What Americans don’t know about H-1B visas could hurt us all

BillGcspan 300x225The H-1B visa program was created in 1990 to allow companies to bring skilled technical workers into the USA. It’s a non-immigrant visa and so has nothing at all to do with staying in the USA, becoming a citizen, or starting a business. Big tech employers are constantly lobbying for increases in H-1B quotas citing their inability to find qualified U.S. job applicants. Bill Gates and other leaders from the IT industry have testified about this before Congress. Both major political parties embrace the H-1B program with varying levels of enthusiasm. But Bill Gates is wrong. What he said to Congress may have been right for Microsoft but was wrong for America and can only lead to lower wages, lower employment, and a lower standard of living. This is a bigger deal than people understand: it’s the rebirth of industrial labor relations circa 1920. Our ignorance about the H-1B visa program is being used to unfairly limit wages and steal — yes, steal — jobs from U.S. citizens.

There are a number of common misunderstandings about the H-1B program, the first of which is its size. H-1B quotas are set by Congress and vary from 65,000 to 190,000 per year. While that would seem to limit the impact of the program on a nation of 300+ million, H-1B is way bigger than you think because each visa lasts for three years and can be extended for another three years after that.

At any moment, then, there are about 700,000 H-1B visa holders working in the USA.

Most of these H-1B visa holders work in Information Technology (IT) and most of those come from India. There are about 500,000 IT workers in the USA holding H-1B visas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 2.5 million IT workers in America. So approximately 20 percent of the domestic IT workforce isn’t domestic at all, but imported on H-1B visas. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

H-1B is a non-immigrant visa. H-1B holders can work here for 3-6 years but then have to return to their native countries. It’s possible for H-1B’s to convert to a different kind of visa but not commonly done. The most common way, in fact, for converting an H-1B visa into a green card is through marriage to a U.S. citizen.

H-1B isn’t the only way for foreigners to work in America. They can work to some extent on student visas and, in fact, many student visas are eventually converted to H-1B for those who have a job and want to stay but maybe not immigrate.

There is a misconception about the H-1B program that it was designed to allow companies to import workers with unique talents. There has long been a visa program for exactly that purpose. The O (for outstanding) visa program is for importing geniuses and nothing else. Interestingly enough, the O visa program has no quotas. So when Bill Gates complained about not being able to import enough top technical people for Microsoft, he wasn’t talking about geniuses, just normal coders.

I don’t want to pick on just Microsoft here, but I happen to know the company well and have written over the years about its technical recruiting procedures. Microsoft has a rigorous recruitment and vetting process. So does Google, Apple — you name the company. All of these companies will take as many of O visa candidates as they can get, but there just aren’t that many who qualify, which is why quotas aren’t required.

So when Microsoft — or Boeing, for that matter — says a limitation on H-1B visas is keeping them from getting top talent, they don’t mean it in the way that they imply. If a prospective employee is really top talent — the kind of engineer who can truly do things others simply can’t — there isn’t much keeping the company from hiring that person under the O visa program.

H-1B visas are about journeyman techies and nothing else.

Companies can also transfer employees into the country who have worked for at least a year for the company overseas under an L-1 visa. These, too, are limited by quota and the quota is typically lower than for H-1Bs. Back in the late 1980s when the H-1B program was first being considered it was viewed as a preferable short term alternative to L-1. It has since turned into something else far darker.

So has the B visa, which is intended for companies to bring their foreign employees into the U.S. for business meetings and trade shows. You’d be amazed how many such business meetings and trade shows last 30 days as companies use B visas to enable foreign employees to work awhile in the U.S.  I’m told that IBM sometimes platoons workers on B visas, sending them to places like Mexico for a short time then bringing them back across the border for another stint.

Tourist visas are also commonly abused even though they specifically prohibit work.

The more interesting question here isn’t which multinational corporations consistently abuse B and tourist visas but which ones don’t, it is so common.

A key argument for H-1B has always been that there’s a shortage of technical talent in U.S. IT. This has been taken as a given by both major political parties. But it’s wrong. Here are six rigorous studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that show there is no shortage of STEM workers in the U.S. nor the likelihood of such a shortage in years to come.

You may recall a recent column here where the IT community in Memphis, TN proved there was no labor shortage in that technology hotbed.

The whole labor shortage argument is total hogwash. Yes, there is a labor shortage at substandard wages.

Can all of this be just about money? Yes.

The rules for H-1B visas state that they must be for technical positions for which there is no comparable U.S. citizen available and the position must pay the prevailing wage or higher.

It’s this definition of prevailing wage where we next see signs of H-1B abuse by employers. The intent of the original law was for companies not to use H-1B workers simply to save money. In the enabling legislation from 1990, however, there are two different definitions of the term “prevailing wage.” The first is quite strict while the second, which is used by self-certifying employers to set actual pay scales, has plenty of wiggle room.

Warning, dense reading ahead!

Here is the initial definition of “prevailing wage” in 8 USC 1182(n)(1)A)

  1. The employer­

(i) is offering and will offer during the period of authorized employment to aliens admitted or provided status as an H–1B nonimmigrant wages that are at least­

(ii) the actual wage level paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for the specific employment in question, or

(iii) the prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment,

And here is the redefinition of “prevailing wage” in 8 USC 1182(p)(4):

(4) Where the Secretary of Labor uses, or makes available to employers, a governmental survey to determine the prevailing wage, such survey shall provide at least 4 levels of wages commensurate with experience, education, and the level of supervision. Where an existing government survey has only 2 levels, 2 intermediate levels may be created by dividing by 3, the difference between the 2 levels offered, adding the quotient thus obtained to the first level and subtracting that quotient from the second level.

Note that section (p) requires that the Department of Labor set up four prevailing wage levels based upon skill but section (n) only requires a prevailing wage for occupation and location. There is no statutory requirement that the employer pick the skill level that matches the employee.

Let’s see this in action. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the mean wage for a programmer in Charlotte, NC is $73,965. But the level 1 prevailing wage is $50,170. Most prevailing wage claims on H-1B applications use the level 1 wage driving down the cost of labor in this instance by nearly a third.

If you were casually reading the statutes, by the way, you would never see this redefinition. That’s because section (p) does not refer to H-1B but rather to section (n) which is referenced by 8 USC 1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b).

Got that?

But wait there’s more!

It’s not hard to suppose from this information that an influx of H-1B workers representing an average 20 percent of the local technical work force (those 500,000 H-1Bs against a 2.5 million body labor pool) would push down local wages. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that it does, too, but most of the more rigorous academic studies don’t show this because there is no easily available data.

What data is available comes from the initial employer applications for H-1B slots These Labor Condition Applications, called LCAs, include employer estimates of prevailing wages. Because there are always more H-1B applications than there are H-1B visas granted, every employer seeking an H-1B may file 3-5 LCAs per slot, each of which can use a different prevailing wage. But when the visa application is approved, it is my understanding that sponsoring companies can choose which LCA they really mean and apply that prevailing wage number to the hire.

Because the visa has already been granted of course they’ll tend to take the lowest prevailing wage number, because that’s the number against which they match the local labor market.

Remember that part of this business of getting H-1Bs is there must not be a U.S. citizen with comparable skills available at the local prevailing wage. If we consider that exercise using the data from Charlotte, above, a company would probably be seeking a programmer expecting $73,965 or above (after all, they are trying to attract talent, right?) but offering $50,170 or below (the multiple LCA trick). No wonder they can’t get a qualified citizen to take the job.

Based solely on approved LCAs, 51 percent of recently granted H-1B visas were in the 25th percentile for pay or below. That’s statistically impossible under the intent of the program.

We have no clear way of knowing what companies actually pay their H-1Bs beyond the LCAs, because that information isn’t typically gathered, but remember that whatever level it is won’t include benefits that can add another 30-40 percent to a U.S. citizen’s wage.

Here is the Government of India touting its H-1Bs as cheaper than U.S. workers, which of course they aren’t by law supposed to be.

I wish this was the extent of abuse, but it isn’t. A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that approximately 21 percent of H-1B visas are simply fraudulent — that the worker is working for a company other than the one that applied for the visa, that the visa holder’s identity has changed, that the worker isn’t qualified for H-1B based on skills or education, or the company isn’t qualified for the H-1B program.

H-1Bs, even though they aren’t citizens or permanent residents, are given Social Security numbers so they can pay taxes on their U.S. income. A study by the Social Security Administration, which is careful to point out that its job doesn’t include immigration monitoring or enforcement, found a number of H-1B anomalies, the most striking of which to me was that seven percent of H-1B employers reported no payments at all to H-1B visa holders. This is no big deal to the SSA because these people qualify for no benefits, but it makes one wonder whether they are under-reporting just Social Security or also to the IRS and why they might do so? Those H-1B employers who do report Social Security income do so at a level that is dramatically lower than one might expect for job classifications that are legally required to pay the “prevailing wage.”

Maybe at this point I should point out that the H-1B visa program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. Feel better?

One defense of H-1B might be that it raises overall skill levels, but studies show H-1B employees to be consistently less capable than their U.S. citizen counterparts. This data point is especially interesting because it is drawn from the LCA data where applying companies claimed that 56 percent of H-1B applicants were in the lowest skill category and could therefore be paid the least.  So at the same time companies are claiming they need the H-1B program to bring in skilled workers, the workers they are bringing in aren’t very skilled at all. Or if they are skilled, then the sponsoring companies are fudging their paperwork to justify paying lower than market wages.

Either truth is damning and the latter is downright illegal.

Here’s where I’ll give a shout-out to the Libertarian contingent reading this column because they’ll tend to say “So what? It’s every man or woman for himself. Employers should be able to do whatever they damned well please while workers can always go elsewhere.”

But it’s against the law. 

At this point a longtime reader of this column speaks up:

“I have been a practicing immigration attorney for over 13 years.  I have done many H-1B visas and like any other government program it was loaded and is still loaded with abuses… In my opinion, employers who need H-1B Visa workers should have to go through a screening process before they are allowed to submit the application and a bond should be posted if they violate the law.

“For a large multinational corporation to play this game is not new.  The reason that they carry on with these activities are for one reason only — control. Control of the employee and uneven bargaining at the end of the day.  I have dealt with this with different multinational corporations… and they have, can and will act in the same manner.  As always, it takes either an investigation by the USDOJ or massive fines (or both) to redirect bad behavior to federal compliance.”

“Even if I wasn’t at ground zero in this stuff, it would still bother me,” wrote another longtime reader who has spent his entire career in IT.  “Our country spent decades learning to treat workers fairly and with respect.  The driving force behind unions in the first place was to address serious problems in the workplace.  With all this offshoring and H-1B crap, we’ve dumped 100 years of improving society down the drain.  Maybe USA workers do cost too much.  The problem is we are not fixing the actual problem.  As more and more jobs go off shore, the damage to our economy grows.  If we would fix the problems the playing field would be more level and USA workers could compete for jobs.   These abuses by corporations are not only hurting USA workers, they are hurting our nation.”

Using H-1Bs takes more bodies to do the same work to which must be added all the busywork of noncompliance. Gaming the system is far from effortless. In the end I think the savings to companies is minimal, perhaps even nonexistent, and the signal it sends to students is to study law instead of computer science.


