Lots of Opinions, Few Proposals as H-1B Rush Approaches

Ann All

In less than two months, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B applications for fiscal 2009. Most experts predict a rush similar to last year, when the cap was reached on the first day of eligibility.


The agency is doing what it can to streamline the process, including introducing an electronic notification system, so employers will find out sooner whether their petitions for visas were successful, reports InformationWeek. Also, according to the Pacific Daily News, the USCIS will devote dedicated resources to processing H-1B applications exempt from the standard cap, such as those from universities and nonprofits.


As the date approaches, I expect to see more debate about H-1Bs, both pro and con. But while just about everyone has an opinion, few folks offer possible solutions, other than the glaringly obvious and -- let's be honest -- overly simplistic idea of increasing the cap.


I think an idea floated last year by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE-USA) deserves a fresh hearing. Rather than raising the cap on H-1Bs, the IEEE-USA is encouraging the feds to allow more EB and F-4 immigrant visas, which put skilled workers on an expedited path toward permanent citizenship.


In theory, employers would find it tougher to get away with such abuses as underpaying foreign-born workers, one of the problems referenced in a Government Accountability Office report on H-1B visas. And such visas likely would be of little interest to Indian outsourcing companies like Infosys and Wipro, which are among the biggest recipients of H-1Bs.


I am also intrigued by a grass-roots proposal to create high-skill immigration zones in economically depressed U.S. cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y. As described in a letter from Cleveland immigration lawyer Richard Herman published on the Burgh Diaspora blog, H-1B restrictions would not apply to companies that establish operations in these zones.


Herman writes:

The focus of the proposal, however, is to attract companies with jobs to the Rustbelt and similarly situated regions. These jobs are already being outsourced from the U.S. because of the unavailability of U.S.-born talent, and the near-impossibility of U.S. companies to import those workers into the U.S.

While Herman indicates he'd like such zones to become a part of broader immigration reform, he thinks a smaller proposal stands a better chance of winning political acceptance. (Indeed, many observers believe the sweeping nature of last summer's immigration reform bill is what killed it.)


Herman writes:

A geographic-specific and geographic-limited immigration fix on high-end talent (the High Skill Immigration Zone) is likely to be more politically viable than a wholesale national amelerioration (sic) of immigration restrictions on immigrant talent.

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Feb 7, 2008 2:36 PM Bruce de la Vega Bruce de la Vega  says:
I have a propsed solution to eliminate the rush in April. Auction off 83 H-1B visas each month to the highest bidding sponsor/employee team. This will introduce some badly needed market price discipline, discourage the abuse of these visas to bring in those who are NOT best and brightest, and provide the funds required to conduct proper background investigations of every visa applicant. If done in conjunction with a 90% reduction in the numbers of E-3, F, J, and L-1 visas it will help ameliorate the glut of science and tech workers and help bring back the huge pool of unemployed and under-employed US citizens in these fields back toward full employment. Reply
Feb 7, 2008 6:14 PM Dave Dave  says:
I agree. The central problem with H1-B is that they are being paid half of what a US worker gets paid.Any reasonable reform of H1-B would include auctioning off the visas, so as to exclude the blatantly low-priced cases. Of course, I am still in favor of abolishing the program on moral grounds, and I still want to personally tar and feather anybody who is in favor of H1-B. Reply
Feb 8, 2008 5:08 PM Kim Berry - Programmers Guild Kim Berry - Programmers Guild  says:
PROPOSAL: Along the lines of above - give preference to:a) The most skilled H-1b workers. The best proxy for "skill" is the salary stated on the LCA. It makes no sense to be approving entry level accountants at $16/hour while using a lottery to reject $110k top research candidatesb) U.S. direct users over Indian consulting firms. The intent of H-1b is to improve U.S. competitiveness. But Indian consulting firms use H-1b to facilitate the transfer of U.S. jobs and techonology OUT of the USA, undermining our competitiveness. This is absurd and Congress needs to get a clue - our growing trade deficit is a bigger problem long term than the mortgage crisis. And with both hitting Congress "free trade" and "mortgage deregulation" is jeopardizing every 401k and middleclass citizen in the U.S. Reply
Feb 11, 2008 10:13 AM Lokesh Lokesh  says:
Looking at the current U.S. students who enter the job market with graduate degrees it would be clear why there is a need for H1 type of visas. U.S. graduate schools attract top talent from around the world, and when this talent does not get an opportunity to work in U.S. due to 'lack of work visas' they move to countries like India and China and take with them the 'technology edge' and more jobs (yes - the high paid ones too) are lost from U.S. The low salary for H1 visa professionals is mostly due to the fact that such professionals are forced to choose from the limited opportunities available to them through the 'broker companies' (those who are willing to take a chance on processing H1-B at first place). Reply
Feb 11, 2008 11:03 AM Steve Steve  says:
why not hire the over 40 crowd ... this is where the bulk of our workforce is. Provide the necessary retraining. All the H1B is an excuse to hire under 40 year old workers. There is no real labor shortage. We have an expertise surplus and with an expectation that expertise will be properly compensated. Reply
Feb 11, 2008 11:08 AM Troy Millea Troy Millea  says:
I have a huge issue with this whole concept of ignoring the inside talent of the U.S. and allowing citizens of other countries to come in and take our jobs. I am a recent graduate and have been in the market for an IT job for a few months now. I have been to several interviews and while there I notice that the labor force at work in 90% of these locations are from India or other foreign countries. I graduated with the highest distinction in my field and still I struggle to gain employment. Why is that??? One main reason is that my education would require a higher salary than that of a recipient of an H1-B visa of course. We are cheating ourselves out of being a strong and self supporting country in the long run, as most of these workers gain valuable knowledge and skills here in the U.S. and then take it back home to strengthen their own country. IT is time to put a stop to this as it has been going on too long. Put these funds into our education system and teach our youth the value of technology, and what it means to them in the future. If not we will be over run in all areas of this field and many more. Just take a look at the Maid, Landscaping, Construction, and other fields like these. We have gone cheap as an industrial country, selling out to the lowest non-citizen bid for labor, and this should be an epidemic to be dealt with ASAP. Put A limit on allowing citizenship here in the U.S., that is the bottom line.... Reply
Feb 11, 2008 11:20 AM Alan Alan  says:
The key issue is the salary, stupid! Reply
Feb 13, 2008 10:07 AM Mickey Mickey  says:
Correct me if I am wrong. In order to get an H1b visa, you have to have a B.A. or B.S. degree. Plus, in order for a company to sponser an H1B, they have to meet a salary cap set by the goverment. If this is correct, then H1B workers are not being under paid by US companies plus they would have the same degree as a US citizen. Reply
Feb 13, 2008 12:12 PM Kim Berry - Programmers Guild Kim Berry - Programmers Guild  says:
Mikey,Your "facts" are correct. But your conclusion if flawed:The "salary cap set by the goverment" is split into 4 levels, with level 1 being about the 17th percentile of average wages. By definition Americans are paid on average around the 50th percentile, while most H-1b applications specify "beginner entry-level" level one wages. The Programmers Guild advocates that H-1b be paid a minimum of the 50th percentile wage - they are allegedly the "Best and brightest," right? But this makes industry lobbyists CompeteAmerica and others ballistic. Their goal is to pay wages as low as possible to accomplish the same thing that moving manufacturing to China accomplishes - both at the expense of highly skilled U.S. workers. Reply
Aug 19, 2009 1:56 PM Immigration1 Immigration1  says:

Infosys and TCL companies reduced to move their employees for training on H1b visa. One of the reasons is difficulty to get visa.   


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