The State of H-1B, Two Years After Trump’s Executive Order

Two years ago, President Trump signed the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order. The program was intended to “protect the economic interests of U.S. workers and prevent fraud and abuse in employment-based visa programs,” in the words of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But has it actually accomplished those goals, particularly in the context of H-1B?

For its part, USCIS insists that significant progress has been made. “We still have work to do but the improvements we’ve made so far better protect U.S. workers’ jobs and wages, enhance fraud detection and prevention in employment-based visa programs, and increase the overall transparency of those programs for the American public,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna wrote in a statement marking the anniversary.

But what has USCIS actually done over the past 24 months? The short answer: Not as much as critics would like, at least in the context of the visa programs that matter a good deal to tech companies (and tech pros). In order to mark the anniversary, USCIS is touting the launch of a webpage that provides “additional data on various employment-based immigration programs,” along with statistics on employment authorization documents; it’s also very big on the H-1B Employer Data Hub it recently produced that breaks down which employers are petitioning for H-1B visas.

In addition, USCIS has tweaked a number of policies related to H-1B approvals. For instance, it squeezed off premium processing while it worked through a backlog of applications, and instated a more aggressive review system (such as not taking prior visa decisions about applicants into account) that may have led to a rise in the rate of denials for new H-1B petitions.It also targeted H-4 EAD, which allowed the spouses of H-1B visa holders to obtain work, for elimination.

“I think the most striking thing is the change in denial rates has happened without any new law or regulation that many people feel would be necessary to have allowed an agency to deny so many applications in a legal manner,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy and a former staffer on the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, recently told Wired.

But for critics of the system, tweaks are just that—minor adjustments to a system they view as desperately in need of a radical overhaul. Many of these folks were heartened when, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to “end” the H-1B program, declaring it “very, very bad for workers.”  Now they want the U.S. government to fulfill that campaign rhetoric.

Others would argue that the system is already working better, as evidenced by the rise in denials, which disrupts the plans of outsourcing firms to source as many successful H-1B applications as possible. For years, tech pros have complained—strenuously—that those firms use the applications to replace American workers with cheaper labor.

In the wake of these changes, U.S. firms are also shifting more jobs to Canada, according to a recent report by Envoy Global. In a survey, some 35 percent of companies said they were sending more people to Canada and hiring foreign nationals there; some 15 percent were only hiring foreign nationals to work there.

But that hasn’t stopped companies from attempting to claim as many H-1B visas as they potentially need: USCIS reported that the cap for H-1B visas for fiscal year 2020 was hit within days of opening, following the trend of previous years (since 2014, the cap has filled within five days of opening).

The Future of H-1B

And USCIS still has plans in progress, including its most radical change: altering how the H-1B lottery works. Currently, applicants with advanced degrees enter a “master’s cap” pool of 20,000 visas; those who are rejected then enter the 65,000-visa “general pool,” which features applicants without advanced degrees.

The revamped system will essentially invert this, allowing all applicants—including those with advanced degrees—to enter the “general pool.” Any who don’t land a visa during that first round can then end up in the “master’s cap” pool. In theory, this gives applicants with advanced degrees two shots at landing a visa.

In essence, critics probably feel that USCIS hasn’t done nearly enough, and should either eliminate or severely curtail H-1Bs; meanwhile, the restrictions that have been imposed so far have caused a fair amount of chaos for any number of tech firms. It’s a messy issue, which is something that seems unlikely to change anytime soon.

34 Responses to “The State of H-1B, Two Years After Trump’s Executive Order”

  1. Let’s stop this nonsense. Americans have been getting hurt for years. Companies know what they’re doing to their own countrymen. We need to give them a little taste of their own medicine. This applies to immigration law firms as well.

    The Washington DC business & immigration law lobbyists also have to come to close.

    STOP THIS NONSENSE NOW!!!

    • Laurie

      Is Nicky baby going to name some of the companies moving h1b jobs to Canada? I keep reading about this but no one ever backs up this statement with known examples. It smells like poop to me.

  2. I would have been happy if the republican government had brought incandescent lightbulbs back into production. The ones made in China are less-bright for the same wattage. Or maybe if the republican government made another attempt to re-legalize the 2-gallon toilet and finally put an end to the ones being smuggled in from Canada. But the current crop of leaders don’t lead.

