H-1B Visas and More in Democrats' Sweeping Immigration Proposal

Ann All

Even many foes of the H-1B visa (the rational ones, anyway) support the idea of clearing a path to permanent residency for talented graduates of U.S. universities. In a nutshell, that means making it easier for these folks to obtain green cards. In a post from last spring, I used an excerpt from my interview with Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a well-known opponent of the H-1B program. When I asked him about green cards, Hira said:


You've got people who are very smart and they want to stay here, but there are interminable waits of six, eight, 10 years. That's unacceptable. I am actually in favor of increasing the green card quotas and having a more rational program.


Streamlining the green card process is just one aspect of a 600-page proposal to overhaul the U.S. immigration system introduced by Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) earlier this month. Much like a piece of sweeping immigration legislation from 2007, that failed despite backing from then-President George Bush, Ortiz's proposal attempts to tackle the issues affecting both the degreed professionals seeking high-skill jobs in the U.S. and the largely uneducated folks that come to the U.S. to fill low-paying service jobs.


Republicans voted against the 2007 bill en masse, coming out strongly against the idea of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. Though similar provisions are included in Ortiz's Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, perhaps politicians angling for re-election will be more willing to support them in an effort to appeal to Hispanics, many of whom voted for both George Bush and Barack Obama.


Drawn from a summary of the legislation, here are some tidbits related to visas and other issues related to temporary employment of skilled foreigners. My commentary appears in parentheses.:

  • Expands requirements for recruiting American workers before hiring foreign nationals, increases authority for Department of Labor to investigate potential fraud and abuse, authorizes annual audits of employers who rely heavily on H-1B program and increases penalties for violations. (The Department of Homeland Security has already stepped up its efforts to crack down on fraud in the H-1B program, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress earlier this year.)
  • Authorizes DHS to audit L-1 visa participants. Penalties will be assessed for violations of the provisions of the L-1 visa program.
  • Creates stricter requirements for recruitment of American workers, and prohibits employers who have conducted a mass lay-off in the past year from participating in the H-2B visa program, and increases protections for workers.
  • Requires written notice of terms of employment to ensure that foreign recruiters do not mislead prospective employees. Requires employers to identify recruiters working on their behalf to Secretary of Labor, to give notice of possible violations, and to be liable for recruitment violations. (In theory, this should cut down on fraudulent uses of visas, like those seen in this indictment of IT services company Vision Systems Group.)


The bill also supports creation of an independent federal Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets that is tasked with developing employment-based immigration policies for the promotion of economic growth, competitiveness, and wage and labor protections. The commission would also analyze and publish employment-related immigration data, and make recommendations to Congress for setting new levels of employment-based migration. (More accurate and transparent employment-related data would be great, as it's been hard to come by in the past.)


Here's some information related to green cards and other visas leading toward permanent residency:

  • Permits the "recapture" of unused employment-based visas and family-sponsored visas from fiscal years 1992-2008 and allows future unused visa numbers to roll over to next fiscal year.
  • Exempts immediate relatives from the annual cap on the number of immigrant visas, and increases the number of visas which may be issued per country per year.
  • Permits qualified workers eligible for an employment-based petition to receive work authorization until a visa becomes available.
  • Exempts from skilled worker numerical cap U.S.-educated foreign nationals who receive science, technology, engineering and math degrees and other critical workforce graduates.


The bill also expands the EB-5 visa program, which is designed to promote foreign investment in the U.S., boosting the annual number of available visas to 10,000 and creating a new venture capitalist visa. Cleveland is among the American cities that have been pushing for expansion of the EB-5 program.

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Dec 31, 2009 2:55 AM POed Lib POed Lib  says:

Yes, that rollover and re-capture situation.  That REALLY SUCKS, ENORMOUSLY.  We have 10 % UNEMPLOYMENT. The recapture would increase the H-1B pool by 330,000 or the equivalent of 4 years of additional H-1Bs.  This is supposed to be a rational program? 

As a liberal, I am going to oppose this bill strenuously.  It is TERRIBLE for the US IT and STEM worker, simply terrible. There are NO provisions for ending the program.  If you have a job and are in IT, write your congressperson and Senator - tell them NO on COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM.

