Layoffs Send H-1B Holders Back to India

Ann All

Though they're hardly an official economic indicator, demand for H-1B visas tends to bubble up in times of economic prosperity and flatten in times of decline. As I pointed out in a post from April, the number of H-1B visas rose and fell with the IT industry's fortunes during the rapid build-out of dot-com businesses in the late 1990s and collapse of many of them in the early part of this decade.


Thanks to the current recessionary environment, it looks like 2009 may be the first year since 1996 that fewer than 65,000 of the visas (the annual number allowed under the current cap) are issued, I noted in my post.


According to the San Jose Mercury News, just 46.700 H-1B visa applications had been submitted as of late October, the lowest number since 2003. (The IT industry was hurting then too, of course, thanks to the previously mentioned dot-com bust.) The quota for 20,000 additional H-1B visas reserved for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges with at least a master's degree was met, though the article indicates applications are still being accepted.


The article mentions several of the same factors I cited in my post, including restrictions that make it tough for financial companies receiving money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to hire H-1B workers, the cost and hassle of filing H-1B applications and growing unease over hiring H-1B workers when domestic unemployment rates are so high. Yet the economy seems to be the biggest issue. Les French, president of WashTech, a Seattle-based union for tech professionals that is critical of the visa program, tells the Mercury News that application levels will rise as the economy returns to health. He said:

Once the economy picks up, you'll see a pickup in the applications. I think it will be lock-step with the economy.

The article also quotes Samta Kapoor, who is finishing up a master's degree in engineering management at Duke University and has been told by prospective employers that they are not hiring international students this year. The economy is also affecting H-1B holders who had already found employment in the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, some 16,000 to 20,000 Indian H-1B holders have returned home after losing their jobs.


H-1B holders who lose their jobs must quickly find another job, leave the country or convert to a B1/B2 tourist visa, which doesn't allow them to work, but gives them some time to get their affairs in order before moving back to their home country. For many H-1B holders, it can be tough readjusting to their native culture, and is even tougher if they have children who have never lived in India.


Some Indians are bitter about losing their jobs, while others are more pragmatic. Niraj Sharma, a New York City consultant who had a month to prepare for a return to India, told the Journal that H-1B holders "knew its limitations." He said:

But the work experience in the U.S. was tremendously valuable and it provides us with leverage in Asia to prosper. ... If the next opportunity is in the UK or Africa, we will go there. People have always moved to places of opportunity. While the U.S. will always be a beacon of opportunity, other countries have also started competing with it.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 16, 2009 12:09 PM P Henry P Henry  says:

Good Riddance.  Can you please leave now as well, Ann, so that we might get an author that has a little sympathy for American IT workers?

Nov 16, 2009 2:17 PM Jay Jay  says: in response to P Henry

IT workers overpriced themselves out of the market for what they contribute. They scared away many companies out of the country. You people need to realize that there are many highly talented, skilled people all over the world. IT is no longer some secret trade of a select few. There are IT companies elsewhere also, that have access to skilled people elsewhere. For American companies to survive they either need to import foreign work force, or move to another country. Another way out would be, if IT workers realize that the dotcom bubble burst long time ago, and those inflated pay rates can never be seen again and go back to work with reasonable pay rates, that can save American IT companies from going out of business (or relying on foreign workforce or moving elsewhere for survival) too.

Nov 16, 2009 3:03 PM Zee Zee  says: in response to Jay

Yes, let's get back to the correct value assessments: where ambulance-chasing lawyers and financial analysts who lose millions of dollars for their clients earn twice as much (at least) as the technical wizards who build and maintain the modern consumer marketplace (i.e. the Web).

Expect American college computer science programs to almost completely empty out by around 2015: I am told that it's already happening.