  3. Maha Guru

    Trump has done nothing! The tweak to enable “advanced degree” holders a better chance is just garbage. First of all, we know of several useless American degree producers that produce anything but great STEM candidates, Second, I think the second to third-rate universities will be flooded by more so-called STEM candidates. We know the quality of candidates that go to these schools mainly from India! Just a stepping stone to H-1B… In th e meanwhile, American workers continue to get hammered. We all know now the “STEM crisis” baloney invented by greedy rich tech with able help from corrupt politicians of both parties.

    • Mike Salem

      I agree with you a 100%. I lost my job to an Indian resource whom I had to train and he does not know crap. My resume gets rejected by Indian managers because they want to Indian resources over American. It’s what I call the Indian invasion of the 21st Century. All the art work on the recruiting websites show people of all colors and backgrounds but reality is when you walk into the work place it’s all Indians. Cisco is an Indian company. Everyone I worked with and sat around me. Rows and rows of them in every building. Managers, directors and VPs now hold those spots. I have watched my salary cut by half now and hardly making enough living to keep a float. I wish there is a platform that someone can create for us to raise our voices and let those companies know that they are shooting themselves in the foot because soon enough there will be no consumers to their products. There is so much to say here but without action from the government those companies will keep squeezing the life out of the American worker

      • John Smith

        You’re absolutely right. It has gotten to the point now that Indians are in management positions and only want to hire other Indians. One Indian friend of mine describes it as wanting to create their own little “fiefdom”. Indian managers know they can control their Indian underlings, but they do not have the same power over Americans. It’s a travesty what has been allowed to happen in this industry. American workers have been screwed.

  4. Joseph D Norris

    There is ZERO reasons for the H1B visa system. There are more than enough developers out of work, and out of work because of the H1B visa. I lost my job to an Indian developer, and I joined hundreds of other developers sending out resumes with no response because an Indian H1B visa now manager rejects the non-Indian name resume.

    Racism is alive and well in the development industry.

  5. I’m making less now than I WAS 20 YEARS AGO! I have over 40 years of experience and can’t get work on a corp-to-corp basis. Can’t get steady work at a good rate on legacy systems. Even though I travel just to stay busy. Indian companies don’t hire American’s.American companies won’t hire more expensive American workers. Imagine the outcry if they imported millions of doctors, nurse, teacher or trade workers. This has been going on for 30 years. Stop the H-1B visa program. We are losing computer expertise to foreign countries. Look at Microsoft, Micron, Google, Amazon, Facebook. Sixty percent of all IT workers are Indian (foreigners). That mean 60% of the people controlling the ‘Brains’ (Computer systems) of these companies and government agencies have loyalties elsewhere. Mark my words, this is not good for this country and will not end well.

    • Sumit Kumar

      Hi Jack,
      Trust you will get a job soon. as a recruiter, I would like to highlight some point before you criticize foreign workers.
      1. Most of the citizen are not ready to relocate as per job demands, not even 20-30 miles. They need opportunities within 20 miles only. I can understand they have family and owns a house.
      2. Most of them are looking at remote options rather than going to the office/client place.
      3. Foreigners are ready to relocate to anywhere in the USA as per the job requirement.
      4. Nowadays technologies are changing very frequently and haven’t seen much citizens on new technologies.

      There are many more points which are the reason to hire foreigners by these companies.

      • Excuse me Sumit Kumar, but why should Americans be forced to give up their families and homes to jump around the country like monkeys working for Indians who get all the more recent tech experience for a wage that is undercut and comparatively crap compared to what they were making when they started their careers and families? GTFO of my country!

      • Maha Guru

        You may have some points about why companies hire H1B, namely, locals dont want to travel far. But I just will not accept that the H1B employed are of superior skill! The H1B I have seen after 2000 are sometime so below average that I wonder how they are called specialists!!! So many of them come as software experts (mostly from India) when they dont even have the basics of software engineering correct.. Many of them have degrees in something other than CS… It used to be great before 2000 when really the best from India came here – there wre no complaints.

        • This is pure BS- have worked with many people who came before 2000 – don’t see much difference. This tall claim of great quality of people who came before 2000 is sophomoric at best. My experience is that always some people are very good, most mediocre, and some are clueless – that applies to both groups – people on visa as well as Americans [including Naturalized ones].

