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U.S. Citizen or H-1B Candidate? You Make the Call

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After reading my "H-1B Spotlight Shines on a Distraction" post earlier this week, Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild, drew the conclusion that I "favor allowing employers to sponsor H-1B workers regardless of whether qualified Americans are available to do the job."

 

Although that was certainly not the thrust of my post (in this case, qualified Americans were reportedly not available), my response to Berry's statement is that it's accurate. That said, the way I look at it is more a matter of not wanting to see employers categorically prohibited from hiring an H-1B worker when a qualified American is available to do the job. Here's why:

 

Just for the sake of the argument, let's set up a hypothetical situation. Two men, Joe and Jitin, have applied for the same job, and they're the only two candidates the prospective employer can find who have the specialized skills needed. Joe was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. Jitin is a citizen of India, and is applying for the job under the H-1B visa program. The project team that the successful applicant will join is made up of 10 people, all U.S. citizens. The scenario is based on the following assumptions. Joe and Jitin:

 

  • have demonstrated that they are equally qualified for the job.
  • are roughly the same age, and are in equally good health.
  • would be responsible for their own relocation expenses.
  • would receive the same compensation.

 

Now, suppose that it all comes down to the intangibles. Jitin just comes across as a really good guy-he has an upbeat nature and a very friendly disposition, and he seems to have a real chemistry with the team. Joe is kind of a sourpuss, he's prone to making comments that are inappropriate in the workplace, and the team finds him to be somewhat aloof.

 

What happens, then, when the two candidates are equally qualified, but the H-1B candidate is determined to be a better fit with the organization because he has a more pleasant demeanor that embraces teamwork and camaraderie? Should the employer be compelled to choose the candidate who lacks those qualities over a person who exemplifies them, just because that candidate is a U.S. citizen?

 

It all comes down to this: Are there any considerations that trump U.S. citizenship when a hiring decision has to be made?

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