Nov 16, 2009 4:42 PM Bart Bart  says: in response to Jay

Again, the myth of the overpriced American techie. Washtech debunked that myth ten years ago. The fact is that the vast majority of H-1B workers are average quality workers with ordinary intellects and common skill sets. They got into our country in large part by leveraging the contingent labor market (bodyshops) that used to hire Americans. Once they got established in companies, they forced out Americans through a variety of means and thwarted the hiring of American job applicants. Good riddance to them. The overwhelming majority of American IT workers never made more than a middle class salary if that. And the companies worked well and were profitable with them.

Nov 18, 2009 9:09 AM DaveHere DaveHere  says:

This whole program is a farce.  It's a fine example of how corrupt our government is.  If they are going to have a program which allows Americans to be replaced by cheap endentured labor, why can't they just have the guts to say it.  Quit using words like "Temporary" "Guest".  It seems the only time they actually go home is when the economy is in the toilet. 

Jay - To suggest Americans overpriced themselves out of the market is pretty funny.  We'd have to be ogranized to do something like that.  If we were organized, we wouldn't be in this mess.  Most Techies think they are above it all until it's knocking on their door, and then it's too late.  The Corporate interests divided and conquered our asses out of existence.  They used our independent nature against us.

Nov 18, 2009 9:14 AM DaveHere DaveHere  says:

Jay - I'm just curious - How much do you instruct your employer to withhold from your salary each year in accordance to what someone else "around the globe" will do your job for?  Just curious.

Nov 18, 2009 8:13 PM JL JL  says: in response to Jay

Then send the work where you want.

If a job isn't being performed by a US citizen then it really doesn't have much value to the country as a hole.

So take you tech job and ship them to mars for all I care, but don't import cheap labor!

Nov 19, 2009 5:01 PM BeenH1Bed BeenH1Bed  says: in response to DaveHere

DaveHere hit the nail on the head. After our beloved National Science Foundation lobbied congress to import cheap labor...holding hands with industry of course...the floodgates were open. This is why a Bachelor's degree in IT/Comp Sci is now roughly equivalent to a H.S. Diploma 10 or 20 years ago, in terms of standard of living. Corporate interests have way too much power, the worker has very little. Miraculously, the right-wing movement, after capturing the public agenda, has somehow convinced the new-collar workers that unions work against them. That was their true genius.

Nov 23, 2009 9:54 AM Dallas Eshelman Dallas Eshelman  says:

It will be interesting to see the impact this has on the Indian economy when there is an influx of skilled workers who are used to earning $50/hour.

Nov 23, 2009 9:57 AM Jordan Jordan  says:

If IT workers are overpaid, why US students avoid computer science?

Nov 23, 2009 10:04 AM George Kovachev George Kovachev  says: in response to P Henry

To P Henry,

If you are so concerned about your compatriots you must first convince your bosses not to hire foreigners - people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. Your managers are the people to address, not the poor people from India who got all the way to the US to make a living - they left their homes to serve you people at lower rates, longer unpaid hours, no benefits, and insecure jobs.

You should also know that if it has come down to axing those people who work for meager salaries, your jobs would probably be next. And when you go, guess who will go to college and major in CS - NOBODY!!! You will be forced to outsource all IT projects to India and China, and I can see that you have already gone a long way down that path.

Please, see Zee's comment below. It is so very true.

And please, don't consider your country to be the only good place for IT in the world. There are many other places that offer similar and nowadays better opportunities. For the people who leave there will be plenty of jobs in India, and knowing US managers' selfish thinking, plenty more to come.

Nov 23, 2009 10:37 AM George Kovachev George Kovachev  says: in response to Javier Acosta

I think you will see the problem when your companies become unable to compete because they don't have enough competent IT people in their ranks.

   The reason why US companies hire foreigners is twofold: there aren't enough qualified Americans (just see the stats on CS major college graduation rates for the past 5 years) or the company budgets are too thin to afford an American at a regular rate. Of course, there is also the negative part - people like Bill Gates, with all the money in the world, trying to reduce costs. Those are the people you should really be worried about.

Don't get me wrong, I feel you - it is never easy to compete against knowledgeable people in an engineering profession. Just look at the GPAs of foreign and domestic graduates and will get the picture. I understand you need that job desperately, esp. with you lavish spending habits.

