Tech Industry Arguing for More H-1B Clarity from Trump Administration

Tech companies are further ratcheting up the pressure on the federal government over H-1B visa reform.

Earlier this month, Compete America, an industry group that includes Amazon, Google, and Facebook, argued that the changes to visa policy lack necessary clarity. It also railed against what it called a “dramatic increase” in the percentage of H-1B applications denied or delayed.

According to the Seattle Times, Compete America wants the Department of Homeland Security and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review current practices and communicate better with “the regulated community,” i.e., all those tech firms that leverage the H-1B visa to fill their offices.

The full letter is available on the group’s website (PDF). “These reported shifts in agency action have been perplexing to our coalition’s members,” reads one part, “especially because the agency’s changes in approach were unannounced and unexplained and are not previewed in the regulations governing a qualifying H-1B specialty occupation that have been in effect since 1991.”

This isn’t the first time an industry advocacy group has swatted at the federal government over H-1B. In October, ITServe Alliance, a nonprofit group that counts more than 1,000 IT service organizations as its members, filed a lawsuit against USCIS, arguing that it approved the visas for too short a period.

For its part, the Trump administration is rumored to be working on reforms to the H-1B lottery system. According to Politico, which obtained its information from an anonymous official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), these reforms would see all H-1B applicants entering the same “general pool” of 65,000 visas. Once that pool is filled, any remaining applicants with advanced degrees would be diverted to a 20,000-visa “master’s cap” pool. At least on paper, this would increase the number of H-1B visa holders with advanced degrees, giving them two shots at a successful application.

Those plans have yet to be officially revealed, though, and in the meantime the Trump administration has imposed a temporary suspension on premium H-1B processing (it’s slated to run through February 2019). That was ostensibly put in place to allow USCIS time to clear through a backlog of petitions, and it’s proven a source of aggravation for some tech firms. Whether it will make further adjustments based on tech companies’ pushback is an open question.

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28 Responses to “Tech Industry Arguing for More H-1B Clarity from Trump Administration”

  1. Having more H1B will reduce the salaries, these companies bring people with low salaries and take our jobs, I wish Trum will reject it, there is a lot of IT professionals in the Market but recruiters want to earn more money by bringing lower salaried people.

  2. For the last two decades, tech industries invested tens of billions of dollars in foreign countries to create a cheap pool of skilled labor. With half of that money invested in American workers and students, the so called shortage of skilled labor can be overcome in no time.

  3. Very ironic that a group calling itself “Compete America” and is composed of companies that use many H1B holders. I’m surprised Microsoft isn’t in that group. What a bunch of hypocrites. If Trump is against immigrants then he should also be against H1B. Americans have talent and the skills to do these jobs and Americans should be hired over H1B holders.

    • Trump can’t do it alone. The congress has to change some laws. We have to do our part and elect the correct people in the congress. Unfortunately this last election did not go that well from that point of view..

      • Doogie Houser

        Oh contraire… the last election went VERY well. But it has nothing to do with H1-B Visas. Trump lied about everything anyway, so don’t feel bad. Every working sector of the US is hurting more now after having been duped by this con man you elected. Anyway, this is a topic all liberals and conservatives whole heartedly agree on. We should never have allowed the US tech sector to become so polluted with this “gold rush” wave of Indian immigrants taking all our high paying jobs with barely any education. I’ve been in the tech sector since the 80’s and its was bad then and only got worse in the decades that followed. THIS is where the real immigration crisis is in the US. Legal or not, our best jobs are still being siphoned off. Look at any IT shop in America today and a large percentage of employees are Indian. We don’t create that many tech sector jobs each year with 65,000 or 100,000 jobs lost to Americans won’t be felt. And worse, cheap labor is like crack to American companies. Once they start replacing their skilled, educated American workers with the flood of barely-educated (3-6 months online coding experience) Indian works, they rarely stop. And it usually spells the end of their company because the quality of all their products turn to sh*t over time and they lose customers. This has been my observation in multiple companies I’ve worked for over the course of my career.

  4. I get it, maybe there aren’t enough Americans to do fill the positions… at the salary they want to pay. But let’s be honest, this system has been gamed for years. Sure, there are many, many great tech workers from other countries who are absolutely brilliant. And we need those people, especially if they are in a niche that is newer or has few truly skilled and gifted thinkers at the moment.