Related posts:

So sue us! Why big companies like IBM aren't afraid of H-1B lawsuits


  1. bleet says:

    I dunno – I am against abuse of the H1B program, but here in the California central valley, it is very hard to find anyone of quality to come work for state wages of $40 per hour.

    • JimJ says:

      If you can’t find anyone at $40/hour, then maybe that isn’t really the prevailing wage, at least for the type of skills you’re asking for. So either pay more, or find a way to do some of the work remotely — and that does not need to be offshore; probably not even out of state. When I considered a position in Mountain View (several years ago), I realized that cost of living differences meant that even doubling my pay would be a step backwards. So could someone from an outlying county come in twice a week? Someone from another state fly in once a month?

  2. Inteler says:

    I worked at intel for a time not to long ago at their development location. They hired competent and qualified people, required a PhD for the positions, and paid well. The problem was that the work was not PhD level and most people came to hate it. In the end the H1b’s lost a lot of negotiating power with management and it had an overall negative effect on the work environment for everyone at the site.

    • swschrad says:

      and that’s not all. what happens to the work when the H1Bs run out their ticket?

      in our company, and I expect in many more, it goes back to India with the tech, until they find somebody even cheaper to do it.

      and when it goes over there, it doesn’t get done if a family issue, holiday (of which there are more over there), frequent power outage combined with sludge in the generator diesel tank takes down the center, or if a question arises that needs to be answered by the remaining domestic staff during daytime hours.

      how you say American, ahhh, cluster forks?

    • Danni Sawhee says:

      My company hired an entry level accountant on an H-1b visa.

      Who knew there was a shortage of accountants.

      • Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snack says:

        And QA. To my mind anyone who can sit still for 8 hours, say with a couple years Junior College can do most manual QA, yet I’ve seen Indians with Masters do it. Really? You need to import Indians for that? And I can back up that some Indians I’ve met have been no great shakes (and others, normal to great). Another thing H1-B kills is the co-op; entry-level work that gives students a foot in the employment door.

  3. Laurent says:

    A few notes about visas:
    - The L1 visa is a transfer visa, which has no quota but which requires you to have been working for the same companies overseas for at least a year
    - Outstanding visas I believe require a PhD. The majority of H1B immigrants have a college degree but cannot meet the O visa.

    • Yes and no. Yes on the transfer visa but a PhD doesn’t in and of itself establish that an applicant is outstanding. And applicants without PhDs are regularly found to be outstanding based on other measures like patents or published papers. I have several friends who came to the USA on O visas and have no PhD.

    • jgo says:

      Shera Bechard and “Dorismar” are such Out-standing intellects I can’t imagine what the US skin-peddling industry would do without them, so let’s all celebrate their O visas. (sarcasm off)

      When I did tech support at the U… (and, come to think of it, at my gig at NASA), we had PhDs who were not “highly-skilled” in their own fields, and lots of PhD candidates and ABDs who could be “led to water” but they seemed “incapable of drinking”, even when you shoved their muzzles under. Perhaps, to avoid unwarranted bad-mouthing, I should leave open the possibility, the hope, that they were all stretching the envelope of their own sub-specialties at the time we were working with them, and note that there were a lot of others who were great, well-prepared, quick on the up-take, able to apply their knowledge in new ways, learn new tools and approaches, etc.

  4. Kevin M. says:

    They need to give out more H1B’s! I’ve had a ton of work fixing software systems at my last three jobs where the employers had previously used them.

  5. Andy Konecny says:

    This is but one example of how empires slowly crumble as the opportunists peck at it once the empire’s core strengths have withered away.

  6. AMusingFool says:

    Just one more data point: H-1B visas are also a hair away from indentured servitude for the workers. They have zero leverage for salary negotiations and such, because the visa program requires continuous employment. As in, not one day unemployed. So it’s nearly impossible to leave a job, to find another sponsor.

    • Good point. It’s not the workers who are abusing this system but the employers who hire them. Think for a moment about the seven percent of H-1B employees for whom no wages at all are reported. That doesn’t happen at such a high level by accident. Those folks are probably being paid WAY below any prevailing wage. Heck they could be paid minimum wage for all we know. It makes me feel for the workers and also question the quality of their work under such terms.

      • Roman says:

        One of the reasons why they are paid that low is because many companies bring them to re-sell. They do not have jobs for them right away, and sometime they do not do any software development at all. So they bring people in and then put them into other companies as consultants. Often they do it through other third party companies, especially in cases when there are just few authorizes providers.
        At the end of the day there is a chain of 2-3 companies between the company where H1b worker works, and the worker himself, and all of them get ther share from the consultant rate. I saw cases when workers would get less than 50% from the rate at their workplace with no other benefits like medical insurance or 401k, etc.

      • Danni Sawhee says:

        They have 30 days to find another sponsor.

    • Steve Smith says:

      I refer to the H1B visas as the “indentured servant” visa. Short, punchy, and makes the point.

      • Metalman says:

        Just like adjunct faculty at a university are little better than indentured servants who are told to use the back door and not to sully the pristine university grounds so that the big donors don’t notice.

      • jgo says:

        Beats my attempt at an honest title: cheap, young, pliant foreign labor with flexible ethics.

        I really do think that one impetus for flooding the US, UK and European labor markets is to drive down professional standards of ethics, to get more people willing to work on questionable projects, e.g. those which are centered on privacy violation for profit.

        But, yes, I get the impression from the few prosecutions and settlement announcements, and project to the probable numbers of incidents that never reach litigation, that there are a lot of guest-workers being squeezed.

        Someone mentioned $40/hour pay in California at the same time we’re hearing of average or medians in Sili Valley of $110K or $120K per year. Pffft, averages and medians don’t keep us aware of the spread. There are gifted US citizen software developers, data-base analysts, and sys admins being paid half that or less in California, and even less in the rest of the USA. Most of it is innocent, though, not intentional abuse but people trying to be entrepreneurial on half of a shoe-string, companies of scrabblers banded together, and people who just love the hot-bed start-up environment.

  7. Jerry says:

    “These abuses by corporations are not only hurting USA workers, they are hurting our nation.”

    And the multinationals couldn’t care less. That is why they lobby for laws that give themselves power to sue governments. They’ll take what they can and damn the ones who get in their way. Kind of like the mafia, but in a bigger way.

  8. Robert Gerard Fitzgerald Yousseff. says:

    You got such a bad start that it makes impossible to accept any point you *might* get right. The H1B is a dual-intent visa, meaning that no one is forced to go back after 3-6 years. 6 years is just the maximum amount of time that one can stay on that visa.

    I personally know many engineers that got their green cards right after those 6 years, and never were worried that the company would screw them out of it.

    • I don’t believe we are in disagreement here, though it is clear that the H-1B is a non-immigrant visa. That’s without question. Nor do the primarily Indian employers even want “the outsourcing visa” as they have called it to lead ti immigration since it is the best way to import product and customer experience into groups that can then compete with American companies.

      • jgo says:

        H-1B started out as a guest-work only visa, dual-intent not allowed. Applicants were required to show that they owned property in their country of origin or other, uh, ties to help guarantee that they wouldn’t over-stay but would go back home when their visa expired.

        That was quickly ditched and H-1B converted to dual intent.

        And in that vein, initial 3 years, one 3-year renewal, and then after that an H-1B can be extended on a year-by-year basis. OTOH, the main reason reported for granting annual extensions — and I’ve seen reports of several years of extension — is that they have a pending green card application.

    • Timo says:

      You do realize however, that in order for the H1B worker to be eligible for a Green Card, someone will have to sponsor him or her? A Green Card is not something that you magically become eligible for or can apply for yourself (DV lottery excepted), it does require sponsorship either by a US citizen (usually a spouse) or a US employer.

      So while the H1B might be a dual-intent visa, unless an H1Ber either gets married to a US citizen or their employer sponsors them for a Green Card, they get to leave the country after a maximum of 6 years. Not many employers do sponsor Green Cards (some do) as the company can be on the hook for a substantial amount of time and a substantial amount of money even if you don’t work there any longer.

  9. John M. says:

    As someone who worked at MS, there is another wrinkle that is being missed: The combination of stack-ranking with H1Bs.

    MSFT has an “up-or-out” policy that is enforced by stack ranking. 20% of the employees in a division, no matter what, get bad reviews. These people are fired get forced out every year, or risk their careers stagnate with the tarnish of the “bad” review. The review system for programmers is setup so it favors those who increased numbers of deliverable. The competitive nature of the annual review system favors those who over work themselves.

    If an H1B employee looses or quits their jobs they have a limited time to find a new sponsor or they have to leave the country. Now imagine that H1B employee is working for a division of MSFT that is competing heavily with another company.

    It is not hard to see how the combination of the two systems wrings every bit of productivity out of the H1B employee for fear of deportation.

  10. Goni says:

    Wow shocked by your false statistics.
    Let me remind you that in this country are around 12 million illegal immigrants that make this country bleed dry, and your concern is about H1B…. Really?
    Let me remind you that bill gates and his h1b employee pay more taxes than you and all your ancestors ever lived in this country combined
    Let me remind you that, 47% of businesses on sillicon valley are owned by ex h1b holders.
    Im surprised a guy smart like you, that can prove bill gates wrong, its such a looser.

    • It’s “loser,” Goni.

      • Simon Hibbs says:

        I would just like to point out that not all the commenters here are native English speakers. This can lead their posts to appear less coherent and formally correct than they otherwise might. Respectful corrections are usually appreciated though, and while this isn’t possible in a comments system, on forums it’s often best to private message such advice rather than call people out publicly.

        • Bill says:

          Reply to Simon Hibbs: I appreciate your concern for non-English speakers and your point however if you are referring to Mr. Cringely’s comment to ‘Goni’ about the word ‘loser’ I would urge you to remember that calling Mr. Cringely a loser publically is not a matter of not understanding the language. Language capability aside, it was clearly meant to belittle Mr. Cringely so his correcting a somewhat ironic mispelling was all too appropriate. To be fair – you should have commented on Goni’s snarky comment as well. I suspect a bias or preconcieved perception of some kind about Mr. Cringely (I have none – this is the first article of his I’ve ever read).

      • netmouser says:

        GREAT reply, Robert.

      • paul allen says:

        see “boarder” in column

    • Hamerfan says:

      Sorry, but you really need to learn to spell correctly and punctuate properly. Go back to school.

      • Vikram says:

        Are you a troll hamerfan or can you also argue?

        • Goni says:

          I see everyone argues about my grammar. And i dont care about that, read the content , not the errors, dumb people like you cant will never get a job on stem. American idiots

          • A different Scott says:

            Your brilliant argument is that Bob is a loser?

          • netmouser says:

            Goni,I can’t understand your content, the grammar and spelling being so bad.

          • Bill says:

            Goni – with all due respect at some point grammar DOES have an impact on a person’s ability to understand content or- when it is so far off the mark – can put the content under doubt. This is because people (of all nationalities) often feel – with some justification – that if a speaker/writer has not taken the time to check the basic grammar of their communication then perhaps the content is shaky as well. Finally – can you not see how calling people losers and dumb undermines any credibility you or your content may have. It makes you appear arrogant, angry and not worthy of taking seriously.

          • Ronc says:

            What Bill said.