If the Democrats push this, they are going to get slaughtered in 2010.  Not gaining jobs, and pushing programs to allow MILLIONS of ILLEGALS in this country?  Political suicide.  Normal Americans do NOT want this program, and as a liberal, I am pushing VERY HARD to see that progressives and liberals redefine the "H-1B" as "just another illegal immigrant stealing our jobs."

Dec 31, 2009 3:33 AM AccuracyIT AccuracyIT  says:

Right out of the gate look at her remark designed to undermine anti-H-1B views:

"Even many foes of the H-1B visa (the rational ones, anyway) support the idea of clearing a path to permanent residency for talented graduates of U.S. universities."

So if you DON'T support a path to permanent residency foreign students you therefore are irrational.  Other than cheap/docile labor seekers and those shills making a living by promoting cheap/docile labor WHO would agree with that characterization?

She's putting people into either one of 2 worlds:

1)  Rational (IF you believe foreign students should have a visa stapled to their forehead)

2)  Irrational (IF you think American workers should be protected via no NIVs).

I could agree with that if it made any sense.

Dec 31, 2009 3:45 AM Blue Blue  says:

If this legislation passes as proposed, we will see a new generation of for profit 'Universities' created; green card mills  basically selling 'science' degrees.  I support a program which gives green cards to graduates from top 20 programs in the country, as this will give a reasonable assurance of quality.  We need to have academic standards put into play here.  Does this make me an irrational hater?  And why is this mainly aimed at engineering and computer science? Why not give green cards to all degree seekers?  There is no shortage in computer science, for example, so why abuse that portion of the market? I await your response.

And best regards.

Dec 31, 2009 3:54 AM AccuracyIT AccuracyIT  says: in response to Blue

Blue - tell us exactly WHY America needs these foreign graduates.

1)  Do you believe the propaganda there's a shortage of STEM students?

2)  Do you believe American students lack the necessary quality?

3)  Do you know any American worker displaced by cheap/docile foreign labor, one of those perhaps graduating from an American university?

Answers clear and concise please.  Thanks.

Dec 31, 2009 4:07 AM Blue Blue  says: in response to AccuracyIT

Hello AccuracyIT,

"1)  Do you believe the propaganda there's a shortage of STEM students?"

I do believe there is a shortage of top students in certain fields, but this shortage has been created by the corrupt H1b programs and outsourcing. The best and brightest avoid fields which will not lead to a stable and viable career.  There absolutely no shortage of IT workers, if anything there is a shortage of jobs available per qualified applicant. 

"2)Do you believe American students lack the necessary quality?"

No, but I want the best American students taking Computer Science and for them to be confident they will be given a fair chance in the job market.  The US used to be an innovation power house when this was the case, now our smartest want to be bailed out bankers.  But who can blame them? Smart people are often realistic and want a good source of income. 

3) "Do you know any American worker displaced by cheap/docile foreign labor, one of those perhaps graduating from an American university?"

Certainly, and they have a legitimate grievances.

Now all this being said, I am not in favor of turning away graduates form top programs.  I want the best here, and if they can get a top degree I welcome that competition.  Most articles point out the MIT grad working at Google, but this is a very small percentage of H1bs. I want that MIT grad here, but I am against flooding the market with  students whom have bought a green card from a low tier university as it harms US innovation.

Dec 31, 2009 4:30 AM AccuracyIT AccuracyIT  says: in response to Blue

Blue - if I've read and interpreted your responses correctly here's what they are in simplified from:

1) Do you believe the propaganda there's a shortage of STEM students?
There is a shortage of talent because students know about the H-1B and won't sacrifice their future and all the time and money spent on college for a career lasting a few years.
2) Do you believe American students lack the necessary quality?
No but you still want American students going into computer science even though they know about the H-1B and won't sacrifice their future and all the time and money spent on college for a career lasting a few years.
3) Do you know any American worker displaced by cheap/docile foreign labor, one of those perhaps graduating from an American university?

No you have never experienced an American worker being displaced for cheap/foreign labor on a temporary/non-immigrant visa such as the H-1B.

Blue you are likely not aware of the Lake Mary Florida incident in 2004 where Siemens laid off quite a number of American workers, but first required them to train those "highly qualified workers" on H-1B visas, something Americans such as myself rarely if ever received.  This is one of the more infamous ones, but incidents like this have been happening for the past decade.

Perhaps you should cruise the LCA (Labor Condition Application) database which contains all the data regarding the LCA filled out as the prerequisite to hiring someone on an H-1B visa.  The data is quite revealing.  Salaries are low.  The same companies are doing this over and over.  They request H-1Bs in large metro areas where there's a rather large labor pool.  The reason to view this data is to learn what many Americans already know, which is that Americans are being replaced by cheap/docile foreign labor.

Now putting aside all the talk, talk, talk, what exactly is your opinion of American workers being displaced by H-1B visa holders?

What exactly is your opinion of American workers being unemployed while foreign nationals replace those American workers?

Dec 31, 2009 4:38 AM EngiNERD EngiNERD  says:

Immigration   History

In  recent year  we've heard the stories,    the need to open our  borders to those  bright,  brilliant  gifted  foreigners.

Please help  me ought  here     Some   IMMIGRATION  HISTORY

The  period  from 1880 -   1920   saw a great  wave of immigration 

Then  sometime in the  20's immigration  was  greatly curtailed   until the  passage of an Immigration Act in 1965.   

There were No   H-1B's.    In fact  it wasn't until 1990's that we  had an  H-1B  program.   It wasn't  until  2000 that the program  numbers were  expanded to 195,000  per year.

Now here's the question   

How did this country survive the period   1920 - 1990 without an H-1B program?

We seemed to do quite well without the H-1B program. 

Much  (most?)  of our technological achievements were created without H-1B's.  

Of  yes  we   bring  in a  few  truly  gifted scientists,   engineers ,. Fermi,   Einstein,  Teller,  Szilard,   von Braun,  Sir  Frank  Whittle,   Vladimir Haensel    

But they all entered the country without the need for an H-1B visa.

Ever  hear of the 'O'   Visa for the truly gifted ?

Might we return to the day  when  we allowed the  truly gifted engineers/scientists to  stay/enter  in the country  and not allow  any  Tom,  Dick or Patel in stay here.  

Dec 31, 2009 4:48 AM Blue Blue  says: in response to AccuracyIT

I clearly stated that I DO know an American worker displaced by cheap/docile foreign labor.  I also believe my posts have made it very obvious that I am against visa displacement and the outsourcing visa system.  Good sir, please re-read my posts. You seem to be caught up on one stance I do take; a graduate from a top University is more than welcome in the US on a green card.  Also, I am not a subject for your bizarre, and often illogical, inquiries.  You challenge me on points in which your argument is in complete agreement with mine. The one point of contention we may have is that you believe an MIT grad should not be allowed to work in the US if they were not born here, and here our paths part ways. 

Dec 31, 2009 5:00 AM POed Lib POed Lib  says:


You believe that grads of the "top 20" programs should be able to work in the US?  Good luck with that.  Congress being what it is, each state would have the "top 20" programs, and that would leave us with 1000 institutions with grads able to work in the US.   Maybe I exaggerate A TEENSY BIT, but not much.  Your idea is unworkable.  We need to ELIMINATE the program for a 4-8 year period, and then determine if we need the program at all.  I don't believe we do.  Those "best and brightest" from those universities are US students, who also need jobs.  American students who graduate with IT degrees are not getting jobs now.   We do NOT need an influx of foreign students.  Let them go home and fix things up there.

Dec 31, 2009 5:09 AM Blue Blue  says: in response to POed Lib

I agree our represnetatives are not working in our best intersts.  But eliminatign the H1b program will not happen, we need to suggest stipulations that acutally agree with their bizarro argumetns such as "all h1b's are genii". Call them out on it. If the H1b is all about the best and brightest, we can certainly win the argument of only including top 20 nation wide programs.  I want to win this, and we can, if we have a conisistent message which uses their own lies against them. Call them out, best and brightest? Ok, lets make it just that.   The true number of H1bs which are top scientiest is very, very low.  My idea is not only workable, but the winning strategy.

Dec 31, 2009 5:10 AM GetReal GetReal  says:

This whole H1B thing is out of hand, as it has been used to import high tech labor (GUEST WORKERS) to do the kind of work that there were already enough Americans to do.  They should just eliminate it, form an independant commission which does a thorough job of examining all guest worker programs, and need over the last 20 years.  With input from the likes of Ron Hira, labor unions and not just industry.  During this time of high employment we can afford to take a breather and come up with a rational plan that only allows in the best and brightest for jobs that an American cannot fill -- like in some obscure area of Plasma Physics etc.