      • Sumit, those are literally the sh*****st excuse for seeking foreign workers that I’ve ever heard. You and your clients can try and feed that crap to American developers, and the American people, but we aren’t buying it!

  6. This has zero importance. Unemployment is at 3.8% and going down!!!… economy growing better than ever, meaning only that H1B improves the economy rather than make it worse.

    • Tell that to the family who’s provider lost his job to foreign contractors and has been out of work for 6 months the longest period ever. No, there are way to many H1Bs in this country if someone with my experience and skills hasn’t been able to land a position in 6 months.

      • John Smith

        I agree. Even though unemployment is supposed to be the lowest ever, I haven’t been on a project in 4 months, the longest I’ve ever been out of work. The rates are low, and the sweat-shop Indian consulting firms are running the show. I’m not sure I’m going to stay in this industry.

    • Mike Salem

      Employment numbers are all fake. Jobs are moving from FTE to FTC or C2C. ADP and such companies only report on hires and governments report on Unemployment applications. It’s a revolving door and it will blow up in their faces. Credit is at a 20 year high. Wages are cut by half. Cost of living gone up by 200%. Corporations are faking those numbers to give the sensation that everything is going well when in fact are nothing but. It’s all fake and a big scam… you will see

  7. WhataJoke

    Having worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years in the last 10 years over 50% of the jobs that I worked I was the only American IT worker out many. These H1Bs most of the time have adequate skills at best, most I have encountered have never even done this work before. They got the job because of a fake resume and ridiculous low cost. Now the offshore companies are bribing managers to hire and keep their H1Bs on the job. I have witnessed this bribery first hand and have lost work because of it. One place I was told that many of the H1Bs work after 6 months was thrown out, but because the managers get big kickbacks they keep the H1Bs on the job. The situation is way out of hand. I miss working with Americans like back in the dot.com days. I feel outnumbered and a foreigner in my own country.

    • Hey, I agree with you 100%
      I lost my job from a Indian manager, cause of an American Citizen. Americans are not being hired simply those company are now in a verge of eliminating us why? Have you ever ask yourself ? The reason those company can bring cheap H1Bs from india. I am already saw those trend in many company. We are definitely out bounded and outnumbered but the solutions are limited under those crooked politicians.

  8. Hi,

    I run companies in India and US ..we work on blockchain …I agree that Indian IT sourcing companies have gamed the system to get idiots …out of 1000 ,you cannot get one who can write decent code ,leave alone thinking out of the box …..American corporations are greedy and are ready to accept crap from this chaps as long as it is cheap ….the best Indians work for Google , Microsoft etc and do some productive work . Majority who came to America are economic migrants who form crony networks …Time to scrap H1B …people like me can hire through L1A and we hire from the world ,the best fit available …

  9. Eric Jones

    Blame the American employer who chooses the foreign individual willing to fulfill its location and pay rate demands when the American worker does not want to. Times change, so does the industry. If you don’t adapt to it, is natural selection and you won’t survive.

    • I cannot blame only the American employer. We are much beyond that. Even when an employer does not request an H1B, the low level hiring managers of Indian origin will always be able to find only an Indian to fill the job. Americans (with non-Indian origin) do not need apply.

      • Here are the jobs so far taken out of Americans’ reach and you decide for yourself where this is going
        * Recruiters – mindless and useless human robots who will say or do anything. Annoying phone calls and meaning less VMs.
        * Software Engineers
        * Network Engineers
        * Security Engineers
        * Developers
        * IT Managers, Directors, VPs, Managing Directors, CIOs …..

        Need I say more? Wake up and smell the Chetti ….. look around you in the office and tell me who do you see

  10. Mike Sale

    Whatever happened to proper communications. Emails we get in the work place make non sense. I spend more time deciphering than responding. Here is a quote from an email I got recently ” request you do the needful and revert me and I will do the same” !!! I mean WTF!!. I go into the meeting and cannot understand a damn word they are saying. NO innovation, no creativity. They get by using submissive behaviors. Watch what they say on your call. Everything is said in doubles “Yes Yes”, “Sure Sure” with a head nod sideways. We teach them how to do their jobs and they end up taking ours. We need a platform that we can express our frustration with this system. It is going down hill and no way back up. We spend $100K on education to get a bachelors degree. They spend maybe $2000 on fake degrees that gives them a Masters including room and board. This is the work of the greed of the American Corporations and it will destroy this economy and society from the inside. Mark my words folks

    • LOL Nice comment! Adding further: “not able to hear you”, “…on today” and no use of “please” in their sentences. Many more examples to look around. Their desks will be messy and cluttered with coffee cups and papers. Absolutely no sense of cleanliness. And, the worst is yet to come: yelling from one’s desk to another in a regional language. They often times forget they work in an English speaking nation.

