The US H1-B visa program, which will begin accepting applications for 2013 next week, is a hot-button issue in high-tech. Proponents of the program, which allows highly skilled foreign employees to work in the US, complements the US workforce. Opponents say the program has been exploited to bring in workers that are paid less than their US counterparts and displaces qualified American workers.
Last March, Associate Professor Ronil Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology, testified before the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. These are excerpts from his testimony:
I have concluded that the H-1B program, as currently designed and administered, does more harm than good. To meet the needs of the U.S. economy and U.S. workers, the H-1B visa program needs immediate and substantial overhaul.
The principal goal of the H-1B visa program is to bring in foreign workers who complement the US workforce. Instead, loopholes in the program have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills, who directly substitute for, rather than complement, workers already in America. They are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to US workers.
Furthermore, program loopholes provide an unfair competitive advantage to companies specializing in offshore outsourcing, speeding up the process of shipping high-wage, high-tech jobs overseas. It has disadvantaged companies that primarily hire American workers and forced those firms to accelerate their own offshoring, threatening America’s capacity to innovate and ability to create sufficient high-wage, high-technology jobs.
Hira outlined four design flaws with the program, which I have summarized below:
No labor market test. Employers are not required to show that American workers are unavailable before hiring foreign workers through the H1-B visa program.
Wage requirements are too low. A recent GAO study found that the majority of H1-B applications were reserved for entry-level positions -- "hardly a wage level that the 'best and brightest' would earn."
Work permits are held by the employer. An H1-B worker's legal status in the country is dependent on the employer, rather than the worker, giving inordinate power to the employer.
The visa period is too long. H1-B visas are issued for three years and are renewable for another three years. The visas can be extended indefinitely.
Hira also testified that other visa programs, such as L-1, B-1, and OPT, are also badly in need of an overhaul. Actions recommended include requiring a regular test of the US labor market; paying guest workers true market wages; limiting the visas to three years with no renewal; eliminating access to additional H1-B visas for H1-B dependent firms; and instituting sensible oversight, including regular audits, of guest worker visa programs.
"The lobbyists supporting the H1-B visa program have repeatedly made claims that the program is needed because there is a shortage of American workers with the requisite skills and that the foreign workers being imported are the best and the brightest," Hira concluded. "If that is indeed the case, then those employers should not object to these sensible reforms."
"Similarly while US govt is trying to show that it is against allowing too many foregin skilled workers to work in USA, many of the US businesses cannot do without those skilled foreign workers."
@parabhakar: I agree that the business owners and governments will have a conflict of opinion in this case. If the policy is implemented, business owners will run the risk of facing labor crisis. I wonder what the business community will have to say on this.
I think making the visa reform is not an easy task for the US government. If they make the requirements very strict for immigrants, they run the risk of facing shortage of labor at least in the short-run if the US nationals are not able to take their place. On the other hand, if they make them too lenient, they are worsening the situation for US workforce who are already unemployed in a large number. It's really difficult to find a solution that can solve the problem.
This dual standard policy on foreigner worker visa reminds me of the curbs put worldwide on the Tobaco Industry. Though the whole world acknowledges that the smoking is injurious to health, not a single government in the world has banned the manufactruing of cigarettes. Why? Because this idnustry gives them millions of dollars of tax revenue.
Similarly while US govt is trying to show that it is against allowing too many foregin skilled workers to work in USA, many of the US businesses cannot do without those skilled foreign workers.
Hence the govt policies look skewed in terms of what they say politically and what they implement as a business sense.
I understand that most of these issues are talked about because Jobs in America are hard to come by today.
But if the Revenue coming in though these Visa Fees (this is why Visa Fees were raised substantially this year)was not Important for the Treasury Department;they would have straightaway forced INS to just shut the whole program.
You want to make money of them plus you want control how many people come in and what work they do and don't do.
I have a better proposal.Close the Program Completely to anyone who does'nt have a US Degree.
All those on existing Visas can continue working but no more New H-1Bs.
Its well-known that One H-1B Visa holder in America supports atleast 4-6 people back home in India(either through Jobs or by sending remittances back home).
The impact of this kind of a move will be devastating(atleast initially) for these people and especially for the Indian Software Outsourcing companies(They get close to 60% of their Business from America today).
But what about American Companies like IBM,Accenture,HP ,Microsoft and Cognizant???
They are all also dependent on this program(and are amongst its biggest supporters).
What happens then?Also, some of the biggest Indian Outsourcers have hired(over 25000) Amercan Citizens here in America in the last three-four years.Should they also fire these people???
If the Govt wants to be openly Protectionist;I don't mind it.
Its just that the Consequences of such a Move will bommerang back on those Clowns in DC bigtime.
P.S Even when it comes to paying below market wages for these Professionals; Its a personal choice for them.Nobody put a Gun to their heads forcing them to work for those wages.I am reminded about something I saw recently in China with Foxconn.
Foxconn under pressure from Apple(which itself was bowing under US Public pressure);decided to reduce paid over-time for most employees(so they get more time for Toilet Breaks and what not nonsense which most Westerners are used to).
Consequence-The employees don't want it!!!
They Say they are here to work and not to play.Check this out!
How do you intend to ship back the 10 million or so Mexicans who are in the US illegally?
As for Training foriegners;I remember reading that a lot of High Level Techies(PHDs) were subjected to all kinds of crazy movement restrictions(Because they fell on some kind of sensitive technologies list or something of that sort called TRIP).
I have seen these guys get humiliated and harassed by DHS Goons at American Airports just because they were going to see their old Mother back in India/China/Taiwan.
What most American Government Officials still don't get it is that High Quality Skilled Labor is in demand Globally.And if you don't treat them well in America they will just go elsewhere.
If Obama was really serious about changing this he would have made it easier for Foriegners with American Masters(&PHDs) Degrees to become American Citizens .
Lets say you have a Foriegner(with a US Advanced Degree) who has a steady job and is working in America for atleast 5 years straight;don't you think he should atleast have a Green Card/LIfeLong Multiple Entry Visa???
Canada,Australia,Singapore,the UK and New Zealand(who are competing for High Quality Tech talent with America have these rules in place).
Think about it practically-If a person even after working for 5 years straight does no feel secure in a country;why would he/she bother putting down roots there???
Why would he/she bother making any Investments like Buying a Home or for that matter Parking his money in America???
The Kind of Jobs this policy would generate in US Economy today is unbelievable.
The whole Immigration Process needs to be overhauled sharply today.
"We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea—the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here...The future is ours to win. But to get there, we cannot stand still."
-PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Obama has been advocating for an immigration reform for quite sometime now. I believe the system must change, not only the H1B visa process.
Right now, IMHO, the legal way to go to the US (for qualified professionals) is too hard, and too easy for someone that simply wants to stay ilegally.
I remember a phrase from Obama that said that the US trained foreigners with the best education and then sent them away to compete against the US... because of the visa issues.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.