that allows foreign workers to fill a wide variety of non-agricultural jobs throughout the economy. The number of workers under the original version of the bill could have allowed up to 600,000 of such workers to be admitted each year (his amendment reduced this number to 200,000).

Senator Bingaman has many concerns about guest worker programs and their affect on American workers, and as we discuss the immigration bill he will continue to fight to ensure that we are not undercutting American workers.

Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.
--- end stuff deleted-----

My reply......
--- intro stuff deleted-----

Thanks for the quick reply -

To be blunt - the problem with all this is that its really a fraud. And sadly, like the bankruptcy bill, its another place where the Democratic Party is stabbing the middle class in the back yet again.

If we are simply gonna import more workers in the Tech industry why do we need to train them? I teach IT and can't tell you how many of my students over the last few years have told me that they were losing their jobs to outsourcing or to a HIB visa holders. Enrollment in IT programs is falling nationwide because student know there are no jobs - the House/Senate/Administration is working hard to send them offshore.

Re: the $3,500 to train workers for jobs that aren't there - well the employers will just take that out of the "hides" of the poor slobs from India or China who get H1B visas. Remember, once they get to the US they can't change jobs or move around. They are stuck. To change jobs they have to go home and start again so their employers can do whatever they want to them. These poor folks are in a kind of hi-tech slavery. Like the bankruptcy bill - sooner or later Senator Bingaman will be embarrassed by his votes for this program.

Be well,
--- end stuff deleted-----

No further replies for Bingaman's office - another email from me......
--- intro stuff deleted-----
xxxxxxx, xxxxxx:

You may have heard of this YouTube video on H1B visas -

Please view it!

It clearly shows that H1B visa process is a fraud.

After this I can't see how Senator Bingaman will continue to support these visas.

The program must be ended now!

Be well,
--- end stuff deleted-----

To date nothing else from Bingaman's office -

Its clear - I will be ignored from now on -

Just so you won't miss it - here's the informative YouTube video on the subject. It pretty much explains how the process is manipulate by Corporate America today and why the "safegards" to protect American workers are a sad joke: