Could Lack of H-1B Cap Attract Companies to Guam?

Ann All

With no end in sight to the H-1B visa shortage, some companies are considering alternative visas for foreign workers such as the L-1, and wecloming a rule change that extends the amount of time foreign nationals with student visas can work in the U.S.


In the absence of more sweeping legislation, they are also hoping for passage of H-1B-friendly bills such as one proposed by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) that would create a separate H-1B category for fashion models, in theory freeing more visa slots for tech workers.


In what may be one of the most unusual H-1B loopholes yet, U.S. territory Guam could become an option for companies that want to hire as many H-1B workers as they'd like on American soil.


Guam has received an H-1B exemption to ensure that enough workers will be available to prepare the island for 8,000 Marines being transferred from Okinawa, writes Computerworld blogger Patrick Thibodeau. The exemption is included in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, approved last month by President Bush. It will expire at the end of 2014.


For companies seeking an H-1B loophole, Guam may be it, writes David Cohen, a former deputy assistant secretary of the interior who is now an attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP:

.. companies frustrated by their inability to secure needed skilled or unskilled employees might consider establishing operations in the CNMI or Guam as an alternative to assuming the risks associated with operating outside of the U.S. As one example, software companies might bring foreign software engineers to work in the CNMI as a way to get them "in the door" while they await the adjudication of their visa applications for work on the mainland ...

Any U.S. company wanting to establish operations in Guam would face some formidable challenges, however. As Thibodeau notes, it's a seven-hour flight from Hawaii. As a commenter to Thibodeau's blog post writes, it also has "one of the most unreliable power grids in the civilized world."


Back in April, I wrote about an interesting proposal to create high-skill immigration zones in economically depressed U.S. cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y. A key feature of such zones would be a lack of H-1B restrictions for companies that establish operations in these areas.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 27, 2008 2:21 PM Roy Lawson Roy Lawson  says:
Your blog largely misses the mark. You blog under the assumption that the only way to meet the needs of the IT industry is to do anything you can to find a loophole in our immigration laws.If there is indeed a shortage of workers in the IT industry we should be focusing on educating our own workforce. I'm sure the thousands of people in economically depressed areas of this country would love to change careers and have a chance at those jobs. If you read last week's InformationWeek you find that IT salaries have actually dropped over the last year. That's right - dropped! So how do you explain that and still claim there is a shortage?We have a shortage of oil in this country. The price of gas, the byproduct of oil, is rising. That's economics 101. The IT industry doesn't have an exemption from the laws of supply and demand. If there is a shortage, as there was during the dot-com craze, salaries take a dramatic rise. IT salaries are going down. IT salaries are going down. IT salaries are going down.The IT workforce remains about the same size. Salaries are going down. There is no shortage, there is no shortage, there is no shortage. Can you wrap your mind around that?I get so tired of hearing "shortage" let total ignorance of the fundemental measures of our industry/profession. The H-1b visa is about, and it has always been about, labor arbitrage. The purpose is to guarantee a lower cost of labor. The statistics indicate that H-1b visa holders are paid less. And even if the statistics are wrong and they are paid the same, the same nagging law of supply and demand apply. More supply = less demand. It is really that simple.Am I the only one who gets that? No, I think Milton Friedman got it when he called the H-1b visa a labor subsidy. Ann, Ann, Ann. Please look at the very simple laws of supply and demand and then tell me there is a general shortage of IT workers. There will always be a shortage, for some business people, of people they can exploit. But that isn't a labor shortage. That's a shortage of ethical business people. You may say there are very specific skills in IT that have a shortage. Fine. But the H-1b visa doesn't have a test or requirement that those specific skills are filled. Why not focus on the O visa? That visa is all about bringing exceptional people to our country. Reply
Jun 28, 2008 3:13 PM Jon Anderson Jon Anderson  says:
The commentator may be mixing up Guam and the CNMI with the remark about the unreliable power system. While Guam did have a shortage of power in the early 90s, that has largely been corrected. The island now has twice the peak generating capacity it needs, or 100% redundancy. In the CNMI, on the other hand, Saipan, the main island, is going through frequent loan shedding and an unreliability that is astonishing. There is no end in sight, for there are no firm plans to upgrade the inadequate system or improve maintenance or general management. A generally weak economy contributes to the problem, but there is no excuse for the lack of leadership and political wrangling that prevents anything significant from being accomplished. Saipan may well have one of the most unreliable power grids in the civilized world today, but that comment can no longer be applied to Guam. Reply
Jul 12, 2008 7:33 PM Test test Test test  says:
Let me guess when Ann will say when she asks for a raise:"I've churned out 200 articles about how people who understand C++ should be paid less than a truck driver.There is a huge amount of discrimination in the journalism field. I am a woman. At least 50% of the others are men. Give me a raise. I have a deep understanding of technology and have the ability to make it understandable to average users. I have no clue how to write a SQL statement and could not write a simple program to read a text file to save my life. But those skills are for geeks. Not for technology editors who make it all understandable to the people who matter. Like women and minorities."It's pretty understandable why the US lags in technology. Our population wishes to NEGOTIATE salaries; to negotiate immigration, to negotiate affirmative action. The wrong people are being rewarded, over and over.Economics is not a negotiation. What matters, matters; what doesn't, doesn't. A society that continually coddles and rewards the wrong people, that negotiates everything and competes for nothing, will ultimately fail.Under a free immigration policy, programmers would be rich (relatively.)If we truly wanted to compete, we'd eliminate affirmative action, educate the brightest at the best schools, and knock down the wall on our border to Mexico. Mexicans could come in--but would get no affirmative action once here. Similarly, as many people of ALL professions could come from the entire world--as long as they cold buy a plane ticket.Globally, programmers are scarce. The reason their salaries are falling in the US is because we must protect the salaries of HR people, manual laborers, and truck drivers while meanwhile passing laws that screw programmers. It isn't globalization but rather a lack of political clout that's hurting us.And yes, the fact that most programmers are white and Asian males doesn't help us much politically. Reply
Sep 22, 2016 2:00 PM H1b Salaries H1b Salaries  says:
I am a former oil field service worker residing in Houston, TX. I lost my jobs due to the recent turmoil in the oil industry. I am a US citizen that has several dependents and I was the only working person in the family. I am an engineer who studies all my life to secure my future but now I am unemployed because my place was taken by people from India on H1B visas. I have been looking for a job in Houston, Tx for already a year and half. I went to several interviews in Houston, Tx during time and what I discovered simply shocked me - most of the places where I went to employes people from India on H1B visas and those are the ones that denied my application. The people from India coming to the US on H1B visas have penetrated almost all aspects of the US economy thus prohibiting us from getting these jobs. They ask for lower salaries in the beginning but as soon as they get US green cards, it is then they start asking for more. Yo need to abolish H1B visas from India as the 1st step followed by China, but most of the technical jobs are taken by East Indians anyway. if you don't, you will ruin this country in already 10 years. H1B salaries Reply

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