    However, from what I understand, for every brilliant developer, engineer, or programmer, you have 2-3 mediocre ones and 2-3 more that are awful and are simply filling the position because they are cheap. These jobs that are being filled by Masters (yes, it happens!) who can’t even figure out FizzBuzz (probably a bad example, but when the leetcode acceptance rate of FizzBuzz is like 58.1%, that’s very telling — that’s seriously a week 2 CS101 quiz question at any decent CS program) or a basic mechanical stress test are the jobs that entry level and junior level rank and file freshers should be filling.

    These individuals also are not held to any intelligibility (easy to understand/work on their accents) standard either. Accents are fine, but when you are being interviewed by someone and they pronounce things like ‘array’ as ‘error’ or ‘binary tree’ as ‘binchi/beechti’ or refuse to believe you when you use an interchangeable term such as hashmap for associative array or visa versa, and when you try to get clarification – politely – they become downright rude and even hostile, that’s where we need to draw a line.

    The worst such experience for me was when I was in an interview at a BIG4/FANG-level, and the interviewer went off on me about not understanding an ‘error’. He did not give any context that would hint as his intention at first. This is the experience:

    Him: “You *muttered words* error… how would you handle it?”
    Me: “I’m sorry, I had a bit of trouble hearing that, could you repeat the question?”
    Him: “You have an error. How do you handle it?”
    Me (Thinking it’s a code quality question at the moment): “Well, does this error happen in a particular place or after a certain step?”
    Him: “No! An error, an ERROR! *he draws a basic integer array on the board* I cannot believe you do not understand something so basic! How do you handle an error? How do you iteratively get information from the error?”
    Me: (internally offended and confused but remained cordial, realizing that’s what he meant): “Oh, an array! Yes… *demonstrates a basic for-loop, thinking this is his ‘warmup question’ and demonstrate the naive solution if we are ‘searching the array’ later…*”
    Him: (more annoyed) “No, that is not what I meant.”
    Me (still confused, remaining pleasant but now growing impatient): “You asked me to iterate through an array. Did you want me to create an iterator object? That’s a bit different.”
    Him: “Yes, I want you to create an object that goes over the error nodes and puts out the numbers.”
    Me (now incredibly confused): “So, this ‘array’ is actually a linked list? I want to make sure I am following.”
    Him (furious): “No, it is not a linked list. I do not understand how you cannot understand something so basic as an error. Why are you here?” He then terminated the interview and escorted me out.

    Again, this was not as some body shop, it was at a BIG4/FANG-level interview. After three on-sites that day that had already gone decent to well. This same interviewer also seemed fixated on the fact I’ve had a number of short-term freelancer/contract positions and worked at a startup that failed after two years, which told him I was a “job hopper” and he did not ‘trust’ me, rather than my ability to perform the duties of the position I had applied for. Between that and the treatment over him not wanting to clarify or actually -ask- his question was utterly unacceptable. Needless to say, while I’m still waiting for the results, I likely have not gotten the job.

    It was incredibly offensive to me because I had not only passed the sanity checks/phone screens, HR and culture metrics, and held my own to rocked the three previous interviews, but also travelled a over thousand miles to be present at some measure of inconvenience for myself as I had to take unpaid time off. And this guy decided he didn’t want me working on his team, was actively trying to rig the system to get another H1B for the position, or whatever he had going on was more important than interviewing me. And you know what? This particular individual should not be interviewing people if that’s the case.

    We have a large number of highly qualified, great engineers who are being turned away from great jobs and even leaving the market because of experiences like this. Maybe not after the first time, but after the twentieth or thirtieth loop where they make it to the onsite and then get told no because they get a negative review from a person whose grasp of understandable English is tenuous at best, wants to ensure the position goes to an H1B from their home, or was hostile to the candidate and the candidate is then told: “Oh, sorry, you won’t be able to apply again for 6mos/1 year/2 years…” makes military service, driving for Uber/Lyft, or selling insurance look good.

    • Standing on the corner

      I would join the military. Except I am over 60. Even they would not want me in a data tech job. They would hire a company from one of the wealthy lobbyists groups in India to do the job.

  5. President does not follow-up with actions. He only is polarizing the voters by ratcheting the topic. Internally, there is no effect or impact just a delay caused to show the Americans that the process is getting tough. They are gaming the system.

  6. H1-B is cost cutting tactic. In IT field, to replace skilled Americans with low cost resources. On one account, all Americans replaced with landed India labor. Was not a shortage of skills but replacement. A couple where in there 60s so finding new job was challenge so partially became taxpayer burden. IBM costs where dramatically lowered. Cost cutting… not… NOT… NOT due to lack of skills available.