    • FiddleSmith says:

      Goni, do you have some links to back up your comments? Otherwise it just sounds like you’re an (perhaps ex) H1-Ber that is offended.

      Cringely is not saying the illegals shouldn’t be deported. They are a serious drag on the low skill labor (perhaps even skilled blue collar) that the H1-B folks are to the white collar workforce. Both are serious issues that affect our economy and need dealt with. Sorry to all that it may offend, but I’m in the camp that would deport all the illegal aliens and eliminate 85% of H1-B folks. Yes, my ancestors were immigrants… but they were legal ones.

    • Dan says:

      Based on your content (and ignoring the grammar),
      (1) Illegal immigrants are irrelevant to this argument
      (2) Bill Gates pays more in taxes than me and and my ancestors because his earnings are greater than me and and my ancestors – how much of those earnings result from abusing H1Bs?
      (3) Ex H1Bers who start businesses in Silicon Valley (or elsewhere) don’t change the fact that companies are abusing the system and harming the American labor force.

      Finally, facts and statistics that contradict your beliefs are not “false,” they are “inconvenient.”

      Hope that helps.

  11. dg says:

    Bob is spot on, and its sad that this issue doesn’t have more political visiblity. In the last few years I’ve hired dozens of programmers+DBAs+testers after receving many hundreds (thousands?) of resumes. These days the vast majority of resumes I read are from H1Bs and other non-citizens, filtered for me by the HR department primarily on low wages.

    The other scam I often see reading resumes is recent graduates from public universities who are non-citizens already with the same degree from their native country. Our public university seats are a scarce valuable resource that is being sold out. For every non-citizen student, a citizen is denied the opportunity to graduate with a degree. And non-citizens who already have foreign degrees easily dominate the top academic rankings, unfairly competing with citizen students.

    • Ronc says:

      Yes Mommy, the reason I got a low grade in painting is that some of my fellow Kindergarteners already went through Kindergarten in India. :)

  12. Tom says:

    There are two sides to it. Being a German, I worked in Silicon Valley from 1997-2002 for two startups. I was treated well, competitive pay (6 figure salary after the first years), moved into a management position and eventually got a greencard. Nevertheless, I returned my greencard and moved back.

    A lot of the problems you describe could be solved if the H1B holders would be able to change employers more easily after a year or so.

    • rumpsteak says:

      Why did you return to Germany? Did you have problems with your employer in the end and wished to switch to another company?

      • Thom says:

        I absolutely had no problem. I already had my greencard and could have changed employers to my liking. The last sentence in my previous post was related to the fact that if H1B’s were transferable, H1B workers would not be forced to stay at sweat shops and this “business model” would die off.

        Regarding myself, I just felt that after 5 years, I had to decide whether I wanted to stay in the U.S. for good or not. People were always very nice and friendly to me and I always felt welcome. But being in tech and in the Bay Area is also like being in a kind of pressure cooker. 10 days of vacation (spent to visit parents and old friends over Xmas), lots of overtime, layoffs, bad life-work balance.

        Now, with my 30 days of vacation, office within walking distance, and sane working hours, the only thing I miss are the California sun and the ocean.

        • Jim says:

          I too lived in the USA with a green card – but moved back to the UK 30 years ago.

          Not everyone wants’ or needs’ to live in the USA.

  13. Costas says:

    I am an ex-H1B holder. The visa is no fun for the holders either as they are basically indentured to the company and the competency (real or manufactured) of its legal team.

    There is an easy solution to both problems: make H1-Bs transferable to other companies –limit them to same region or industry if you will to make it closer to the intent of the law. That will give the immigrants some much needed leverage and it will also quickly a) ratchet up the salary due to free-er market competition, b) make the H1-B program much less attractive to slave-shops.

    Unlike the L or B visas, I see no rationale for the H class to be bound to a specific employer.

    • -B says:

      Why make it easier for the H1B Holder? The intent is to first draw from the non-immigrant workforce. The real, final state, should be fewer H1Bs less graft and more hiring of citizen IT workers.

      • Danni Sawhee says:

        It would force companies to compete to retain H1-b talent, reducing the cost savings.

      • Marcel says:

        Making it “easier” for H1B visa holders means that companies can’t use their disadvantaged position to illegally extract concessions, which means that they can’t use those illegaly coerced H1Bs to illegaly lower wages.

        Make sense?

    • netmouser says:

      H-1B holders displace so many US workers. Our country does not need 2 million new foreign workers every year (roughly 1 million illegal, 1 million legal), especially when the unemployment in the US is so high, especially in IT. the solution is to go back to the intent of the H-1B law, and limit its use to highly specialized skills that Americans cannot be found for. Heck, there is not even a requirement to first consider Americans for any job. It is the abuse of this intent that is the sticking point.

  14. JJones says:

    H1B’s are just another classification of employees ‘under the thumb’.

    Combined with other employees who have limited mobility due to health insurance, debt etc. it seriously affects a company’s ability to innovate.

  15. Marcel says:

    Similar story as Tom’s: from Germany, worked in Silivon Valley for 4 years on H1B (first Apple, then a startup, Livescribe), moved back. Also had a green card I gave up, though that was earlier.

    I was treated well, though treatment of employees in the US is generally not up to German (or even UK) standards. We have much, much tougher labor laws (and much more vacation time!!) in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular.

    Pay was always at the top range of what others in similar positions were making, same for the offer Google made me as I was in the process of moving back. In fact, at the Stanford EE380 on guy was going on a misinformed xenophobic rant about H1Bs very similar to yours. I confronted him afterwards and he informed me that I couldn’t be making more than $X…which was factor 3 too low. He kind of shut up after that.

    I know quite a few people at these and other companies that were also on H1Bs, and I don’t know a single one whose experience even approaches your wild fantasies, apparently extrapolated from the practices of one particular bodyshop.

    The problem isn’t H1Bs, the problem is bodyshops. The problem isn’t IT outsourcing to other countries or individuals from other countries, the problem is IT outsourcing. The problem isn’t IT, the problem is IBM.

    Apple makes $1.7M per employee. Wether that employee costs $30K more or less is completely irrelevant to them. They care wether the person produces the type of value they are looking for.

    Silivon Valley *is* talent limited. Where *talent* is a small fraction of the “IT workforce”. And the fact that there are syadmins that IBM is screwing doesn’t help, these are not the same people. A friend who’s a professor at USF once showed me the graduate and undergraduate programs. I was shocked at how few people there were, and Americans were almost completely absent.

    I asked how this could be, and the answer was that parents very actively steer their children away from engineering degrees into something “respectable” like business or law. And they are right, at least practically speaking.

    With a few exceptions, engineering does not count for anything in the US. Know-nothing MBAs and law-degrees control most of the economy, starting incidentally with the auto-industry, whose decline and fall can be traced very clearly to the decline of engineering within those companies.

    So I think that part of your analysis, the one about a company behaving like a law firm, is actuall spot on. Treating engineering talent not like talent but like a mass of undifferentiated “resource” has nothing to do with H1Bs and “those damned forrreiners…”, and has everything to do with a business culture that is driven by MBAs and lawyers, a business culture that is ruining one industry after another in the US.

    I agree that the H1B is deeply flawed though. Although the companies I worked for didn’t take advantage of it, the indentured servitude aspects of the program are deeply troubling both on principle and in practice. I always had a side-business selling software: illegal under the H1B, so couldn’t do it, and also no chance to slowly grow that side- into a main-business. I wanted to write a book: couldn’t do it while on H1B.

    However, what’s troubling is that the limitations of the program are exactly the sorts of things politicians do to pander to xeonophobic sentiments like the ones you have been expressing: “foreigner == evil and criminal job stealer” So by focusing on the wrong issue, you are not only missing the point, but actually playing into the hands of those who are creating these problems.

    • JJones says:

      I find your comments very insightful.

      This statement makes a very strong point:
      “a business culture that is driven by MBAs and lawyers, a business culture that is ruining one industry after another in the US.”

      I’d be very interested to see stats on the number of green cards that were abandoned over the last 12 years compared with previous decades. I wonder how surprised I’d be…

      • Danni Sawhee says:

        Green card holders must pay US taxes, no matter where they live.

        • Marcel says:

          Yes, and this is fairly insane. Fortunately, there are double taxation agreements, so you don’t (usually) pay double. But you still have to file twice and that’s a huge hassle and there’s good chances of bad things happening.

          Which is why my family returned their green cards after leaving the US back in the 80ies. (First time). Since then, it’s only gotten worse, for example the “expatriation tax”, where you get taxed on *unrealized* gains, for example a house that you can’t actually sell that is estimated by the tax authorities to have gained value. Should really call it an expropriation tax.

          Essentially, anything foreign is treated by the US tax code as guilty unless proven innocent, and most often even if proven innocent.

          Which of course only matters if you actually obey laws, so no problem for IBM et al.

    • Bunny says:

      Good comment. I graduated from electronic engineering some 30 years ago now.
      The electronic engineering program was cancelled due to lack of interest which was due to students finding out that they really had to work. It was hard to find a job with a good wage and that the work was not as easy as a stock broker.
      From what I hear, basket weaving has a soild future.

    • netmouser says:

      No, Marcel. Americans are almost completely absent from such education programs like engineering and IT because students saw what happened to their parents and plan for careers where they can be employed at graduation. They do not want to spend years and pay many thousands to end up without a job because the discipline is offshored or companies prefer cheap foreign imports under the H-1B program. The H-1B program’s jobs will never become equal (market) pay (like for legal residents) because companies want to keep the cheap indentured labor, and companies control Congress and laws. You know what happens to H-1Bs who get a green card? Many end up like legal residents and Americans without a job and complain about the H-1B visa.

      • Marcel says:

        Hi Netmouser,

        not sure why you preface a post where you seem to agree violently with what I am saying with “No, Marcel”.

        While what Bunny wrote is part of the problem, the bigger part is, as I wrote, that avoiding a STEM career is a rational choice, because quality engineering work is not valued in the US, what I referred to as the MBA/lawyer (+finance!) driven business culture that is ruining one US industry after the other, extracting rents without any benefit to society and taking repeated stabs at killing the entire economy in one fell swoop.

        I am really stunned by the blinders here, the focus on the “evil foreigner” as the root cause of all problems. Of course, given my country’s history, I shouldn’t be, I guess it’s all too human to try and identify the foreigner as the cause of your problems (…and it still happens here today, though it is fortunately not tolerated).

        Just read or re-read Bob’s previous article, the one about IBM screwing sysadmins. IBM doesn’t need “evil foreigners” to screw tech workers. At all. In mathematical terms, presence of H1Bs is neither a necessary nor sufficient pre-condition for these problems, and removing them from the equation won’t fundamentally alter what’s going on.

        • JimJ says:

          “In mathematical terms, presence of H1Bs is neither a necessary nor sufficient pre-condition for these problems, and removing them from the equation won’t fundamentally alter what’s going on.”

          Gas (petrol) stations are neither a necessary nor sufficient pre-condition for automobiles, but removing the stations would certainly alter how often private automobiles are driven.

          Cheap indentured labor is an exploitable resource; not legally, but in practice. That drives a competitive race to the bottom. Simply enforcing the competitive pay provisions would restore the market to one in which honest employers were not disadvantaged. Removing the indentured aspects would be a step in that direction.