Dec 31, 2009 5:12 AM GetReal GetReal  says: in response to GetReal

Ok let the ribbing begin.  I mean "at a time of high unemployment", not employment.  This is what happens when there is no editor to proof read stuff...

Dec 31, 2009 9:12 AM RArmant RArmant  says:

"Exempts from skilled worker numerical cap U.S.-educated foreign nationals who receive science, technology, engineering and math degrees and other critical workforce graduates."

This would exclude those with economic, financial, and law degrees, and the non-STEM majors in general.

Why are the STEMs being persecuted???

Jan 1, 2010 1:44 AM chris chris  says: in response to AccuracyIT

Dude go to any university in america and u will find mostly forieners in masters programme for engineering. If no americans are studying engineering and taking up math and physics as their majors, these kind of things will happen

Jan 1, 2010 2:28 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

I just completed my analysis of the immigration bill as it pertains to IT workers.  Hopefully this help you understand the legislation better:

HR 4321-Analysis of the Gutierrez Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill and the impact on skilled workers


Do I support or oppose the bill?  Read the analysis and find out.

Jan 1, 2010 2:36 AM anon anon  says: in response to POed Lib

Can you make any rational comments? your statements don't even make any sense. you start off with illegal immigration and bring H1-B and green card process in the mix...How does that make any sense? Are all the laws and regulations that you see unfavorably "illegal" to you??

Jan 1, 2010 2:53 AM anon anon  says: in response to EngiNERD

Really?? Once a guy becomes an 'Einstein' or 'Fermi'...does he really care? if 'Google' were born in Russia...would the founders bother to make US their home base at an advanced stage?? The point to understand is that US is being viewed as a country of hope and dreams by these future 'Einsteins' and 'Fermis' where they would get the opportunities to rise and shine. It is not a country that is so attractive to move to once you have earned your place.

Jan 1, 2010 3:13 AM anon anon  says: in response to Blue


I don't think the 'top 20' programs idea is really workable for multiple reasons...to begin with, How do you determine the 'top 20'? Ratings differ among assessors...This is the same problem USCIS faces in giving out H1-B and Green Cards...How do you determine who a 'highly skilled worker' is...you will get multiple answers to that...and hence the selection and approval criteria is fudged...

I agree with you that there needs to be clear merit criteria set and univeristy selection criteria set rather than a blanket provision which says any US university can dole out green cards.

I am in favor of curtailing the H1-B program to a certain degree and increasing the green card program. What we don't need in this country is the 'ebbs and flows' of workforce (hired mercernaries through H1-B if you will) which can disrupt american workforce in the short term. Rather, we should welcome skilled workers who are willing to settle here on a long term basis (green card)...This certainly will help the country.

Jan 1, 2010 3:32 AM Blue Blue  says: in response to anon

Determining the top 20 could be based on a culmination of the major University program ranking organizations.  Some schools on the cusp would likely protest, but they would just have to deal with their non-elite status. 

As far as determining "who is highly skilled", the current system has absolutely no standards. There needs to be standards.

Jan 1, 2010 11:23 AM Tim Tim  says: in response to R. Lawson

Here's my new decade resolution, as someone who was once a registered democrat

"I'll never vote for that traitor party (Democrat)every again"

I've had knives  slammed in my back over h-1b, ever since 1998.

Does that mean I'll vote Republican?  No.  But I'll devote my efforts to EXPOSING the Democrat party for the anti-citizen party that it is - it hasnt been a part for working citizens for at least 2 decades

It means that if I'm 100 percent disenfranchised, I dont vote for that people that put me there

Instead I vote 3rd party until enough people get fed up and join me

Jan 1, 2010 12:04 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

Recapture provisions are not well understood.  I've read the legislation and based on my interpretation the recapture provisions make available all unused non-immigrant visas for recapture (it isn't specific to the H-1b visa). 

The body who will be responsible for determining actual numbers will be the Commission on Immigration and Labor Markets.  So even if the visas are recaptured, it is up to that body to determine how many workers on these visas that are truly needed and in what occupations they will be approved for. 