   It is also true that your bosses are getting rid of you every time their balances or bonuses are in peril. That will always be the case as long as  they are in charge. Boy, those MBA degrees are really good, aren't they!? So good, that they manged to fool you in accepting the workers from India and China to be the real problem.

Your corporate culture will be your undoing. The banking sector was clear-cut example. They got their bonuses and you got booted and will continue to get booted until corporate principles are those of greed and self-interest.

I recently spoke to a union worker in Canada. It was revealing. He told me that US corporations view people as regular assets in accounting, not as resources to be nurtured and developed. That is why you guys are ranting about your predicament and that is why IT professionals discourage their kids, friends, and acquaintances from pursuing careers in IT.

Nov 23, 2009 11:14 AM billy billy  says: in response to George Kovachev


There are no so called US IT jobs any more. All the companies are doing business in third world countries like china and india to makes loads of profit. for example Coke gets 80% of revenue not from USA. it is from other countries. mcDonalds, Walmart, Subway are minting money outside india. So if a a IT job in those companies is not any more called as American jobs.  World is flat now. so the education is the key. We should encourage our kids to complete their education.  basically i am an indian completed my engineering long back in india and settled here. I see that even indian kids or any other kids of that matter does not value education when they are 18. however they tend to value when they are 35 which is sad. see the enrollment is schools 18s are dropouts and partime and >35 are getting enrolled to start their career, it is pathetic. I agree few intelligent kids out there but that is not enough to lead USA. The society is built that way. We have to change and educate out kids to pursue education. parents does not have enough time to spend with kids. Parents are trapped in rat race and work to make ends meet. I do not see a light in this discussion, however next generation need to be strong and educated or more jobs will go to the talented people across the globe.

Nov 23, 2009 11:26 AM Billy Billy  says: in response to Bart

i do not agree with JAy or Bart.

it is not over priced or ordinary skills. Most of the jobs which consulting companies fill are so called temp jobs. if you see it close all jobs goes for > 12 months. Why cannot companies hire for full time. companies does not want to do that for so many reasons. comapnies are to be blamed here. every ce0 wants to make profit. hiring temp workers is the key.

i have been an IT consultant for many years, I travelled across north america to do my job. i see lot of people do that kind a work, however comapnies are willing pay for air fare and fly people from east to west and west to east. do you think there are no people locally? i do not think so. there are lot of things on the upper mangement is not visible down. that is corporate america.

as long as govt eliminates the temp consulting work, these problems cannot be resolved.

Nov 23, 2009 11:27 AM billy billy  says:

well said.. lot of people does not know how corporate america works!! so sad.

Nov 23, 2009 11:40 AM billy billy  says:

here is an article which i thought will be use full.  education is the key. let us encourage our kids to get a degree before they see a $$$. this is how I was brought up in those days.  now kids have too much distractions, medai, clubs, etc etc...

"The very idea of redistributing wealth can feel un-American in the land of Horatio Alger, until you look closely at how it's spread now. Half of us earn less than $30,000 a year, 90% less than $100,000. To get an idea of how we value our values, Howard Stern earns every 24 seconds what takes a cop or a teacher about a week. Parents hoping to persuade their children to buckle down in school might try this: as an adult, the more you know the less you'll have to work. Those with a high school degree or less spend far more of their time on the job than those with a college degree or beyond." 

from time.com



Nov 23, 2009 11:52 AM WeNeedJobs WeNeedJobs  says:


I hope you read this, but doubt you will.  Luckily I am currently employed as an embedded fw engineer.  However as I age, I see the writing on the wall.  It used to be that all I had to have was a willingness to learn, and a quick learning curve to get a job.  Now those working for the Corporations in America ask for a PERFECT fit.  Its just not possible to get away with this unless they can recruit from around the world.  Its not even really necessary since we have been trained to pick up new technologies quickly.  However, a perfect fit which is cheaper is a benefit to the Corporation, but not really to the Nation.

We can all profit and look out for each other if we try.  Its not that IT salaries are too high here, its that they are too low over seas.  Look at the bank accounts of the hitech corporations and you will see that there is no lack of money, its a lack of caring for each other.

Finally, back to the age problem.  Do us all a favor and engage in 70's style investigative reporting that actually adds some kind of value to your fellow citizens.  Look into how those in tech who are in the late 40s and above are doing in the work place.  It wouldn't be too hard to find age discrimination.

Best Regards,


Nov 23, 2009 3:20 PM George Kovachev George Kovachev  says:

Einstein once said that is not possible to find a solution to a problem in the context, in which it first appeared. The job market is no exception.

Just see Zeitgeist and Jaque Fesco's idea about the resource based economy. The man is way ahead of his time. As he aptly said "when politicians cannot solve a problem, they create a law".

Do you really want your children and grandchildren to live your hard lives? There are alternatives. Think about it.

Nov 23, 2009 3:23 PM vplite vplite  says: in response to WeNeedJobs

The work performed by IT workers has been the driving force with American and world wide growth.  Worker productivity has increased over the last 4 decades principally as a result of the work of IT workers.

To say these workers are overpaid is to minimize their contributions have had for all Americans and consumers.

Most corporate managers don't understand the technology well enough. so they tend to minimize what it takes.  IT workers not only must produce, them must also continuously retrain themselves with constant updates in technology and tools.  The carpenters shovel and hammer hasn't significantly changed in 200 years.  How many different languages and development environments has the IT profession learned and then forgotten after it's been upgraded?  

If your going to pick a profession to outsource how about considering our attorney friends, I think they get paid more and do less good then any other profession, yet we have an oversupply of them in this country, 50% of the worlds supply of lawyers with less than 5% the the world population.  How about our HR professionals, what do they do again?  and its not even technical.  I see our acccounting friends clocking out at 5:00PM every day, right on time.

Last but not least, remember the IT professional pays local, state and Federal taxes and social security that average 35-40% of his/her gross pay.  The individual never sees that money and that money alone pays for 2-3 outsourced workers in India/China and eastern Europe.   We ought not to allow companies that outsource to benefit from American worker taxes exported to foreign countries.

Nov 23, 2009 3:43 PM Richard Przybylski Richard Przybylski  says:

I agree, the quicker you get them out the better off we will be.  It sure is nice to gt a Masters at Duke, but because of the Crazy High tuition costs the people here from India and the rich are the only ones that can afoord to accomplish this goal without taking out another mortgage on their house.  Ever notice when you get called about a job it's fro a guy or woman that is lucky they speak English?  I have lost more jobs because the guy that was interviewing me couldn't tell me what he wanted so that I could understand him.  Thanks for hiring those guys.  I really had a chance there.  Oh by the way the job was filled with a guy from India and the job is in a government related position with NO-FORN written on it.  Thanks for that as well.  To add to that I was applying for a position with a company that does exactly what I was dooing at my last job except because the individual had no idea what he was talking about couldn't provide me with the information I needed to even give te right answer even if he could speak English.  Just because you can say English words and put them into something similar to a sentence doesn't mean you can be understood.  Ann wait until you are unemployed for a year and have people from India get your job maybe you will change.  I am still an unemployed Project Manager that not only faces economy strain, but low dollar India recruits.  I have knowledge of more areas then you can imagine but yet I am stuck with an interviewer that can't speak English worth crap.  What a criteria for not getting a job.