    • jamie says:

      Why are people getting law der instead of eng. Or it? Because of money. You can make a partner in a law fir within 2 years and make upwards of 200k. Most everyone I know in it is making under 100k vwith considerable experience. There is no managerial track for good teks cus if ur good they don’t want to loose you imho. I’ve been in it with a bs deg. Since 05, I certanly wish I studied law now.

      I can say this for sure, in my market admins are treated like garbage. Constant oncall, threats of firing, wage reductions, unpaied ot, excessivly long hours, etc. This isn’t just at ibm, but all companies that I have worked for. I can tell u this for sure, it sucks. Id rather work at wallmart than work it ever again. I would encorage anyone to avoid it at any cost. I can’t overstate this enough.

      • Neddy Knickers says:

        You can’t make partner at any decent-sized firm in two years. If you made partner within seven years, you would be overachieving. The only exceptions would be if you had a personal connection to a large client.

        • jamie says:

          My neighbor made partner in his lawfirm within 2 years is where I got my assumption. Even considering, lets say 10 years, can you make over 200k in IT after 10 years? I dont know any tec that is making 200 k period, anywhere, not even lead developers. So why invest in an IT eduction, or anything where you are not gonna get payed? why not be a lawyer?

      • So I think there’s a real shortage of people such as yourself, Jamie. You seem to have the know-how, guts, stamina, drive, endurance, energy, force, fortitude, grit, guts (did I say guts?), gutsiness, heart, indefatigability, intestinal fortitude, legs, lustiness, moxie, power, power of endurance (not just endurance), resilience, resistance, starch, staying power, tolerance, toleration, vim, vitality, zip and just plain ol’ rootin’ tootin’ firepower my firm needs to tackle this big case we have here at Billerton Law. You just give me a call and we’ll get you set up with your own company car and a private jet. I can be reached at 303-KL5-1212 anytime, day or night. Here’s to you! Here’s to *success*!

    • Great comment and absolutely on target for the Bay Area, but most H-1Bs aren’t in the Bay Area and seven of the top 10 H-1B employers are those body shops you correctly decry.

    • Metalman says:

      The MBA/lawyer aspect is part of it, but as my younger cousins have grown up I’ve steered them away from engineering and the sciences because in my experience there’s not much of a future in the U.S. for it. It’s a shame, really, but when people I’ve known have been underemployed or not employed in anything resembling an engineering field for well over a decade, you start to wonder why you should bother.

      It’s just like hearing about teachers and how there’s a this shortage of science and math teachers. No, there isn’t a shortage of teachers, but a shortage of teachers accepting wages at $20k a year. You never hear about shortages of teachers when taxpayers are demanding that schools cut teacher salaries, because to a taxpayer cheaper is better, and school districts always overpay their staff, right? After all, the nuns worked for free….

    • JimJ says:

      IBM is far from the worst abuser. Silicon Valley may well have a tight enough labor market that many have your experience, but isn’t typical.
      If you exclude University professors, every H1-B I’ve gotten to know well enough to judge has been severely underpaid for the job. (Though not always for the performance, in cases where a dozen or more were rented out at once, and neither the renter nor the official employer had any incentive to care which of the twelve were competent.) And every one of them has looked forward to (or at least wished for) NOT being indentured to their current employer, either by returning to India with US experience under their belt, or by getting around the indentured portion of their current visa.

  16. Bob says:

    I did an internship in the States in 99. The visa I got for this was a J visa, which is actually a good invention: It’s an “exchange visa”, meaning the US allows a certain number of people to work there, and in exchange a certain number of US citizens are allowed to work in other countries.

    Then again, some countries are more attractive to employees than others. But that will always be the case. If visas start killing jobs then something’s gone terribly wrong (and possibly a Bain consultant won’t improve on that situation if he were to become president of the US).

  17. George Mitchell says:

    There should be no immigration quotas, and consequently there should be no such thing as in illegal immigrant. These people could then become productive members of society and pay taxes, and we wouldn’t have to waste police time and money hunting them down.

    • jjj says:

      What about national sovereignty? Have you ever lived in a nation at war?
      Do you live in a country that was ever at war?
      Do the members of society in your country live up to the social contract that is particular to your nation? Does society in that country and nation have obligations in that social contract to it’s participants?
      Do you believe that there is some past wealth generated in your nation that allows for the current generation of wealth?
      Does your nation have any level of social welfare? Is the world responsible for that funding or just the people that live in that nation? Would you have your nation open opportunity to all in the world, and all it’s social welfare benefits as well, without reciprocity for the native citizens that have made this opportunity possible?
      I think we as nation have invited ingrates into our home.
      Vikram and Goni are a great example.
      My ancestors paid a great price to save the world, but escaped with their lives. For a time afterwards one paid a 90% income tax rate.
      I am fortunate, but I do not believe my country owes the people of the world an opportunity. I do believe it owes “something” to it’s citizens. I also believe that any greed, including companies, individuals, and state institutions, can kill the proverbial “Golden Goose.”

      • Goni says:

        just so you know… when i work on US, i pay more taxes that you can even imagine, i’m not granted to any welfare or benefits. People that are under H1B work their ass hard to get something… they don’t sit down all day long and get high, and blame at government and immigrants that economy is doing bad. but to bad people like you, are blinded and hate everyone whois name is not john or bill.

        And yes of course i get pissed when i see to many dumb Americans that take everything for granted.

        Work your ass hard and achieve something, instead of bitching at immigrants

        • Jon says:

          Great post Goni!

          Did you get some unemployed American IT worker to spell check and grammar check it before you pressed “Submit”?

          They can always use another taxi driver in New York.

      • Marcel says:

        Reminds of one of my favorite Newsweek (RIP) cartoons:

        A WASP-y looking guy standing next to what appears to be a Mexican family. The guy is shouting at the top of his lungs (face all aggravated, veins bursting): “IT IS TIME TO RECLAIM AMERICA FROM THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!!!!”

        At the far right of the picture is a Native American: “I’ll help you pack”

  18. [...] Link. Another thing voters are too tired to think about. by jgordon on October 24, 2012  •  Permalink Posted in share Tagged pinboard [...]

  19. Finkster says:

    Bob, very nice article! I work in the Midwest and the infusion of H1B workers is huge. Not only are wages in the Midwest much lower than the coasts, but so is the general cost of living. Consulting billing rates (not what consultants are paid) can be as low as the 40′s. How can a single income family compete with such low wages? A union janitor can earn more than a skilled IT worker (in some cases).

    You also fail to mention many of these H1B workers send a good portion of their earning to their families back home. So they don’t fully contribute to the local economy. Wages earned in the USA end up supporting the India communities. So this end up being a double wammey.

    These H1B workers are fucking up the system and making it much harder on the families of U.S. citizens. I am happy you are bringing out this dirty secret of the IT industry.

    • Marcel says:

      Why is it always so much easier to scapegoat the people who are being exploited (if that is the case), rather than blaming the companies that are actually breaking the law and screwing both sides?

      As to H1Bs not contributing: as an H1B you pay full taxes, social security and unemployment insurance. By law, you can never collect on any of that, because you have to leave the country if you lose your job.

      • netmouser says:

        Same complaint as the illegals. The truth is, the H-1Bs I met – and many – live in groups in cheap apartments and receive a subsistence allowance to live on, receiving low pay back in their home country. Not paying the taxes we pay nor getting the same benefits.

        • Marcel says:

          So whatever company is doing that is *breaking the law*.

          Once again: as an H1B, you are a tax-resident in the US, and pay the same taxes as anyone else. Except, as I pointed out earlier, you are by law prevented from actually receiving many of the benefits you are paying for.

  20. RB says:

    Haven’t read the article yet (I’m sure it’s excellent as always), because I’m still laughing at the picture of Bill Gates at the top. It’s probably the 3rd grade boy in me, but I can’t help hearing “rude noises” whenever I look at it…

  21. MikeN says:

    You are wrong when you say this has nothing to do with immigration. Pretty much all the H!B visa holders I know have either gotten green cards or are applying. No marriages to US citizens involved.

    • MikeN says:

      Indeed, they typically prefer to get married before they get their green card, so their spouse can come here quickly.

    • netmouser says:

      Part fantasy. There are not enough employment based green cards to equal the number of H-1Bs hoping for one. The annual quota for professional, skilled worker, and other worker is 41,455 with a 6 year backlog.

      • Andrew says:

        Not true. Check the visa builletin. All categories are current for all countries except India and Philippines.

        • netmouser says:

          I’m looking at employment based visas: EB-3 Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers at the following link. Wiki seems to keep pretty up-to-date. What is your source for quotas and backlog?


          • netmouser says:

            Right, I found a copy, and the bulletin does break out the backlog. But the number of available work-related visas (green cards) is way less than the number of H-1Bs. One of the problems with the indentured servant nature of H-1Bs is that they are under the impression they will “win” a green card at the end of the road of low pay and obedience. But there are not enough green cards to go around.

          • netmouser says:

            And a study published last year by Stuart Anderson said even increasing the number of green cards to – “eliminate the employment-based third preference (EB-3) backlog” would “potentially make the category current within 10 years.”

            So the backlog remains meaningful and at best satisfying the demand is 10 years away. Doubtful.

  22. A. Nano Moose says:

    The H1-B program is used extensively in the management consulting industry for non-technical labor.
    Firms routinely sponsor green cards for employees who’s H1-B renewal is expiring, so it’s a red herring that it is not an immigrant visa.
    Additionally, while the H1-B quota belongs to the company, giving the company the right to revoke the H1-B status of an employee who leaves, not challenging H1-B’s is a ‘perk’ of the consulting industry. Consultants routinely leave the service industry to take corporate roles, bringing their H1-B visas with them, and are required only to supply a letter of employment from the new employer to transfer the visa.

  23. Ryan says:

    This is the best quote of the article:

    “Maybe at this point I should point out that the H-1B visa program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security. Feel better?”

  24. Tim Johnson says:

    This article is 100% dead on. I have been in this field for 25 years and started out what was at that time this country’s most prestigious research facility. That being said its all gone today. H1Bs are all about cheap labor and driving down wages. Sure there is the occasional anomaly where that isnt so like the German national saying how its not true. Those of us in field know the truth though – its always about the $. The IT space today is totally dominated by the H1B. Go into any good sized company and go into the IT department and let me know what you see? I would put money on it that you see mostly young, foreign, male nationals on H1B. Based on my experiences with theme I would hardly say these people are the “best and brightest”. The media and corporations would love you to believe how did we ever get along without these people.

    I will tell you – they used to hire Americans. Not anymore. That is why just about every company you go to is H1B land now. I work in a large pharma as a contractor and I am only one of 17 Americans and there are 168 H1Bs. So what happened to all the other Americans. They have been shown the door, thats what. Laid off, had to train their replacement and than shown the door.

    I can also tell you this, when the first H1Bs arrived they told us all that we have to move up the value chain to being architects, PMs, BAs, etc… Well guess what? The H1Bs have moved up the value chain as well. I regularly encounter H1B PMs, architects and more. Whats more is they now own space. Good luck getting hired.

