H-1B Reform May Become Tech Battle of the Year

Whatever the outcome of the federal government’s H-1B visa review, chances are good that some group won’t like it.

President Trump’s latest executive order tasks the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State with reviewing current H-1B policy in order to eliminate fraud and abuse. Before signing the order at an April 18 event in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Trump said that the visas “should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants, and they should never be used to replace Americans.”

Many tech companies complain that capping or curtailing the H-1B visa program won’t solve the problem of sourcing tech talent. “While a blanket reduction in foreign workers seems popular on the surface, it does not address the core issue facing the U.S. today, we do not have enough technology workers and things are only going to get worse,” Joe Vacca, CMO of talent-development firm Revature, wrote in an emailed statement. “Universities cannot adjust to the rapid changes that are occurring in technology, the private sector must bridge that gap and train the next generation of U.S. technology workers.”

FWD.us, a lobbying group co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders, has advocated for more high-tech immigration. “Our visa system is half a century old and Congress has failed to update our high-skilled immigration system since 1990,” FWD.us Northern California Director Mark Ranneberger said during a recent panel hosted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “This woefully outdated system harms the American economy by inhibiting its capacity for growth. High-skilled immigrants grow the American economy, create jobs for Americans and boost wages for native-born workers.”

And for many immigrants with high-tech skills, H-1Bs present a remarkable opportunity. “Since I’ve witnessed first-hand the talent and dedication immigrants bring to organizations, I value giving immigrants with H-1B visas opportunities to start and grow their tech careers in the U.S.,” Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HighGround, a tech firm focused on employee engagement, wrote in an email. “I’ve made it a point to recruit, hire and retain a diverse team at HighGround.”

Sandhir, who immigrated to the U.S. from London at the age of eight, has employees from India, China, Egypt, Africa, France, Greece, Russia, and other countries. “The future is bright for tech in our country,” he wrote, “but we need to continue welcoming diverse perspectives from all over the world in order to stay on track.”

Last year, the government made available some 85,000 H-1B visas, which drew 618,266 applications. Many opponents of the program suggest that tech companies aren’t doing enough to source domestic talent before turning to H-1Bs; others suggest that the current lottery system is an inefficient way of dealing with the high demand. In particular, outsourcing firms have been accused of pouring lots of applicants into the system, for positions that aren’t quite as highly specialized as the terms of the visa might lead one to expect.

Lawmakers have attempted to address the lottery system before; U.S. Senate bill 2266, for example, would prioritize H-1B distribution by applicants’ skills, degrees, proposed wages, and so on. Other bills have attempted to squash one of the biggest criticisms of the H-1B program, that companies use the visas to replace U.S.-based workers, by explicitly restricting the ability of applicants to displace those currently employed.

Whatever the outcome of Trump’s reform efforts, tech companies may have to adjust their hiring practices. In addition, various advocacy groups will claim the reforms aren’t enough to address some of the core problems. In the interim, however, all anyone can do is wait for the federal review to run its course.

Image Credit: Vinokurov Kirill/Shutterstock.com

Comments

21 Responses to “H-1B Reform May Become Tech Battle of the Year”

April 24, 2017 at 7:07 pm, Angry American said:

“While a blanket reduction in foreign workers seems popular on the surface, it does not address the core issue facing the U.S. today, we do not have enough technology workers and things are only going to get worse,”

If this was true then every technology worker should be working. No matter what there age, race or gender. No matter what computer science of boot camp program they came out of they should be gainfully employed. And of course the person making the statement does not specify what technology sectors need employees?

“Universities cannot adjust to the rapid changes that are occurring in technology, the private sector must bridge that gap and train the next generation of U.S. technology workers.”

Ah the universal cry of the tech companies wanting cheap labor. The reason why corporation don’t hire older American tech workers, ‘they don’t know the latest technology’ whatever that technology is. Companies don’t want to hire younger American workers because they don’t have enough on the job experience. Americans is waking and I hope Trump puts the clamps down on this scam and corporate America start hiring Americans again.

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April 25, 2017 at 11:14 am, joo loo said:

H1-B program needs to be crushed and eliminated. Even is DJT brings some sanity to the program and the original purpose is restored, the next establishment Democrat/Republican will F$#@ us again.

This is the same reason for the wall. Illegal border crossings are way down, but the next establishment Democrat/Republican will F$#@ us again.

These problems need to be fixed long-term.

ELIMINATE H1-B!

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April 27, 2017 at 6:32 am, CompSci said:

ELIMINATE H1-B! TERMINATE THE VISAS IMMEDIATELY! NOW! TODAY! LET THE SOCIOPATH CORPORATIONS AND CEOs THAT NEED H-1B, SELF DEPORT, TO BE REPLACED BY GENUINE AMERICAN COMPANIES THAT ARE GOOD CORPORATE CITIZENS.

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April 27, 2017 at 6:40 am, Dv said:

I agree, that was a ridiculous statement. There is so much talent here that is unused, because lower wage and less talented resources are available in the foreign dollar store.