  7. I am on the understanding that H1B can be used, if there is no localcredible talent to fill the empty positions, I have work with a number of companies that are only hiring H1B recruits, then in turn train these new hires on how to perform programming, even though there are Planty of local talent here in this location that are able to perform the task with out any additional training. The only reason the H1B are hired over local workers is the hiring person is also from over seas, an H1B recruitment them self. Forget the local talent that can perform the task, lets get there friends and buddies over here, from across the pond, then train them here, I have delet with H1B’s that did not know how to turn on a COMPUTER 😳

    • This is what I felt I have run into a few times. It is amazing how little some of these H1Bs who claim they have Masters or even Bachelor Degrees (you are often introduced / given their names, ahead of time, so you can look them up on LinkedIn) actually know. I do my due diligence, so we can have something to talk about and maybe I can find a common friendly ground, such as us being from the same town, going to the same alma mater or having had worked at a similar or the same company in the past or interesting projects. Unfortunately, I always get a pit in my stomach if I see that more than half my panel is from South Asia. I’ve been knocked out of every single one of those interview loops.

      One of the people I interviewed with, I had to explain modifying an array in-place, as that was critical to my algorithm not having additional spatial requirements as a trade-off, (minimizing O-space at the expense of O-time) and the poor sod looked at me like I grew a second head out of my neck. He apparently wanted me to build the fastest O-time algorithm but never made any indication of that, but thanked me for teaching him something new. This person had a MASTERS DEGREE in CS and worked for a major firm, and had no idea what modifying in-place meant.

      I also had to go over some very basic C/C++ and JavaScript stuff with another one because they didn’t know those two languages and admitted they had only programmed in Java. I asked if me doing it in my (limited) C#, which is very Java-like, would help them understand it more easily and they said: “I don’t know that either.”

      Why they were interviewing me for a C/C++ and Javascript based position escaped me. And if they were as proficient in Java as they claim, they should have been able to infer what I wrote and was explaining on the board.

      I will readily admit I’m no great coder, but I know my general theory and my best practices down cold. I also can read other programming languages, even those I am not intimately familiar with minimal difficulty. I’m not overly conversant with Ruby or Python, but given a minute to read a script, I can pretty much tell you exactly what it does. I can read Java code no problem, same with Go and Rust. Ultimately, code is code and it’s the syntactical differences that prevent me from just jumping in and doing it off the bat.

      Another problem? Some of the H1Bs interviewing also get very impatient if you don’t have the answer memorized and perfect to their personal expectation. If your solution uses quicksort and they prefer mergesort? They will review you negatively. If you take more than 15 minutes to come to an optimal solution and show your work? They will review you negatively. I had one I suspected was an H1B tell me to stop talking aloud and just solve the problem as I was explaining my thought process, then tell me bluntly: “That is not the answer I was looking for” even though it did exactly what the prompt he gave me asked for…

      If you are unable to come to a solution but have the sound reasoning of your thought process? You better believe they review you negatively. For many of these interviewers, it isn’t about your ability to contribute to the team and create good solutions.

      They’re testing you like they were tested — blind regurgitation without consideration of where to go and you hope that eventually, your memorized solutions will coalesce into something usable in production. This is what Americans are getting turned down for and many major companies are importing to save a few dollars when they are accruing horrific technical debt.

      We hear stories about would be devs who cheat into a position via a take-home coding assignment or an onsite because of copy/pasting answers into a leetcode/hackerrank question or having help on phone screens, then embarrass themselves after they are hired or on the onsite if they aren’t caught, but you don’t hear much about interviewers themselves who have no clue what they are doing.

      As a junior engineer (less than 3 years pro experience) I should not be explaining to a senior software engineer what modifying an array in place means, or explaining the basics of Javascript to the manager, of a -Javascript- team which they are supposedly hiring me for… it goes on and on. I’ve been ready to walk out of interviews when I get the understanding the person I am dealing with and is making the hiring decision knows less than me.

  8. The average salary for an h1b worker is 110,replacing with less salary is not the matter, that is not the root cause. The competency, most of the h1b techies expertise is multiple technologies other than their core and they are ready to learn latest technologies. Industries are changing we should sharpen the knowledge. If there is a technical transition, the company need more people in new platform defenitely they will try to train the existing talents, because they know the system very well, if they are not competent enough to learn defenitely will replace with the excellent one. It is a continuous learning process , should take extra effort, otherwise nobody can help America.

  9. I put myself through school and now find that I can not even get an interview. The only thing I can do is write the president and hope he will take action. I send a letter to the white house once a week. Guy with no life.