    There is NOTHING that says America has to have an open door policy of providing jobs for foreign nationals when there is high unemployment in this country. Further more I would say that anyone that believes this is a traitor to this country.

    People have forgotten the past and why unions where originally formed. Go read your history books and read what corporations will do when there is no counterweight to them where they can do whatever they want to the population.

    • netmouser says:

      And as kids see what happened to their parents, they no longer choose to spend many years and thousands of dollars with big student loans on the IT and engineering programs in college, but instead choose a career where they will likely get a job on graduation. This is a highly serious security, as well as economic, issue for our country’s future.

      You are so right. My last client position for IBM, the team management level on-site was from IBM India, and the development team was in IBM India. Training was for new SAP applications, but I could not get approval for inclusion which was mainly for the foreign workers. That level of Americans there were part of IBM’s layoffs. Rumor was that project management was next to be staffed by foreigners. Executives from a prior contract were now at other company headquarters helping them transition to do the same – move their IT teams to foreigners.

  25. Dan says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This has been going on for so many years. The difference is the wage and not the qualifications. I constantly see contract positions filled by H1Bs at crazy low rates where another US candidate with better qualifications will be turned down. I know because I’ve been involved with the contract hiring process for many years. Many times the US candidate isn’t even interviewed because their rate is higher than a H1Bs rate. What happens? The US candidate is unemployed or is forced to reduce their rate.

  26. John says:

    Very nice summary of H1B visas and how employers are chasing cheap labor and nothing else.

    Of course it also just makes me sad that this is what our country has come to. Another generation has to awaken to fight the same old fights again.

  27. Tim Johnson says:

    Who in their right mind would go into IT today? For what to compete with foreigners on visas in your own country for work? Are you kidding me? I want to see another industrialized country thats selling out its middle class on the alter of globalization.

    Does everyone remember them saying in the 80s and 90s that these jobs were the future of America? That if you were a computer person you would be employed for the rest of your life. Times have sure changed havent they?

    They keep whining that there is a shortage of IT people. My question is where is there a shortage?

    Lets think about this in simple economics – the law of supply and demand which dictates if something is in high demand it commands higher prices, if its in lower demand it commands lower prices. This is all the free market wisdom that is constantly shove down everyone’s throat.

    So if there is a shortage than where is the money? I am not seeing it because IT salaries have been stagnant since the dot com and in fact have declined if you factor in inflation. We make less now than 10 years ago.

    So lets think about this – how can salaries possibly be lower if there is such a “shortage”???

    I will tell you how – there is no shortage. The H1Bs have GLUTTED the IT job market. Companies regularly receive 100+ resumes for ANY IT job that is posted. The bodyshops shovel in as many resumes as they will let them submit.

    And its not just the H1Bs there is a plethora of other visas that are being used ILLEGALLY by companies so they can bring in even more people. Realize these people are the equivalent of scabs that are used to break the backs of the unions back in the day only they are being used to break the backs of the middle class.

    Welcome to the future. Get a backbone because in the future any white collar job that can be offshored or done by foreigners on visas YOU will be replaced.

  28. Will says:

    Bob: I love your column and your insights… However, your outright denunciation of H1Bs has my dander up… I came to the US 10 years ago, brought in from Canada on a TN then H1B VISA to head up a new department at a US company. I was (and hopefully still am) considered skilled, and was paid a very competitive (& prevailing) wage, at par with my peers. My department did well, and we eventually directly employed 35 people, with about 70 people employed in other parts of the business because of what my group built. Since then, I’ve gone on to a green card, and founded a startup now employing 30 people – all US citizens!

    My point is that there appear to be abusers of the system, and they should be dealt with very harshly. However, we must be very careful not to destroy or undermine the original intent – to enable the import of great talent that can hep build and grow our economy. America was founded by immigrants and built by immigrants and their descendants. Anyone doing anything illegal should be punished. But lets not close the doors entirely and become totally xenophobic.

    • I don’t denounce the H-1B program, I denounce how it is managed. Any visa program where 21 percent of participants are found to hold their papers fraudulently is being mismanaged. As I described, H-1B is being gamed by employers. That could easily be stopped in any number of ways. But unless someone like me speaks up it won’t happen.

      How would YOU suggest the program be improved?

      • Will says:

        Personally, I believe that the mis-management you identify is a symptom of the larger problem you are identifying – that larger companies have no regards for the law, and between massive litigation departments and political contributions, they have little to no fear of reprisal or discipline.

        Get rid of H1B, or any other such program, and the IBMs of the world will figure out something else and still have the same results. It is just the smaller “honest” (or at least more honest and fearful) companies and the US economy that will suffer.

        The only solution is politicians and prosecutors with balls. Shut down IBM. Send a message. That will help for a while. But really, would big corporate America really fall in line for long? Look how long the banks lay low after the financial crisis.

  29. Andrew says:

    Wow, how many emotions and how little facts! I can’t believe you published an article like this, Bob. Get your facts straight.

    1. How many are there H1B holders nowadays? In one place you say 700K, two sentences later you say its 500K. Make up your mind!

    2. The 190K a year figure was for FY01, 02, and 03. Since then it has scaled back to 65K. So it’s safe to assume that there are no more than 390K people in H1B status at any given moment in the country. That’s 14%, not 20%.

    3. H1B visa leads to employment-based greencard. No need to marry. This is the simplest and safest way to import high-skilled workers into the country and giving that US is the nation of immigrants, it’s strange to see attempts to reverse that. The Diversity visa (aka lottery) has 55K quota — and yet nobody cries about people entering the States through that process!

    4. Applying for a greencard is hard enough by itself and only slightly helped with H1B process. China, India and Philippines have to wait years and years to get their GC approves and while they waiting, they stay in some sort of limbo between H1B and GC. There was another funny thing happened couple years ago with MS. When Microsoft fired 5K people and at the same time applied for many GCs for employees, USCIS said: “what’s the hell? you’re firing people and importing them at the same time? no way!” and rejected all GC applications. As result, Microsoft is much less inclined to fire anyone ))) This wouldn’t be possible under any Republican administration, only Obama has the guts to say “no” to a multi-national corporation.

    5. L1 visas have no caps! And they are worse than H1B for everyone: employee can’t leave the company (H1Bs are freely transferable) and he’s receiving minimum wage to live. They are much worse. I don’t know why it’s not used much. I have no idea why IBM even bothers with H1Bs since they move employees around. More logical would be to use L1s. Or maybe you just don’t know much about what visas they really use.

    6. Speaking of offshoring: MS used to have a research center in Surrey, BC, just near the border, for those who can’t get H1Bs for US. Do you really think it’s the better way? Companies don’t like being told what to do — if they won’t hire good qualified people here, they just open another research facility in Shanghai and Hyderabad. It’s that easy. Who will win from that? Romney did that all the time and moved many of his companies abroad. Ask him.

    7. If you’re worried about shortage of work, go to Silicon valley. This year it’s crazy there. Salaries are growing at insane rate approaching 200K for a person with mediocre experience. I can hardly believe there’s a shortage of positions for anyone. MS hiring like crazy. I get calls every day though I removed myself from all databases. Google and Facebook are pinging me every month. If someone can’t get into those companies, I must assume they aren’t qualified enough. They should read more about modern technologies and shouldn’t be afraid of getting educated every day through the rest of their lives. IT is that crazy.

    8. Americans aren’t getting proper education because the American high school education system doesn’t encourage thinking. Anyone, even the laziest person, can get high grades — either in music or sports. Why think?? Many students are getting their major in history and literature, without thinking about their future, just because that’s simple. You say they don’t go to engineering because they saw what happened with their parents — do you think they saw what happened with their parents who got degree in literature??? What jobs are available nowadays for literature majors? For economists? For psychology and history? My opinion is that young americans don’t go for harder education just because they don’t think. They aren’t raised to think. They want everything simple and easy.

    9. Nice rant about driving wages down. But I don’t see that. Basic salary for 2000 was $50K, now it’s $100K and keeps growing over the last few years. So — what wages are down?

    10. Someone complained that it’s not possible to sustain a family on $40/hour wage. Well, try $9/hour! That’s the minimal wage in Washington state and a lot of people are getting that. USPS pays $20/hour — how you can live with that?? How much a firefighter gets? A nurse? And do hear them complaining about influx of H2B visa holders?

    Some of my friends get $100/hour while working full-time and more for overtime. And they have many openings! What stops you from moving from Memphis, TN to Seattle, WA, if you’re that broke?

    11. Overall, I feel that the main theme of your article is this: let our under-educated (who got one class of “computer science” and think they are settled for life), under-motivated (who don’t want to update their resume and get better offers), lazy (who don’t want to move from Tennessee) people get high 6-figure salary for doing the same thing! Well, you can’t change your life by doing same things you’ve been doing before. If you want a change, you have to do something different. You have to educate yourself. Every single freaking day. In IT, a year without learning something new throws you back by 2 years. You have to work for a good resume. You have to challenge yourself.

    And thank government for the H1B. Without it, by now there wouldn’t be any software development in this country — just like there’s no more TV manufactured here or no more textile industry or many other things. Without H1B all these development centers would’ve been built in Canada and Mexico.

    • What a thoughtful response! Of course I disagree and feel you’ve done as much as you can to misread what I’ve written, but I appreciate the effort and organization you put into your response. Let’s let the readers — and the nation — decide for themselves. I stand by my work.

      • Andrew says:

        Thank you! But you did make quite a few factual mistakes ))) Couldn’t refuse myself the joy of pointing them out.

        And I forgot about my recipe of “fixing it all”: make H1B available with the same country-based quotas as Diversity lottery. Say, 15% of all visas will go to India (not 90% like today). That will help bring diversity to the process, as well as discourage Indians and Chinese from coming here (after all, they will be offered L1s, which are waaay less attractive).

        That won’t fix the issue with IBM (I guess, nothing but clients and free market competition can stop them). And won’t stop building R&D centers abroad. But it would introduce some order into the immigration process — since other nationalities are inherently waaaaaay pickier in jobs and salaries. That’s my recipe!

      • Goni says:

        First of all i know that my english is not that good, but i believe its normal when you have to speak 4 foreign languages.

        I just read little bit about you Robert, and i’m surprised a guy that has been around for that long, could write this article that is completely non-sense and its not based on any fact (unless you used FOX as a reference)

        I can’t believe how come America became like this, i have 29 years of experience in IT/Engineering, i worked all around the world, (and still do) the difference between all the countries and this “great country” was that America welcomed immigrants, especially smart ones, America found a way how to integrate immigrants in their society… and thats what made this country great. But last 10 years are not like that, America completely changed his path of how they want to deal with immigrants, and its not just government its also people like you, that try to do whatever it takes just to create some hate between different communities. People like you hate everyone that is smarter than you, People like you take everything for granted… Let me tell you my friend Science and Technology are not something that you can take for granted, you need to work your ass really hard to get a successful career in STEM!

        Putting Bill Gates picture on top, and saying that he is wrong (in bold) it clearly proves that you do whatever it takes just to grab attention of a reader…

        i’m surprised how come this country became so evil.

        Back on 1996, I did a lot of projects within fortune 500 companies, and most of IT/Engineers had strong accent, and barely knew how to speak english, but they built america, they built the fundamentals of whats called today “Information Technology” they worked hard, and YES they were with H1B Visa.

