Fed Policy Subjects H-1B Records to Destruction

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The U.S. Department of Labor plans on destroying H-1B records after five years, in accordance with a new policy.

In an Oct. 17 posting on its website, the Department of Labor also noted that the Labor Condition Applications Online System, which contains many of the Labor Condition Applications (LCA) used by prospective H-1B employers, has been shut down. The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will “no longer respond to inquiries to search for records in response to FOIA requests, or provide information for requests for duplicate certifications for LCA applications processed in the LCA Online System.”

As Patrick Thibodeau noted over at Computerworld, researchers depend on LCA records to accurately analyze the long-term wax and wane of the H-1B market. “These are the only publicly available records for researchers to analyze on the demand by employers for H-1B visas with detail information on work locations,” Neil Ruiz, who researches visa issues for The Brookings Institution, told Thibodeau.

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Those researchers find the decision to make H-1B records “temporary” a perplexing one, especially as H-1B visa-holders can stay in the United States for as long as six years, with the possibility of further extensions under certain circumstances. In theory, a current H-1B holder could see his or her records destroyed before completing a stay.

The debate over H-1B visas is an emotional one for many U.S. tech workers. In order to help debunk myths and offer an accurate picture of the program’s effects, researchers need as much data as possible—a goal that the federal government just made much harder.

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15 Responses to “Fed Policy Subjects H-1B Records to Destruction”

  1. James Beatty

    Hhhhmmmm wonder if these idiots realize why those backups are kept and why they demanded them when they didn’t understand just what was being done or why? They probably thought it made their money grow faster in the banks. God what stupid people. I hope the feds as well as corps get fried for what they did but I know they won’t.

  2. leonard hamilton

    Wow. I have seen guys get fired (american tech workers on a no benefit no overtime contract of course) for making mistakes with backups. This is getting out of hand, bad enough companies are asking doomsday questions during interviews, now this.

  3. I agree with others that industry lobbyists, unhappy with some research that uses H-1B records, may be behind the deletion of records. For example, last June I posted a subset of the Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) online at http://econdataus.com/lcainfo.htm . The first large table there shows some of the most questionable data in applications from 2001 to 2013. The green values are values from applications that were certified that appear to be incorrect. As you can see, this data occurred from 2006 through 2008 and included records with company names like “Large Company” and addresses like “address123”. But as stated at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/ , “The OFLC will no longer respond to inquiries to confirm priority dates, search for records in response to FOIA requests, or provide information for requests for duplicate certifications for permanent labor certification applications with a final determination issued in 2008 or earlier, in keeping with the OFLC records schedule”. Hence, the source record for these years are no longer available, even via FOIA requests. Coincidence?

    In any case, it seems that most of the processing of LCAs is automated and that some of the applicants take advantage of this. As you can see from the link above, all requests for over 1000 positions were denied but there were many requests for just under 1000 positions that were certified. That suggests that there is a known cutoff at 1000. Then, there were a number of certified applications that did not appear to contain enough information to determine the workplace location, a critical piece of information for evaluating the requests. Then, I noticed that nearly every application that proposed to pay a salary significantly below the prevailing wage was denied. However, many that proposed to pay a salary many multiples the prevailing wage, suggesting bad salary data, were certified. For example, a request to pay a product consultant $11.4 million a year and a staff dentist $15.5 million a year were certified! That’s despite the fact that they listed the prevailing wages as $84,344 and $136,864, respectively. It appears that someone is just applying a set of filters to the data and “rubber-stamping” everything else.

    • Fred Bosick

      “Then, I noticed that nearly every application that proposed to pay a salary significantly below the prevailing wage was denied. However, many that proposed to pay a salary many multiples the prevailing wage, suggesting bad salary data, were certified. For example, a request to pay a product consultant $11.4 million a year and a staff dentist $15.5 million a year were certified!”

      Fake records implanted to confound average wage calculations.

      Seems the OFLC is now tasked with protecting the guilty.

      From your account name, it seems you’re professionally gathering data like this. See if you can pull the mode or middle deciles rather than the average. Thank you for your detailed post!

      • > Fake records implanted to confound average wage calculations.

        Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if those fake records are the cause of some studies that say that H-1B visa workers are paid more than average. Looking back at the data at http://econdataus.com/lcainfo.htm , I’m also reminded of some of the recent applications for huge numbers of workers. In 2013, a company filed an LCA for over 2 million workers and in 2010, a company (Minebrain Solutions Inc) filed an LCA for 7 million workers! Both were denied but that would allow someone to claim that the great majority of workers for whom an LCA was filed were denied. By the way, I just did a spot check on several of the government spreadsheets online and they still seem to contain the errors that I documented. If something is made of these issues though, I suspect that these spreadsheets will be quickly “updated”. Hopefully some official source has backed up these files.

        > From your account name, it seems you’re professionally gathering data like this. See if you can pull the mode or middle deciles rather than the average. Thank you for your detailed post!

        I’ve gathered data on my website at http://econdataus.com but I’m not doing so professionally. I am very interested in this area, however, and am looking to get into it professionally when I retire in a few years, if not before. As you can see from my open letter at http://econdataus.com/h1bletter.htm , I’m a programmer in Silicon Valley. Anyhow, feel free to pass on this LCA info or any other info on my site.

    • No doubt there are companies trying to game the system. You seem to uncover some of these. Kudos.

      I don’t think there is any law against paying more than the prevailing wage for H1-B applicants, so that would explain why those with abnormally high wages get approved.

      • Yes, but if someone puts down that they are paying 90 times the prevailing wage, it’s much more likely that they added a couple of zeroes and are paying just 90 percent of the prevailing wage. Hence, it appears that the government does not have the capacity and/or desire to really verify the correctness of the Labor Condition Applications and numerous employers are gaming the system.

  4. Syswizard

    re:”The debate over H-1B visas is an emotional one for many U.S. tech workers.”

    Maybe,,,,,,but for me, it’s a FINANCIAL issue. I’m getting offered rates I was getting over 20 YEARS ago !! Why is that ? See the article on the 800k H1B workers now in this country.
    We are now in an over-supply situation…..as I keep asking: “Where are all of these candidates coming from ?”

    • I totally agree. As senior sw engineer I am king less than what I was making 15 years ago. Further insult, hr mangers tell me that I am not full time material for the company. I have only been able to get contract positions for the last 5 years. How am I suppose to cover my mortgage, my retirement, my children’s education… There is no protection for U.S. citizens at the work place. My job has merely become the contract at a company, come up to speed within a few weeks, train H1b hire and then get fired. How can we fix this?

  5. As I recall, someone violating a Visa’s conditions gets sent home and can’t come back for 10 years. If those records are destroyed, what’s to stop them from coming back immediately thereafter?

    • The DoL may be destroying the records, but the Department of Homeland Security will definitely not. Most systems in the DoL are covered by the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended; most systems in the DHS are exempt. And DHS is responsible for allowing (or denying) foreigners entry into the US!

  6. This is because of the Privacy Act of 1974, as amended. Any government system containing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) must make sure the system only collects the minimally needed amount of information to accomplish its purpose as stated in the System of Record Notice (SORN), and that records be maintained consistent with National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) schedules. This is important if you want to prevent the government from becoming too intrusive.

    If you think that this is the result of lobbying, thank the Libertarian Party!

  7. As a retired IT banking officer the banks response to getting around the H1B issue was to have us go to low wage countries and establish companies with access to systems outside the main systems then farm out the work to the IT folk hired via phone and video conferences. We then used the L1 visa program to cycle these temporary managers through a subsidiary to educate them on new projects, educate US worker replacements and become familiar with interacting with the IT customer base.Never felt comfortable doing this because most of the people we hired made at the most $16k per year, were all concentrated in 1 of the tech centers, of the world and were usually burned out after a couple of years of production line type coding, Internally the folk we dealt with in these countries displayed little concern for their workers once being in a meeting discussing programmers who could assist us in web development. The manager who supplied us with staffing wondered out loud how to replace what he referred to as “Coolie programmers” with a new skillset of programmers to do web development and if he could do it within his existing contract rates and if not would we consider increasing by 20% the rates we would pay. To meet the 20% increase requested and stay within what he had based his ROI prediction for the year folk his existing staff was offered a 20% pay cut to reamin or be replaced so the new web development folk could be hired at the higher rate.