Nov 23, 2009 6:04 PM Rich Rich  says: in response to vplite

You are so correct vplite.  I have been unemployed for a year now and have been doing nothing but submitting resumes, participating in webinars, taking classes on and off line, re-assessing the IT trends toward cloud computing, CISSP, and a host of new MS products coming online in a couple of months.  We will all have to get out feet wet with MS Studio 2010 and SharePoint Designer 2010 and SharePoint 2010.  However, the top executives just have to know what it all does.  They make ridiculous decisions about cost vs functionality and we all end up looking foolish because we have to spend months extra in development to get around issues and make things work like the new software provides for security, development, and functionality.  have you ever seen a top executive go to the W3C site?  I was at a firm that was so far behind the times that their first PC entered the office in 2001 and they are one of the top healthcare firms in the world.  That says alot about non-verticle thinking.  As IT functionality and technology increase, security standards increase, productivity increases, more jobs develop, an increased need for local support which means even more jobs, and our normal comfort level is enhanced.  Who could ask for more?  Why do we continuously try to be back in the 60's when it is obvious we are in the 21st century and growing quickly?  As you indicated vplite, what would it be like if the hammer was still a stone because a stone worked well to pound fasteners in with, or why do we nee cars for that matter or even electricity when sticks and fire work just as well.  We could all live in caves and there would be no executives just mean crule greedy people wanting your woman or man.    

Nov 23, 2009 6:30 PM Rich Rich  says: in response to Javier Acosta

You are absolutely correct.  Remember the days when Japanese cars had a tariff on them so high that American cars could compete and then Korean cars showed up (Scarry mobiles)? Now we need to do the same to outsourcing.  If a company outsources their work then what ever the product cost is a tax should be levied of equal poduct price value.  In other words if you are charged 9.99 for an hour of service then 9.99 should be tax if his is an out sourced company.  That way people will move to companies from the US that may be better value.  I also don't think that MS or any of the high end companies should be supplying countries outside of our national borders with the same product that we have here in the US.  Similar to our military products that we sell.  We never sell top of the line products; they are always missing some functionality.  If you give all of the technology to oursourced countries, then of course they ar going to be leaders especially if you give it to them first.  Azure has been on the market for how long?  How can India already have experts at a product we are just now seeing?  Even better, SharePoint Beta is out, how can India already have experts at the product?  I am sick of trying to compete with a county that is given more than the country the product was developed in.   Hey Ann where's the logic to that?  By the way what's the title to your job?  I'm a little overqualified but I bet I can under bid for your seat.  I am still unemployed and $290/week I am sure you can live on like I am.  Next week the Cardboard Box  WOOOO HOOOO! 

Nov 23, 2009 6:36 PM Rich Rich  says: in response to Dallas Eshelman

Many of the Inidans I know are making much less and that is how they under bid the current staff.  I wish I was making even half of that right now.  The was a rumor a while back that the fed's were paying $54K to Indian Tech's to come to the US.  That was the cost of the H1 visa I understand. I wa thinking about moving to India to get a job until the surge forced me out of the country or I made enough money to get back home.  Allot of thoughts go through your head when you are unemployed and about to lose your home.

Nov 23, 2009 8:14 PM Robbie Singh Robbie Singh  says: in response to P Henry

being a us citizen and of indian descent working in the IT industry, please dont target the people, its the companies and policies that are being abused- not the worker. an aspiring worker from another country does not make the choice about H1-or visas..its the hiring companies which are of course US based.

Nov 23, 2009 8:45 PM Javier Acosta Javier Acosta  says: in response to Robbie Singh

This is true...  I belive that companies that send jobs and hire over seas should be the ones penalized, removing any type of assistance or even taxing them at a higher rate.  It really concerns me that we are sending all of our it jobs overseas when we have qualified people in the US.  If the H1 holder is here should have an oportunity to search for a job.  But it will be ONE less job for an american that is already here.  We have unemployment close to 10% and we have to compete on our own country for the job.  Let say that the Indian worker, or whatever nationality because Indians and Pakistanies are not the only ones here, cant find a job so they should return to their country... But it should not be looked as a problem with companies loosing talent... It is an oportunity for an american family to have food, pay their mortgage and to not loose their home.