Does anyone (who has actually read the bill) interpret it differently?  The commission is established in section 501 of the bill.  The recapture provisions are detailed in section 301 - which is not specific any one visa type.

Jan 1, 2010 12:49 PM Blue Blue  says: in response to R. Lawson

Good website, R.Lawson.

Jan 2, 2010 2:35 AM Dali Singh Dali Singh  says:

This would be a welcome change for non-immigrant workers who are graduated from Universities here. Often, this group of highly talented, american educated and law abiding individuals gets pushed into the typical H1B program which is made for workers who are usually not educated in the US. As a result they wait for their permanent residence for 6 to 8 years especially when they come from India or China.

To retain this talent, this bill would provide relief to a young worker class who is willing to work hard and smart.

Jan 3, 2010 3:19 AM chris chris  says: in response to Dali Singh

Is IT industry still here? Or is it almost gone / going out like the garment industry? People want jobs but dont try to understand the economics behind job creation. Ok remove the H1b IT personal and will that keep the jobs secure here? If so, it would have been done long long time ago. Immigrant slaves who worked in pitiful conditions could not keep the garment industry here so you think you can be payed high bucks and still the industry can survive here? I asked a friend whether he considered how the strawberries he buys at the local store can be bought at $2.5. He had no idea that it is cheap labor that keeps industry alive or else you will have strawberries come in (packed) from overseas. Now is not the time to cry about loss of jobs but is infact the time to be clever and see the benefit of immigration. I would rather have the work done here by (anybody) than have it done in china/India/elsewhere. Atleast I will have some opportunity in the chain.

Jan 3, 2010 3:29 AM chris chris  says: in response to chris

Those of us who complain about job losses and blame it all on the "so called H1b" visas have to first ask ourselves the question. Where is the underwear that I have on is made? where is the panties I have on made? why is not a citizen making my underwear? Why are now even drugs going to be made in some foreign country? I believe the answer will be clear. "because the producer found it cheaper and you and me my friend want everything cheaper" the busiest store is the greatest importer. Why not have labor force more equipped and cost effective here on this land so that this inflow can somehow be curtailed. You cry out and some poor H1b guy is send off.....Goood job. but so is the project sooner or later!! so where will the job be then???? your high paying job will be distributed among 10/20 low paying jobs in the third world. So the best alternative is not to be shortsighted about these complex economic issues but to be pragmatic. These immigrants are actually saving industry here. Dont believe it? then fight to have them sent out and see what happens.

Jan 4, 2010 4:24 AM ChaseTheMoney ChaseTheMoney  says:

Ms. All's unprofessional and biased dismissal of H-1B opponents prove that this reporter is uninformed, out of touch, and has a conflict of interest. It is obvious that her salary is funded from ad dollars from from Microsoft and other greedy H-1B companies. These greedy corporations deprive Americans the right to compete for jobs in our own country because they bypass Americans and recruit exclusively offshore for USA jobs.

There is no lack of American talent, but there is an abundance of greed (and ad dollars that accompany greed to perpetuate H-1B lies in publications like this). 

IT Business Edge, Ms. All is incompetent and needs to be sent a pink slip.  This reporter is unaware of American reality and needs to go. She dismisses 10% unemployment, ignores H-1B fraud and abuse, betrays American citizens  American citizens.

The USA sent a man to the moon, AND we have gifted, world-class STEM talent SEEKING JOBS IN YOUR BACKYARD.   American workers ARE the Economic Recovery We are READY, WILLING, and ABLE to contribute to our own country and create value - TODAY.

p.s. Ms. All, there are no atheists in foxholes nor H-1B supporters on the unemployment line.   I suspect your own unemployment experience will change your opinions of this corporate visa program that is eradicating the American Middle Class.


Jan 14, 2010 6:44 AM Bob Bob  says: in response to ChaseTheMoney

"Ms. All's unprofessional and biased dismissal of H-1B opponents prove that this reporter is uninformed, out of touch, and has a conflict of interest"

No, it proves that her true profession is one far older than journalism - if you get my meaning

Feb 3, 2010 11:39 AM Danny Danny  says: in response to Bob

I think that the H1B, along with the eb5 investor visa is probably the best visa the US offers. They both allow for permanent residency in a mutually exclusive arrangement. While it is debatable which visa is the more beneficial of the two, that is a debate that really need not take place.


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