        Please Robert, tell us why did you wrote this article, who paid you to do this… what stands behind all this hate for H1B visa…

        It’s not patriotic act, to be against smart people that work on your country…

        You’re saying that 7% of them didn’t paid taxes, that sir, its complete BULLSHIT. If your under H1B Good luck not paying taxes, your ass gets kicked out of the country immediately.

        Once again, if you like your country, you should support smart people in your country. Only dumb people are afraid from smart people.


        • Ronc says:

          I guess we wonder, if you’re so smart, why not contribute your talents to your native country and make it great, rather than act like you are entitled to take jobs away from the citizens of another country, just because you are willing to work hard. Jobs are a scarce resource throughout the world as machines make productivity less labor-intensive. That resource needs to be protected to some extent, which is why all countries have immigration laws in the first place.

      • counterpoint says:


        While your article is mostly valid, beneath the veneer of legal concerns, I sense a discomfort with Asian immigrants.

        Your response to Andrew is evasive and defensive while he raises genuine concerns about contemporary work ethics and state of education in our country today.

        Americans earn several times over the local salary as expats in every country they go to. A lot of times, it is not even a function of talent or skill but the prevailing preference for a Western expat in leadership roles. You will be a lot more enraged if every expat here was making twice as much as an equally qualified American for the same job. Thankfully, our decline hasn’t reached that point yet where Asians come and do our job for three times the money because of their perceived qualities as opposed to real one (but it is possible in a decade or so if we keep transitioning into a welfare-state and the proliferation of nonsense liberal-art/feminism degrees goes unchecked).

        I am pretty sure America is in bigger trouble because of loss of manufacturing jobs but they are not here on the Internet blogging so most of the noise is on the IT front while the real ground beneath our feet continues to slip away to China/Mexico/Brazil.

        If underpaid H1B workers with inferior skills are being employed and companies are able to make it work somehow, those jobs aren’t really that technical and merit a lesser salary. Instead of pointing your fingers at the politicians and lobbyists, you are training your guns on H1B. The disease has to be treated, not side-effects.

        Your article only achieves a xenophobic polarization, not a nuanced understanding of our systemic issues.

        p.s. I hope you don’t employ underpaid Mexican help at your household because that would be ironic.

  30. Donna Conroy says:

    Bob, you are inadvertently covering up the secret that tech companies don’t want Americans to know. Employers can (and do) seek only foreign citizens to fill their US job openings. It’s all legal under the H1-b law.

    The rules for H-1B visas don’t require companies to state “there is no comparable U.S. citizen available.”

    There have been at least 5 attempts over the last 22 years to fix h1-b law so that employers are required to seek local talent first and state that the company sought but couldn’t find comparable Americans.

    In fact, 60 Minutes, in a segment covering the h1-b program in 1993, reported that “the Clinton administration…asked Congress to change the law so that US companies would be forced to look for Americans first before hiring from overseas. Congress is now considering those proposals.”

    In 1998, the Clinton White House went to the mat to fix this. However, Congress compromised by creating a sub-category of employers that had to do so. They are called “H1-b dependent”. However, there are loopholes that allow this sub-category to legally avoid Americans if they hire an advanced degreed foreign citizen…or if the foreign citizen has only a bachelors and is paid $60,000 or more.

    Discrimination against Americans is so wide spread now that some high-tech companies are brazenly excluding Americans right in their job ads! I analyzed 100 such ads on Dice in my report, “No Americans Need Apply”.

    here’s the press coverage, including a snippet in the WSJ:

    Donna Conroy, Director

  31. Tick Tang says:

    Just want to point out the obvious problem in the article – “non-immigration visa” does not mean un-immigrable. It just means that the visa is not for immigration. The holder is free to immigrate through other means.

    Also I believe that a quite high percentage of H1B holders got green cards through employer sponsorship. Saying that 700K IT workers are H1Bs are exaggeration unless you also count those who previously hold H1Bs.

    H1Bs can be used in two ways – permanent and bring outsourced programmer. The latter case generally matches the one described in the article. However, majority of H1B workers are working in permanent jobs, not on project basis.

    • netmouser says:

      Saying a high percent of H-1Bs is misleading in reference to their getting green cards. GC quotas are low and there is a backlog of years for many.

    • jgo says:

      “The 190K a year figure was for FY01, 02, and 03. Since then it has scaled back to 65K.”

      DHS reports that, from FY2000 through FY2010, between 76.6K and 200K new/initial H-1B applications and between 94K and 167K renewals and extensions were approved each year.

      But the number of visas actually issued is what’s important, what impacts US job markets. And the State Department says that, from FY1999 on, they’ve been issuing over 110K initial/new H-1B visas per year (with one exception). In FY2010 it was over 117K. One estimate I’ve seen for FY2011 is close to 130K, but the official report probably won’t be out until late next Spring and we won’t see numbers for the recently ended FY2012 until 2014 Spring. The peak was over 154K in FY2007, and in FY2003 it was “only” a little over 107K.

      From FY2000 through FY2011 that comes to 1.6M new/initial H-1B visas, and from FY1990 it’s just over 2M, so the ramp-up is clear.

      (IMO these numbers are 50 to 150 times what would be reasonable if H-1B visas were genuinely, as frequently alleged, for “the best and brightest”, “highly-skilled”, “innovative” professionals with “rare skills and knowledge unavailable in the USA” rather than what is manifestly clear from data, anecdotal evidence and academic research: that their purpose is flooding US job markets with cheap, young, pliant labor with flexible ethics.)

      The numbers are available in annual State Department reports and posted in several places on-line with links to those reports (where harried media reporters seem incapable or unwilling to find them). DHS gave up on trying to get fact-based estimates of numbers of legally resident individuals by visa type after a 2-month experiment with exit tracking some years back which was a miserable failure.

      Since FY1990 just over 1M L-1 visas have been issued.

      Since FY1990 between 217K and over 411K F (student) visas were issued each year, for a total of about 5.9M. (Totally out of control! And these and the J/exchange visas drive excessive demand for the guest-work visas and green cards.)

      Since FY1992 between 450 and 9,300 O-1 visas (including the (sarcasm on) Out-Standing Shera Bechar and Dorismar (sarcasm off)) have been issued each year for a total of just over 103K (O-2 visas for assistants and O-3 visas for family members bring the grand-total of O-related visas to 178K).

      Since 1990, green cards have been running from just over 700K to 1.8M per year according to the DHS statistical year-book, but State reports, uh… 360K to 540K issued per year over the same period. (DHS is probably reporting “approvals” and State is reporting new visas issued the same as they do with H-1B visas. “Entries” are much higher as people travel back and forth for business and personal reasons; they don’t count humans but, in true bureaucrat tradition, forms submitted at ports of entry, which is easier for the bureaucrats to wrap their minds around, or maybe because it makes it appear that they’re being productive, so they seem to enjoy reporting them.)

      A retired inspector informs us that proper background investigations were not run on visa applicants through that time, only “checks”, i.e. look-ups in data-bases of known extreme malefactors by name, known aliases and such, which data-bases and sharing thereof were expanded.

  32. CorporateDrone says:

    Reading through these comments is hilarious. Basically we should be hands off with the H1B because they provide a nice backdrop to a Horatio Alger of the poor down-trodden foreign IT worker who will strike it rich in America. That combined with the knee-jerk libertarianism inherent in IT, means we’ll never get away form allowing large corporations to game the system.

    As for the crowing about $200K salaries in the Bay Area? Try finding a decent place to live and time to spend that money. Kids? ha! those are for losers

    Now here is a fun exercise, how about investigating the rise of EEO complaints in H1B dominated workplaces. Anecdotally , I have seen multiple instances of ex-H1B now GC holding IT mgrs preferring to hire only young strapping men of the subcontinent because, you know , they are the only ones “qualified”. This is from a perspective of a contractor/consultant who has flitted around many accounts.

    Bellyaching about dropping enrollment in CSE/EE programs? Just rational response to incentives.

  33. Stewart McKenna says:

    The H1B program also reduces the taxes the H1Ber has to pay to
    the US Government.
    I was an H1B in 1983 and I was able to claim 26 deductions on my W-2!
    I could claim for lodging, food, travel, washing, you name it. So although
    I was paid less, I still lived well enough.
    So, in effect, by reducing revenues, this program also increases the deficit..

  34. Doug says:

    Is this story a “real life” manifestation of a computer virus?

  35. Gary Urista says:

    I interviewed for a job at Marvell Semiconductor about 10 years ago for a firmware Engineer. I didn’t get the job. I was there at about 8:00 at night and so were most of the people in the Engineering Department. I don’t think that there were any Americans working there. As the Hiring Manager was talking to me a guy went past the cubicle we were in and the manager yelled at him “Where are you going?”. He said he was going to the bath room and would be right back. If I worked there he wouldn’t have been able to yell at me…. because I would have been at home because they can’t threaten to send me back to China if I don’t work 14 hour days. H1B Visa don’t just hurt my chances of getting hired there, they make the workers basically slaves. I had worked previously with a guy from Switzerland. He was brought over by my boss who was born in Switzerland, came here on a work VISA and stayed because he found an American wife. The younger Swiss guy HATED his job but he couldn’t leave because the H1B was for just one company. If he didn’t like the, he would go back to Switzerland or just shut up and do it anyway.

  36. IPv6 says:

    I work for a European multinational with an sizable office in Silicon Valley and in my group of twelve, ten are on H1Bs. None of them are doing a job that an American couldn’t do. I have personally interviewed 15+ applicants and most of the US based folks were good, if not better in most cases. I can only speak for my group but ALL are on the track for naturalization after the H1B runs out. Also its a myth the Americans don’t want to do engineering disciplines. Most if not all American universities will prefer a foreign student over an American as the foreign students are paying full price which equals more profits for the Uni.

  37. dsw says:

    Bob, this is some of the best, most important work you have ever done. The abuse is rampant and is preventing many young people from learning or working in IT. And, we are shipping the IP and the jobs back to India with all the attendant security risks. Thank you for doing this!

  38. Johan M says:

    Good article! Many articles, including this one, covers industry or cap H1B, however, there are non exempt H1Bs which have no annual cap limit. These cap exempt H1Bs can be used by research institutions, universities, hospitals and not-for-profit organizations. These jobs are equally demanding and as much important as commercial industry jobs. It’s relatively easier to get a cap exempt H1B, but practically impossible to get out of it unless the person has been subject to cap based H1B in last 6 years. It’s practically impossible to make cap exempt to cap transition as cap based H1B petition is to be filled in April for the job starting in October. obviously no company will wait for 6-8 months for the candidate to join in. I think this April-October wait period might be increasing malpractice of filling more H1Bs than needed which could otherwise free up for genuine openings. I think many companies, especially those located offshore, might be filling pool of H1Bs which can come handy if there is any urgent need later in the year. Also, it helps companies to retain employees offshore with the lure of sending them on site. An employee with H1B in hand is less likely to leave the company as the visa will be void if he/she quits the job. So it’s a good technique to retain employees as well, but pretty costly nowadays with increased H1B costs.

    Every industry will complain about shortage of skilled workers. We need visa reforms to make it easy to hire foreign nationals if needed, but not necessarily increase in visa cap.

