Trump Immigration Plan Adds Confusion to H-1B Controversy

Last month, President Trump introduced a sweeping immigration reform plan. One of the plan’s proposals would fundamentally alter how tech firms source high-skilled workers from other countries. But the proposal seems grievously at odds with the Trump administration’s recent work in curtailing the H-1B and other visas.

Under Trump’s proposal, the nation’s immigration system would become “merit-based,” with an emphasis on selecting immigrants who exhibit “extraordinary talent,” “professional and specialized vocations,” and “exceptional academic track records.”

“The President’s proposal will increase American competitiveness in attracting and retaining the best and brightest by moving the United States in line with the effective point systems used by other countries,” read the White House’s press release, which included a chart showing how Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan supposedly all issue a majority of their visas on the basis of skill and employment.

Right now, the U.S. selects 12 percent of immigrants on the basis of skill and employment, 66 percent on family ties, and 21 percent on “humanitarian/diversity lottery/other.” The Trump plan would shift that to 57 percent of visas issued due to skill and employment, 33 percent family, and 10 percent humanitarian.

If this Trump proposal comes to pass, that shift in percentages would obviously prove devastating for many families trying to immigrate to the United States. However, it would benefit those tech firms seeking to land as much high-tech talent as possible. Although critics claim that visas such as H-1B allow companies to undercut the salaries and opportunities of U.S. citizens, the White House’s release implies that these changes to the system will somehow improve on a current system that “undercuts wages and drains our social safety net programs.”

There’s just one issue: Trump’s proposal runs somewhat contrary to the moves his administration is already making to restrict H-1B visas.

Recent data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows that the approval rate of H-1B petitions has dipped significantly since late 2016. At the same time, the percentage of H-1B applications hit with requests for evidence (RFEs) has risen steadily. In other words, the Trump administration’s various moves against H-1B—such as a longtime suspension of premium processing—have clearly had an impact.

Then there’s the decision to kill the H-4 EAD, which allows the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in this country; USCIS called that move “economically significant”:

“Some U.S. workers would benefit from this proposed rule by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold, as the proposed rule would no longer allow H-4 workers to enter the labor market early.”

If you take away the ability of H-1B visa holders’ spouses to work, some candidates who don’t want to leave their families behind (or who don’t think they can survive without their spouse’s income) won’t undergo the H-1B process. To be fair, it seems unlikely that the move will reduce the overall number of H-1B applications in the long run—the application cap is seemingly hit faster and faster every year. Nonetheless, killing the H-4 EAD could chill some folks’ desire to immigrate.

That Confusing Trump Tweet

Despite these restrictions, though, Trump has actually exhibited some support for the concept of H-1B visas. Earlier this year, he Tweeted that “changes” to program would “bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay,” as well as a “potential path to citizenship.” (It came at an especially odd time, as USCIS was in the midst of a policy squeeze on H-1Bs.)

The confusion over the government’s ultimate intentions may only increase later this year, should USCIS succeed in its plan to “invert” the current H-1B lottery system.In the current configuration, applicants are placed in a “master’s cap” pool (of 20,000 visas), and those who aren’t accepted in the first round are placed in the “general pool” of 65,000 visas. That would change so that all H-1B applicants, including those with advanced degrees, would enter the “general pool”; any remaining applicants with advanced degrees would head into the “master’s cap” pool. In theory, flipping the pools would give those with a master’s degree or higher two successful shots at a successful H-1B application.

So is the U.S. government attempting to restrict the number of high-tech workers entering this country, or trying to open the floodgates? It seems stunningly unclear at the moment; there are conflicting messages, depending on whether you’re following USCIS’s data or listening to Trump’s White House (and Trump himself).

56 Responses to “Trump Immigration Plan Adds Confusion to H-1B Controversy”

  1. kalpana bansal

    There are lot of high skilled people from india, china and other countries who really contribute in tech industry. However H1-B is also highly mis-used by some IT firms. I believe trump administration is scrutinizing H1-B applications to make sure such H1-B mis-use can be stopped.

