Want Solid H-1B Data? Keep Looking

Ann All

It seems as if everyone in the tech industry has an opinion on H-1B visas. But not many of them are informed -- if by "informed," we use the American Heritage Dictionary definition: Possessing, displaying, or based on reliable information.


Now, we aren't calling anyone stupid. We are merely noting that most of the arguments we've heard -- both for and against -- the controversial visas are based on anecdotal experience rather than hard evidence. This isn't so much a case of rhetoric winning out over rationale as it is a lack of solid data.


A recent MercuryNews.com story refers to the dearth of publicly available data as "startling" and shows that H-1B numbers look quite different, depending upon who provides them.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's estimate of Oracle's H-1B headcount, for example, varies widely from the estimate of the U.S. Department of Labor -- and neither matches Oracle's own data. Indeed, two different lists the Mercury News obtained from Homeland Security did not match up.


Companies themselves seem to exhibit a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude when asked about H-1B employment. After telling a Mercury News reporter that HP does not track its annual application numbers for H-1Bs, an HP spokeswoman does say: "... the employees that have H-1B visas are less than 2 percent of HP's total U.S. employee population."


Cisco simply tells the reporter: "There is currently a shortage of technically skilled workers in the U.S., and as Cisco hiring overall has increased in recent years, so has our use of H-1Bs to fill certain highly specialized positions."


The data issue heated up earlier this year when government numbers seemed to indicate that Indian outsourcing companies such as Infosys and Wipro were among the biggest recipients of H-1B visas.


An AFL-CIO representative says the lack of data indicates lax oversight by the federal government, a key point made by H-1B critics who say there is no way to know how many H-1B visas are actually needed until loopholes and abuses in the program are addressed.


"There's no good data," the executive director of the American Council on International Personnel tells the Mercury News, and that meshes with what outsourcing expert and H-1B critic Ron Hira told IT Business Edge in May:

This is the first time that much of this data has come to light. Why has it taken so long? How can you have a rational policy-making process without the critical information? The reason we don't have it is, of course, companies have been unwilling to reveal it.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 16, 2007 11:36 AM Bill Gates Bill Gates  says:
In the original article there is some confusion. The DoL does not provide estimates on H-1B numbers. The DoL has labor condition applications (LCA). Typically in a year there are over 300,000 LCAs covering up to 700,000. The LCAs can be used to get rough estimates about H-1B usage. They can't tell you how many visas a particular company got (which is what the Merc article suggested they did). By looking at the numbers of LCAs you can get an idea of who is getting the most visas but not the exact number.The solution to this problem is to publish the actual visa data. Industry lobbyists hate this idea because it would certainly confirm the trends in the LCA data that show the H-1B program is a total disaster. Reply
Aug 4, 2008 3:07 PM jorgen jorgen  says:
Database:http://www.flcdatacenter.com/CaseH1B.aspx Reply
Jul 3, 2009 10:49 AM jon merrik jon merrik  says:

By my simple count, since 1998 over 4 million H-1Bs have entered and remained in the country. There is a estimated IT workforce of 4.5 million which by the way has NOT changed since 2000.

By my calculation thats 95% unemployment for americans. Thats unacceptable and cultural suicide for our government to support this program.

Worse, most H-1Bs are utter cheats, the least of their crimes, filing with a nonexistent degree or the more common 3 year degree when the program clearly specifies a 4 year degree.

Finally, what american understands hindi well enough to actuall follow up on who really has a degree.

Instead of getting engineers, we are getting a log of wet behind the ears 20 yr olds who have never been to school at all.


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