  39. Jason Kasprowicz says:

    Bob – you said:

    “Here’s where I’ll give a shout-out to the Libertarian contingent reading this column because they’ll tend to say “So what? It’s every man or woman for himself. Employers should be able to do whatever they damned well please while workers can always go elsewhere.”

    But it’s against the law.”

    I see. Protecting slaves who had escaped from their masters was illegal under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Does that mean that people who protected slaves were wrong in doing so?

    Protecting Jews in Nazi Germany was against the law. Does this mean that Germans who protected Jews were wrong in doing so?

    Drinking was illegal during Prohibition. Did that make it wrong to drink alcohol?

    The fact that something is against the law is not really an argument against it unless you first prove that the law itself is morally correct.

    Now let’s look at your argument:

    First, regardless of whether the facts you have stated in your article are correct, your entire argument is based on the assumption that U.S. workers somehow have a natural, absolute right to jobs created by U.S. based employers. Except that they don’t. The only natural rights are the rights to your own life, liberty and property.

    A right to a job is a conditional right. You only have a right to a job if someone else is willing to offer it to you at terms that are mutually acceptable.

    Second, your argument commits the very common economic fallacy of only looking at the first-order consequences of a particular action and ignoring the secondary consequences. Yes, foreign IT workers drive down the wages of U.S. IT workers. But that’s only looking at one side of the issue.

    When companies employ these lower cost workers, one of 2 things happen:

    a) They are able to increase their profits.
    b) Since their costs are lower, and assuming other companies have also been able to reduce their costs in the same manner, competitive forces cause them to lower the prices of their products.

    If (b) happens, everyone else in the society benefits from the increased material standard of living that these low prices bring about because they are able to purchase more products and services with the same level of income.

    If (a) happens, the increased profits are ultimately given to shareholders in the form of increased dividends. Shareholders then invest or spend these additional dividends, thus helping the rest of the economy.

    Net-net, regardless of whether (a) or (b) happens, as any introductory course in economics will prove, the country as a whole benefits from this, even though some people in the country might get hurt by it. But the fact that some people in the country might get hurt is no argument to prevent this from happening. Henry Ford put a lot of horse and buggy factory workers out of work.

    So what does happen to the laid off US IT worker? The same thing that happened to the laid off US horse and buggy factory worker. They have to retrain and get jobs elsewhere, or improve their IT skills in order to make themselves even more valuable to potential employers.

  40. Goni says:

    To all of you who believe on reason and facts, here it is an article from huff. Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/james-m-gentile/immigration-science-and-t_b_2002893.html

    Please read it, and see by yourself that Robert did this article on pure hate towards h1b holders.

  41. [...] on it) that includes criminal celebrities with a media empire in their pockets. Never mind if those celebrities cheapen and harm workers, those celebrities are being used as a promotion tool [1, 2, 3, 4] for Vista 8. There are many [...]

  42. Wakjob says:

    Companies ruined or almost ruined by imported Indian labor

    Adaptec – Indian CEO Subramanian Sundaresh fired.
    AIG (signed outsourcing deal in 2007 in Europe with Accenture Indian frauds, collapsed in 2009)
    AirBus (Qantas plane plunged 650 feet injuring passengers when its computer system written by India disengaged the auto-pilot).
    Alcatel-Lucent – 9,000 laid off on 9/17/12. Started hiring large numbers of Indian workers in 2003-2004. Business “Severely drying up”
    Apple – R&D CLOSED in India in 2006.
    Apple – Indian national and former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta charged with leaking Intel and Apple secrets over the phone.
    Australia’s National Australia Bank (Outsourced jobs to India in 2007, nationwide ATM and account failure in late 2010).
    Barclays Bank – UK executive management was corrupted by Shriti Vadera, the Indian-origin economist. His advice led Barclay’s CEO and other execs to rig Libor interest rates.
    Bell Labs (Arun Netravalli took over, closed, turned into a shopping mall)
    Boeing Dreamliner ES software (written by HCL, banned by FAA)
    Bristol-Myers-Squibb (Trade Secrets and documents stolen in U.S. by Indian national guest worker)
    Caymas – Startup run by Indian CEO, French director of dev, Chinese tech lead. Closed after 5 years of sucking VC out of America.
    Caterpillar misses earnings a mere 4 months after outsourcing to India, Inc.
    Circuit City – Outsourced all IT to Indian-run IBM and went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
    Cisco – destroyed by Indian labor, laid off 55,000 in 2012, going down the drain.
    Color – Bill Nguyen’s startup raised $41 million for a mobile app without producing anything. You can bet most of that went to remittance-hungry foreign workers.
    ComAir crew system run by 100% Indian IT workers caused the 12/25/05 U.S. airport shutdown when they used a short int instead of a long int
    Computer Associates – Former CEO Sanjay Kumar, an Indian national, sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for accounting fraud.
    Deloitte – 2010 – this Indian-packed consulting company is being sued under RICO fraud charges by Marin Country, California for a failed solution.
    Dell – call center (closed in India)
    Delta call centers (closed in India)
    Duke University – Massive scientific fraud by Indian national Dr. Anil Potti discovered in 2012.
    Enron, WorldCom, Qwest, and Tyco all hired large numbers of foreign workers from India before their scandals.
    Fannie Mae – Hired large numbers of Indians, had to be bailed out. Indian logic bomb creator found guilty and sent to prison.
    Goldman Sachs – Kunil Shah, VP & Managing Director – GS had to be bailed out by US taxpayers for $550 BILLION.
    GM – Was booming in 2006, signed $300 million outsourcing deal with Wipro that same year, went bankrupt 3 years later
    HP – Got out of the PC hardware business in 2011 and can’t compete with Apple’s tablets. HP was taken over by Indians and Chinese in 2001. So much for ‘Asian’ talent!
    HSBC ATMs (software taken over by Indians, failed in 2006)
    IBM bill collecting system for Austin, TX failed in 2012 written by Indians at IBM
    Intel Whitefield processor project (cancelled, Indian staff canned)
    Intel – Trade secret stolen by Indian national Biswamohan Pani in 2012.
    JetStar Airways computer failure brings down Christchurch airport on 9/17/11. JetStar is owned by Quantas – which is know to have outsourced to India, Inc.
    JP Morgan – Outsourced subsidiary & IT integration to India in 2009 for $400 million, lost $2 billion in 2012.
    Kodak: Outsourced to India in 2006, filed for bankruptcy in Jan, 2012.
    Lehman (Jasjit Bhattal ruined the company. Spectramind software bought by Wipro, ruined, trashed by Indian programmers)
    London Olympics 2012 Security – Botched by India’s G4S
    Medicare – Defrauded by Indian national doctor Arun Sharma & wife in the U.S.
    Microsoft – Employs over 35,000 H-1Bs. Stock used to be $100. Today it’s lucky to be over $25. Not to mention that Vista thing.
    MIPS – Taken over by Indian national Sandeep Vij in 2010, being sold off in 2012.
    MIT Media Lab Asia (canceled)
    MyNines – A startup founded and run by Indian national Apar Kothari went belly up after throwing millions of America’s VC $ down the drain.
    Nomura Securities – (In 2011 “struggling to compete on the world stage”). No wonder because Jasjit Bhattal formerly of failed Lehman ran it. See Lehman above.
    PeopleSoft (Taken over by Indians in 2000, collapsed).
    PepsiCo – Slides from #1 to #3 during Indian CEO Indra Nooyi’ watch.
    Polycom – Former senior executive Sunil Bhalla charged with insider trading.
    Qantas – See AirBus above
    Quark (Alukah Kamar CEO, fired, lost 60% of its customers to Adobe because Indian-written QuarkExpress 6 was a failure)
    Reebok – Massive fraud and theft in India second in size only to Satyam fraud
    Rolls Royce (Sent aircraft engine work to India in 2006, engines delayed for Boeing 787, and failed on at least 2 Quantas planes in 2010, cost Rolls $500m).
    SAP – Same as Deloitte above in 2010.
    Siemens – Pentagon searches U.S. offices of Siemens unit 10/2012 for illegal payments to government officials (bribes). Siemens laid off most of its American workers in 2003 and replaced them with workers from India.
    Singapore airlines (IT functions taken over in 2009 by TCS, website trashed in August, 2011)
    Skype (Madhu Yarlagadda fired)
    State of Indiana $867 million FAILED IBM project, IBM being sued
    State of New York – Hired Indian-infested CSC in 1998 to build a new system, was 33 months late and $166 million over budget, a cost overrun of 47 percent. And then the system failed. So much for “they can do it better, cheaper, faster”. CSC also holds the sole contract for NC’s Medicaid system redesign. That project is hundreds of millions over budget and years late. India, Inc. is taking its time to maximize the amount it can grift out of America.
    State of Texas failed IBM project.
    Sun Micro (Taken over by Indian and Chinese workers in 2001, collapsed, had to be sold off to Oracle).
    Toyota – Ibrahimshah Shahulhameed, a native of India, sabotaged Toyota’s supplier website, and stole trade secrets in 2012.
    UK’s NHS outsourced numerous jobs including health records to India in mid-2000 resulting in $26 billion over budget.
    Union Bank of California – Cancelled Finacle project run by India’s InfoSys in 2011.
    United – call center (closed in India)
    US Navy F-18 jet crashes into Virginia apartment building on 4/6/12 after outsourcing F-18 work to India’s Tata.
    Victorian Order of Nurses, Canada (Payroll system screwed up by SAP/IBM in mid-2011)
    Virgin Atlantic (software written in India caused cloud IT failure)
    World Bank (Indian fraudsters BANNED for 3 years because they stole data).

    I could post the whole list here but I don’t want to crash any servers.

  43. Wakjob says:

    Here is what all those brilliant H-1Bs from India are really doing to Americans:

    From: “Rajesh Kumar Ramachandran

    Subject: Listen to me A******!!

    Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 20:49:20 -0700 (PDT)

    Now listen carefully to me a******.. dont just bark around in the corner like a rabies stricken stray dog about your pathetic views about politics and jobs. If your insecure about your skills and abilities thats your f****** problem not Indians or any other politicians.. Well you want me to provoke you well then hear this, we are gonna take all your jobs away.. we gonna make sure that you dont even have money to buy s*** and eat, we gonna take evrything thatwas yours.. we gonna drape the Statue of Liberty with a saree (you dont know wahta saree iis, well its a dress which Indian women wear).. now get your f****** stinking face out of here A******!!!!!

    • jacko says:

      Great post wakjob, nice to see someone with the guts to post some truth. This is all part of the leftist agenda to promote multiculturalism, and dilute any national identity we have left. Wake up people!

  44. Mark says:

    Bob, on behalf of the Libertarian contingent of your readership, I’d like to point you towards the broader economic picture here.

    People work because they want purchasing power. Purchasing power is a function of both the amount of money you make and the price of goods and services you can purchase with that money. Neither of those things are static. Arguing in favor of higher wages for Americans while simultaneously arguing in favor of policies that drive up the cost of living for Americans is counterproductive towards the end of improving Americans’ standard of living. All companies work on behalf of their customers. Anything that enables a company to reduce their cost of doing business enables them to reduce prices for their customers. As long as there are no barriers to entry for new suppliers in a market, there’s a very real market incentive for companies to pass the savings on to their customers. That reduces the customers’ cost of living and by extension it enhances their standard of living.