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April 27, 2017 at 8:03 am, Michael said:

I’ve been searching for a job in technology for over half a year. The h1 is nothing less than cheap labor for multinationals. I’ve got 2 masters in aero and mechanical engineering.

The only thing I have peding are companies that take over 3 months to decide. What do you mean shortage!?

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April 27, 2017 at 8:04 am, Tim said:

This will not fix the core of the problem which is companies “best shoring” American jobs over seas for cheap labor. Tech companies will still be sending these jobs over seas they just won’t be bringing the worker to the US. I have worked tech for 20 years and watched American staffing reduced to a skeleton crew while companies like HP, IBM, and other technology outsourcing firms send all new hires to India, Costa Rica, or other locations with cheap wages and an over abundance of workers willing to accept these ridiculous salaries.

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April 27, 2017 at 8:09 am, Arthur Allsopp said:

The H1-B needs to go. It does nothing but steal jobs from Americans and mess the economy up. Its the Republicans answer to cheap hi-tech labor when they should be paying a much higher salary for the actual position. This started in the 90’s when more and more colleges allowed for a bigger foreign student body and less actual Americans to learn the hi-tech trade. That is why we do not have enough Americans with the hi-tech skills they need. the US and its Colleges need to give more actual Americans the opportunity instead of filling a foreign financial quota.
(Put simply is the fact that they couldn’t move the job to them so they moved them to the Job. Bernie Sanders)

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April 27, 2017 at 8:58 am, retired db designer said:

Its not just silicon valley – Aetna pres PROPUDLY! announced his plan to have 85-95% of tech employees from Indian ‘concultiong’ companies. Aneta now has business analysts who have never been to us, never talked to a us business person.

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April 27, 2017 at 9:04 am, joo loo said:

“Sandhir, who immigrated to the U.S. from London at the age of eight, has…”
Fake news, they always include an example like this to make the point, but never include something like: “Joe, who used to make $115/hr in 2008, now is lucky to get 60$/hr — the same as he made in 1993 — so he is really pissed about H1-B’s.” or “Recruiters with funny sounding names on bad phone connections call Joe daily offering him a rate that gets smaller with each call…”

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April 27, 2017 at 10:14 am, Carlous said:

So, this article seems a bit skewed. Companies such as Highground do their best to recruit their own to come to the US and and abuse the system (H1B). Too many tricks being played of which I hope will eliminate H1B completely. #HellNoYouGottaGo!

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April 27, 2017 at 10:43 am, Raj said:

Chill out guys, don’t get to conclusions here. Nobody is going to do nothing, it is higher level politics. They may just impose some freaking rules and after trump someone will come and do some other rules. It is a cycle and you and i saying even 101 words to rip H1. nobody is going to listen to you. I am on H1, i am from India and I work here not for some cheap price but a decent price. Everybody needs money and nobody satisfies with what they make, each person at any point hope for earning more than what he/she is, so dont think we cheap labors here.

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April 27, 2017 at 10:46 am, Obsolete said:

You mean the same Zuckerberg who said a few years back that he would not hire older (which apparently meant over 35) workers because they don’t know and can’t learn current technology? The Zuckerberg who put up his own wall so neighbors couldn’t see into his yard? The Zuckerberg who got his “disruptive” software by being in the right place at the right time? He’s a total creep who shouldn’t be driving government policy. That both major parties allow themselves to be influenced by groups like FWD.us shows how much sway race-to-the-bottom interests have, to the detriment of the U.S. workforce (which includes naturalized citizens and people with green cards).

This junk has been going on since the late ’90s, when tech companies got tired of paying highish rates to people who wanted things like benefits and time off (not just vacations, but holidays and nights after a long work day). The managers and HR people haven’t gotten more clued in about what tech workers can do or want; instead, they’ve gotten very good at designing job requests that have bizarre requirements that can only be filled by someone fudging the resume based on already knowing who the company wants to hire.

There are so many sleazy things companies do to say they couldn’t find a qualified U.S. worker. I’d name some, but most people know what the process is and how to spot a job ad that is looking only for resumes to show that they tried to find Americans. I’m one of the older tech workers (mid 50s) who has given up finding work, because companies always had a reason for why I wasn’t qualified, despite my skills being quite current and my rates quite reasonable. The only interest I saw was in places that wanted some U.S. resumes to show that they tried to fill the job with American workers. Things like work across the country when I specifically said I couldn’t relocate (even better when it’s for a three-month contract); rates that were so far below what anyone would take in that region that it’s a joke; a bizarre set of skills (SharePoint, iOS development, and COBOL); advanced degrees for work that doesn’t need it and wouldn’t attract someone with that degree.

The whole tech business has become a scam of one group faking another to allow them to get past labor laws, whether it’s overtime pay, basic humane treatment, hiring bias of various sorts so that the companies can squeeze the most out of bodies who won’t question the work in any way. Meanwhile, on the employee end, are people who flat-out cheat to fit the job requirements (like one person qualifying for and getting the work then selling the position online). None of this benefits U.S. companies or workers.