  11. Mike K

    First thing that should be eliminated is the Omama era policy which allowes the spouses of H1-B worksers to work in US. Until Obama passed this law the H-4 visa holders(spouses of H1-B visa holders) were not allowed to work in US. After Obama passed this law it doubled the adverse effect of H1-B visa program on American workers.Most of the people come on H1-B visa are technology workers who are well compensated. So these people make enough to live comfortably without their spouse working. Now Trump administration tried to eliminate this program, so as usual it is held up in the court.

  12. Siddhartha

    Guys, it’s not about Americans or Indians. It’s basically about the industry needs and remote connectivity to do work.
    Now, for instance, you can get a Salesforce training in India for about 100 USD with live project experience Imagine how much it costs in the USA. Another example is the USA health insurance system, the amount that Americans pay here for just meeting the deductibles can be the entire bill amount for a critical surgery in India. This is a game of supply and demand mates. Suppose you don’t allow H1b, what will happen, you will lose the entire tax he pays and the job gets outsourced to some third world location as we have superior connectivity nowadays. That will be the normal flow, else these company would lose the competition to some Chinese unethical company like Huwaei. So if you have to revolt then revolt against the corporations in the USA who have no Corporate Social Responsibility. Did you know Amazon the biggest company in the world, they don’t pay a fucking single dollar in taxes to the Federal Government? All they do it reinvest the profit into some other business and show it as an expense as taxes are only on profit.God Bless America and India.

  13. Tyrone Stunisher

    Reading all these comments makes me realize that people don’t understand the problem. Outsourcing is the real job killer. I worked in the US in an H1b and moved to Canada because they gave me permanent residency because of my skills. I lost my job and so did other Americans to workers in India and Philippines. There is a war for talent and Canada and Australia are winning. No silly work visa, you get a permanent resident card. I went to school and was trained in the US. Now tell me who lost and who won.

  14. The revolt is not against a particular race or nation. It is against the hungry wolves that were let loose in the industry to do what they want without any consideration to socio-economic structure or even well being if we can consider that. The same thing could have been said about any other nation given the same circumstances. The real problem is in corporate responsibility which was totally lost and left without any government oversight which is the heart of what governments do as part of their duty and responsibility for their own citizens. The balance has been disturbed now for at least 15 years and the behemoth that was created in what I called human trafficking cannot be stopped and was by design. I can understand Canada because they need more citizens. What I cannot understand is the US where talent is no short of supply, yet all major social systems are failing because of this imbalance. Healthcare, Social Security (if we can call it that), education are at their worst state in history. Those workers that come from outside should be contributing to support all these systems but what you find is they take the money and go back home to build villas and hire maids and personal drivers while US workers are suffering from the drop of the income and unjust increase in cost of living, healthcare and education. This will not end well no matter what or how they justify, but like anything else with governments “If it aint broken don’t fix it”. I am sorry but if you think the pain will stop here, just wait until your children are out in the market after carrying at least a $100K in education loans and they are out in this jungle to try to find their path in life. The system will crumble from the inside out and no one on top will own any of it just like it always worked and always will

    • Non-immigrants on work permits PAY their taxes including federal and social security taxes. Other non-immigrants from down south (fair to say refugees?) do not pay a dime. Who do we blame?

  15. mark ingrassia

    Facts: 1. It is illegal to replace an American worker with an H-1 here in the US. What actually happens, as did in the case of Disney, is they fire US workers and offshore the work which has nothing to do with H-1 Visas. 2. Our schools do not produce enough American math-oriented grads with degrees in computer science or engineering to fill all open positions. The problem is not the H-1 Visa program. Yes, people take advantage of the H-1’s to place multiple, cheaper Tech Consultants in places looking to save a buck. But, if also poll these US companies, you will also find much of the work is shoddy and has to be redone or replaced due to differences in quality, documentation, and accountability. If you want to do something, lobby for US companies to lose their sweet tax deals if they off shore jobs.