    If we reduce or do away with the H-1B visa program, yes that will mean higher wages for American tech workers, but it will also mean higher prices for all consumers of tech products. This may sound like a perfectly reasonable thing to do until you consider the fact that every industry engages in similar restrictions that ultimately make everything we buy more expensive, not just tech. This type of market protectionism only benefits a small subset of people at the expense of everyone else. The answer is not to do more of the same. The answer is to let the free market operate, let supply to meet demand, and let prices come down.

    This isn’t about “every man for himself”. It’s about what’s best for everyone.

  45. Jason Kasprowicz says:

    Right on the money Mark. Good to know that I am not the only one out here trying to refute the same fallacious arguments in favour of protectionism that people have been making for centuries.

  46. Tom M says:

    This guy on NPR seems to be saying completely the opposite. He’s thinking that we should have 400,000 Visa’s instead of 100,000.


  47. D. B. says:

    Bob, You’re trying to plug the leaking sieve of international commerce and free trade. There are lots of multinational corporations which merely move the work to their overseas facilities. The American staff decreases while the non-American staff increases. No visas needed. Where are your stats on this? This has long been true for the assembly line worker and now it’s becoming true to the rest of us as well.

    We need to deal with the reality of having to compete in the global economy. Protectionist efforts to stem the tide of free trade is an exercise in futility and in the long run helps no one. On the positive side, overall prosperity is on the rise in places that were once poverty stricken with no hope for escape. We don’t need social justice political activism – liberty and free trade benefit all. “A rising tide raises all ships,” JFK. — Your friendly neighborhood U. S. Libertarian I. T. worker.

  48. Sam says:


    First of all that NPR article is about (Indian) entrepreneurs.

    Second, NPR should use google for 5 secs before conducting an interview. There is something that is called an E-Visa. And you don’t need millions for that.

    “There has been and will be a substantial capital investment in the US. There is no specific cash threshold defined, but $40,000 is probably an absolute minimum, and any investment below $100,000 would need a very strong case to support it.”
    Source: http://www.workpermit.com/us/investor_e1_e2.htm

    The only question in that interview is why India is not covered by that treaty?

    Therefore, I make the conclusion that guy in the interview is not after an entrepreneurial issue, but after a specific Indian specific immigration problem amongst tech workers.

  49. D. B. says:

    HA! Too funny! Currently, at the top of your article is an ad from corp-corp-com promoting “65,000 USA H1B Jobs” and asking for resumes. Obviously there was a search of your article’s content and it made a match. So in effect, your article against H1b visas has served to promote them. Very funny!

  50. Edmund says:

    I’m English and came to the US in the mid 70′s on an inter-company transfer visa (B1 at that time) and got the visa based on the fact that I was trained to work on and repair the companies equipment (Holter recorders and EKG Analyzers). The company had to advertize the position locally in Maryland and of course nobody applied because it required specialized knowledge that the local community college grads didn’t have. I ended up running the service department, training and employing four US citizens as the company expanded – everyone else in the company was an American.

    I discovered, after hiring local US citizens, that I was seriously underpaid by US standards at the time but there was little I could do about it since the company could just ship me back to the UK anytime while I was on the B1 visa.

    Eventually I applied for and was granted resident alien status and now I’m a US citizen but every time I get a statement from the Social Security Administration I can see the difference in wages between being a B1 visa and a Resident Alien.

  51. D. B. says:

    Bob, It was once against the law NOT to return slaves to their owners. Instead of discussing the rightness of the situation, you hide behind the law. This merely evidences the weakness of your argument. You have an uphill climb in making a case against liberty and free trade and you’re sliding down into the swamp.

    • Wakjob says:

§ 1182. Inadmissible aliens

(5) Labor certification and qualifications for certain immigrants
(A) Labor certification

(i) In general, any alien who seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor is inadmissible, unless the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General that—

(I) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, qualified
(or equally qualified in the case of an alien described in clause (ii)) and available at the time of application for a visa and admission to the United States and at the place where the alien is to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, and

(II) the employment of such alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed.

    • Wakjob says:

      “Free Trade” was another communist goal from the 1960s. Google “Communist goals 1963″. “Free trade” is a ploy foisted on Americans to allow what Americans created to be stolen by other lazy countries. Meanwhile China is putting 200% tariffs on US autos and India is screaming bloody murder because Wal-Mart opened there.

  52. jgo says:

    Bob mentions “2.5 million body labor pool”. I think that’s an extreme under-estimate.

    Recent BLS estimates have 3M in the A&E “labor force” (i.e. employed plus unemployed actively seeking work, in architecture and engineering, citizens plus non-citizens), and a little over 4.6M for the math and computer “labor force” (plus operators & CIS managers which they count separately). So, adding up their numbers, BLS would be likely to say that the STEM “labor force” is about 8.2M, virtually the same as the numbers of citizens plus non-citizens they report as currently employed in these occupations (with about 1.8M in likely rounding and other estimation errors, due to the nature of this data-set’s survey sample sizes, and from adding numbers reported as employed plus unemployed actively seeking work).

    These do not include former mechanical engineers or former software architects who are now in suvival jobs (pet-sitting, serving coffee, selling blue jeans, driving the courtesy van for the car repair shop, teaching guest-workers how to program 1 term per year at the local juco or extension campus… — we are all them, been them, met them, read their postings or e-mail messages, or on rare occasions read some of their widely scattered stories in the media). BLS counts them as fully-employed pet-sitters, coffee servers, etc., not as under-employed STEM workers, and not as part of the STEM “labor force”.

    An examination of the unemployment rates by detailed occupations suggests that current unemployment rates in STEM fields are running between 2 and 3 times historical full employment levels, as Bob noted in an earlier article with a graph.

    The Health and Mortality stats show that average life expectancy at birth is now about 79 years, from age 20 it’s 80, and the numbers living past age 100 are growing. Many articles assert that “seniors” are, on average, more active and healthy and productive than ever, accompanied with articles of well-off retirees founding new firms, going back to doing “real work” of various kinds in addition to the traditional charity/volunteer work and honorary posts (and then there’s the local prosecutor with flexible ethics who figured out how to start collecting his retirement pension while still working at full salary and benefits). I’ve taught, in 15-20 minutes, 70+ year old mechanical engineers how to create tables and do complex searches in relational data-bases using SQL, to help them set up an work with data-bases to track their design archives to increase re-use.

    So, instead of 30 years of productive life (or the 25 years beginning at age 14 that was common a century back), we’ve now got a baby boom and genx and geny… with 55 to 75 years of productive life, while the H-1B system encourages employment discrimination that watchers of the issue have noted starts dumping capable US citizen STEM workers at age 35 (despite continuous learning and periodic re-tooling). Executives clearly want the young, pliant worker with recently-attained “skills”, not the experienced worker with recently-attained “skills” who just completed the same course-work or training… or, for that matter, taught those courses.

    Meanwhile, a recent estimate by Camarota at CIS, using BLS numbers, is that the able and willing US citizen STEM talent pool is such that 1.8M US citizen STEM pros are not employed in STEM jobs. Hal Salzman and B. Lindsay Lowell have, indepenently and together over the last decade, done research which repeatedly suggested to them that we’ve only been employing about a third of degreed US citizen STEM grads in STEM work.

    Since 1970, according to the Dept. of Education, US citizens have earned just over 3M STEM degrees from academic year 1999-2000 to AY2009-2010, and over 9M STEM degrees from AY1969-1970 to AY2009-2010 (over 1.3M of them CS degrees). According to NSF, we have quite a few capable and professional US STEM workers who do not have STEM degrees (i.e. CS or CE may have been their minor, or maybe they were music and psych or Latin or Greek literature majors who took one programming class and taught themselves the rest, or maybe they were receptionists who were cross-trained to become sys admins — I’ve seen each of these cases and all of them were good STEM workers). Using DoE and NSF figures brings the total of US citizen STEM workers added from AY1969-1970 to AY2009-2010 to just under 12M (2.3M of them in CS-related fields). So, the available US citizen STEM talent pool is closer to 12M. (If we subtract lawyers who took CS classes as part of being certified to practice copyright and patent law, early retirees and early deaths, it might bring us down to 10.5M or 11M. That still leaves a surplus of a couple million fully qualified US citizen STEM workers.)

  53. Joe Schmoe says:

    “converting an H-1B visa into a green card is through marriage to a U.S. citizen.”

    Actually, most of the time the employer sponsors and H1B’s green card. This happens in most cases when an H1B comes to the U.S. The H1B wants to stay as the oppurtunities have always been much greater here than were they came from. I guess this is changing a little now with all the developing countries having explosive growth.

  54. peterK says:

    Couldn’t help but laugh when you said, “and the signal it sends to students is to study law instead of computer science”. I was a computer science major at BYU working for the IT dept at the law school just a year and a half ago. Have had that same thought many times. In school and after.

    Am currently in a job I’m happy with, even if the pay is crap. :) Will try to spread the word on this. Not sure what else to do about it. :/

  55. [...] explain the game to the general public in words and concepts the average american can understand. cringley had an article this week that explained it in very plan language. Keep invoicing and carry [...]

  56. [...] What Americans don’t know about H-1B visas could hurt us all ~ I, Cringely. Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogle +1Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  57. KillerOfTheGoldenGoose says:

    Is there any point at which China and India can employ the majority of their own? Why does the US continue to be the major driver of demand for foreign workers? Would be nice if their own governments stepped it up and created opportunities locally and not rely so much on the US to provide the demand. Do these countries offer the equivalent of an H1-B for US workers?

  58. Robert Squitieri says:

    Hit a nerve here Bob.

    The level of corruption is staggering.

    Just remember the NYC Subways are engineered by Engineers not native to the USA the next time you ride it.

    Thank god they are manually controlled.

    WMATA Subways in DC crash more often and they are “automatic”.

    To many people everywhere are not doing the right thing.

  59. CM says:

    I agree with Bob that there is a problem. But I think there is no political will to fix it. Big tech companies have deep pockets and relationship with government, I don’t foresee this issue being address anything soon. So knowing this dark fact, I can only encourage my kids not to study Computer Science. Can’t fight the system, can only navigate around it.

  60. Mr Windows says:

    The H1-B (and other visa) program(s) need to be sharply curtailed.

    If we are in such dire need of STEM graduates, then we need the industry to fund scholarships expressly for the purpose.

  61. SamC says:

    Without H1B program, this country wouldn’t have achieved it’s technical edge over the world. The big Corps need qualified ANTS to build their BIG empires. The qualified ANTS happened to be persons with an engineering degree from India which US doesn’t have. Do u think US law makers allow H1Bs, if there are abundance of US citizens who can do all this work? H1B is the backbone of US tech industry. You can try simulating a scenario to let go of all H1B’s and see how this nation limps. I am a H1B and I am not a native english speaker. Pardon my grammatical mistakes, but u should get my message. Its like survival of the fittest. On the bright side, we pay every tax(medicare,SS) like a US citizen but we DONT get any benefit from it. By law we are bonded with the employers sponsoring H1B. How is this not modern day bonded labour?

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