Nov 24, 2009 9:17 AM George Kovachev George Kovachev  says: in response to Rich

You are dreaming:1. If Japanese manufacturers were not allowed on the US market some 60 years ago, American manufacturers would have had no competition and with no competition there would have been no incentive to improve quality.2. If you do NOT cell high-quality products abroad, someone else WILL - the Japanese, the Chinese, Germany, UK, etc. Sorry to break it to you pal, but the US is not the only technologically developed country in the world. Furthermore, look at your own history. Before the Declaration of Independence, the British were doing to you exactly what you are currently suggesting the US should do to the rest of the world - sell them high-quality manufactured products and use them only as a source of raw materials. That's what the British did - the did not allow the colonies to develop sophisticated technologies and allowed them to sell only raw materials and cheap low-quality manufactured products. Well, people around the world aren't so stupid anymore. You're going to have to come up something better.

Nov 24, 2009 9:44 AM George Kovachev George Kovachev  says: in response to Rich

You are right but it was because they were offered lower salaries, and not because they wanted to earn less :).My advice to you is: DO NOT MOVE OUT OF THE COUNTRY!!! BECOME A CONSULTANT AND BLANACE THE EQUATION!!! As a long as you let your bosses make all the decisions, you will lose. As consultant you will decide how much you want to charge them :).The Indians have very little to do with your problems, and there are not only Indians - there are Irish, Eastern Europeans, British, Russians, and so, just to lower extent.Believe me, life as a consultant is much better. You will work less get paid more, and you will decide how much or how little you want to work. Good luck.

Dec 4, 2009 10:42 AM ram ram  says:

To all people who want to send h1b's back home. Isn't that injustice. Show discrimination against h1b workers while hiring them ( by all means an american  citizen should get first preference). But once hired there should be no discrimination during layoff's etc - the criteria should not include visa status/ citizenship status. A h1-b employee deoesn't lose anything if he/she is not hired. But there is so much at stake when laid-off(taking into consideration the 20 days relocate back home(half way around the world), needs to have a job offer before the last day of work , no unemployment benifits etc)

If there is high unemployment - don't get any new h1-b's but leave people already here on h1-bs alone. They are here because their positions couldn't be filled with american citizens in the first place.

More over  10 % unemployment means  15.7 million americans out of work. In a world  where there are no h1-bs (about 300k ) there would still be 15.4 million americans out of work, that doesn't even scratch the surface of the unemployment figures. Go find somebody / something else to blame.

Dec 5, 2009 6:06 PM Zee Zee  says:

The Wall Street Journal article cited in this article at the link:

"According to The Wall Street Journal, some 16,000 to 20,000 Indian H-1B holders have returned home after losing their jobs."

...has been found to be full of fabrications and plagiarism. Try the link now and you'll see:

A Nov. 10 "New Global Indian" online column by New York City freelance writer Mona Sarika has been found to contain information that was plagiarized from several publications, including the Washington Post, Little India, India Today and San Francisco magazine. In the column, "Homeward Bound," about H-1B visa holders returning to India, Ms. Sarika also re-used direct quotes from other publications, without attribution, and changed the original speakers' names to individuals who appear to be fabricated. The column is the only work by Ms. Sarika to be published by the Journal, and it has been removed from the Journal's Web sites.

Mar 11, 2010 2:45 PM robbie robbie  says: in response to Mario

seriously....if you really did not want any foreigners here, then why is the us government trying to woo foreign capital money? oh wait...we have to be rich to be here. thats right.

I suggest you read this article



Mar 11, 2010 5:36 PM Mario Mario  says: in response to Zee

I agree with Dave and also Matt. I have nothing against foreigners,,I just wish they would go back to their own country and ruin..... it.

Mar 20, 2010 2:19 PM Bob Bob  says:

Once Indian workers get into an IT department they sabotage the American workers and feed confidential company information to their Indian friends who work in Indian body shops.  Then when there are openings in the IT department these Indian friends get first shot at the jobs.

When these same Indian employees are told to interview American candidates they purposely talk with extremely strong accents so that the American candidate cannot understand them and the Indian claims that the American "failed" the interview. 

I have worked around hundreds of these imported Indian workers and they are of low skills and low quality.  The reason the employers like them is because they work for such low wages.  Many of them have completely made up resumes.  Some of the schools that they "graduated" from do not have computers.

The H1 program is a total scam.


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