Sorry about the rant, but I’m sick of seeing articles that to be “fair” show billionaires complaining that they can’t find anyone to take their jobs and U.S. workers are so horrible.

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April 27, 2017 at 11:30 am, Just Common Sense said:

First, I find it hilarious that companies claim that a university can’t adjust its curriculum to keep pace with changing technology. Perhaps if the professors came from working professionals in the field instead of theoretical academia, that gap would narrow quickly.
The ever-changing financial sector changes rapidly, and business schools seem to make the adjustments okay.

Second, what Sandhir isn’t saying is how many Americans he has on his staff, and the answer is “none”. Why? Because Sandhir, like so many other companies in the US, is looking for cheap labor to maximize his profit potential, and this H1-B program allows just that: American companies screwing over fellow Americans simply for the profit motive. The program itself is a scam, period.

Finally, I realize in our politically correct world we talk around issues instead of directly to them. I object to the word “immigrant”, as that implies someone coming to this country with the intention of becoming an American citizen and bettering their life. These H1-Bs have no intention of gaining citizenship except in rare instances; thus let’s drop the PC “immigrant” misnomer and relieve our self of the implied guilt associated with “helping out fellow would be Americans seeking a better life.”

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April 27, 2017 at 1:34 pm, Larisa Kovaleva said:

H1 visa should be eliminated ASAP.
So many talented American Citizens are out of work because of the distortion brought to USA by that political program. “Cheap” and not that knowledgeable IT specialists, mostly from India, flooded IT departments of all the companies in USA . They are not that cheap any more and most of them are less knowledgeable than Americans

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April 27, 2017 at 3:00 pm, Phil said:

I applied for a tech job, spent two careful hours completing the full application, filled out the EEOC forms as a courtesy, and was presented with a PDF of my application “as it would be submitted to the hiring panel”. Bam! The top page of the PDF was the EEOC form showing my age (50). Takeaways: Age discrimination in tech is real and don’t complete EEOC forms. anymore.

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April 27, 2017 at 3:27 pm, AE said:

H1B has become a crutch for US industries to hire cheap inexpensive labor at the expense of the US citizen worker. Sure, we – men and women – can spill our blood for this country but when it comes to employment we are too expensive. Having grown up with the industry, from punched cards to cloud, the last 8 years my skills have been commoditized. Tech industries MIGHT have a point with SOME skillsets, but bringing someone in to the US to work or even offshoring the work because the hourly wage is less has to stop.

When will these industry leaders figure out that if we don’t employ our citizens, then our citizens won’t be able to afford those awesome houses, iDevices and goods and services.

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April 27, 2017 at 3:36 pm, ATEchGuy said:

HiB and offshoring abuse? Take a look at Manpower. Yes the staffing help manpower. They did another round of IT bloodletting and now their Global IT operations is wholly outsourced. From the actual systems to IBM to staffing to Tata. There are from the CIO down 5 people left in Manpower’s Global IT operations arm. They have NO control anymore of their own IT! Not just the admin and dev types but all the middle management functions as well. Now some 3rd party company gets to say whis is what your IT will look like, Cost controls? Phfft! Completing on time ans schedule? Phfft!
Might as well go whole hog and outsource the CIO as well and at least save his salary, your gonna need it to pay for hidden cost overruns in delays everywhere else in the company.

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April 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm, Balr1401 said:

Been there, done that. Northwestern Mutual Insurance has just eliminated all IT contractors from local firms and replaced them with contractors from Cognizant and Infosys (both Indian companies), as well as off-shore staff. They have only a small American IT staff left. I have pretty much lost respect for them, now. I will boycott all of their products.

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April 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm, TwoDecadesOfAbuse said:

It’s time it was fixed and the abuses of it curtailed. It’s been 2 decades of abuse that has caused Universities to move away from it. It is still a high wage occupation, but not as high as it should be, and not as high as it was almost 20 years ago for somebody with 20 years of experience. 85,000 is more than enough, and it may be too much. Big Corps abusing cheap under-skilled labor. I have witnessed it for the past 15 years, and it is as shameful as it can get right now. I’m tired of competing for salary against people that can’t compete with my skills.

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April 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm, SEL said:

Not really a fair and balanced article on the H1-B scam. Don’t see a mention of the Disney, and a multitude of other, employees forced to train their H1-B replacements. Don’t see a mention of the rampant age discrimination within the technology industry that is made possible with cheap foreign labor. Here’s the answer. Require each H1-B visa have a fee equal to one year’s tuition for an American student. Voila, pretty soon the “labor shortage” dries up, as do the H1-B visa holders.

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May 04, 2017 at 9:38 am, Diana said:

TRUMP is doing a GREAT….GREAT JOB on H1B, which no Leader did.

H1B employment is all a fake experience to suppress US employees for cheap wages. It is for Corporate Benefit.

The work H1B guys code needs a rework by American Employees!!

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