    • I spent 30+ years in IT and worked with qualified and a lot of unqualified H1-B workers. The biggest problem with the influx of thousands of low paid workers was that most big corporations either stopped their training programs or scaled them way back, which was a big disservice to American recent college grads and workers. No wonder we have such a huge college student debt program. Had these jobs gone to college grads, they would have been able to pay their debts.
      The other thing this article misses is that H1-B visas aren’t the only way foreigners come in to this country. There is a way for qualified people to immigrate into US legally like my parents did. My father had a masters degree from an American University and spoke 3 other languages besides English. After a pretty thorough scrutiny, background checks, clean police records, etc he was granted a green card.

    • Dr. Rao,
      A few examples of really talented and accomplished persons from India do not denying the fact there are hundreds of thousands of mediocre IT workers from India brought to this country with the only purpose of having cheap labor undermining the job market for every American in the field. I am sure your government would not tolerate this if the situation was reverse.

    • BillM

      There are lots of talented folks all over the world, the issue is wages. I remember at Intel in the late 90’s we had a whole floor of H1-B workers working on BIOS code. Were there no US citizens to write BIOS assembly? Nonsense they just cost more. I remember talking to one H1-b worker and he said his 4 year old didn’t recognize him when he came home one night because he was away working so much. Intel new how to drag out the green card process to the max AND how to apply indirect pressure to the poor saps so that they worked them to death until they got their green cards. We used to call them H1 slaves. I have long maintained that tech is the only field where the government actively works to suppress wages (except now they do it for doctors too). There are TONS of older more expensive US citizens that could fill all of the slots held by H1-b workers and the high tech companies know it. But why pay around $150-200k a year for a position when you can pay ~$50k or less?

    • H1-B Brigade

      This is what Sean Hannity is talking about with the new ****H1-B Brigade**** where 1,500 immigrants are selected by lottery from the h1-b pool each year for 2 years of active duty military service. What a great chance to earn the respect of Americans everywhere. Plus they go to the front of the Green Card queue. Congrats H1-B Brigaaaaaade!!!!!

  2. Dr J R Rao

    Joe Simons,
    You are exhibiting absolute ignorance thru your comment.
    What the heck are you talking about with your stupid and race based rant. I am an example of a highly skilled person from India. I am an MD PhD from Harvard and there are several Indians that have accomplished much more than what I have. Just curious what’s your background??

    • Dr rao
      I am also from India, but I am assuming you are from Hyderabad. The people from that place are the most crooks, they bring low skilled abdhra people by abusing h1b. The government need to cut down on h1b visa to mere 5000 visas per year and issue to the most talented programmers or semiconductor gurus, not for the unskilled guys who come here with their inflated resume showing high skills by working on a lab environment.

    • Joe,
      You obviously have no experience in the IT industry. The Indians and Indian firms are 100% racist. They hire only Indians and claim there are no other skilled people in the world. It’s an insult to American workers and other races. Can you imagine if the majority of tech jobs were given to white guys from Europe and only White European Tech placement companies?

      Your lack of knowledge on this particular subject shows your ignorance. The people posting here are obviously on the front lines of this issue and we see it clearly. Indians hire Indians. Indians are cheap and lie about their skills.

      This problem is problem is the result of companies looking for cheap labor and Indian firms exploiting that with racist hiring practices.

      This racist hiring practice must stop!!!!

      • yurakm

        ys:

        What you wrote contradicts my experience.

        I worked as a consultant through an Indian firm on my last job. Two people who worked in our team through the Indian intermediary are ‘American’ US Citizens: they were born and grew up in the US. The remaining are naturalized US citizens: two originally from Russia, one from Greece, one from Azerbaijan, and one from India.

        All are high skilled C++ / Python quantitative or infrastructure developers. Most have PhD, remaining are MS. We developed critical applications on Wall Street.

        I also worked with multiple Indian colleagues, both on the job and previous ones. Most of them are very competent, high skilled, and hard working.

    • IT Anon

      It’s more, specifically, a problem in the tech industry. Tech companies have discovered that by hiring outsourcing agencies to find underqualified workers (from other countries at first, but the agencies that eventually seized the market recruit from India) and pass them off as qualified workers because they will take far lower wages than anyone else. It’s no wonder that as a country we can’t get 5G right, when skilled candidates are rejected in favor of cheap cheap cheap, and you get what you pay for.

      This isn’t fair to the Indians, because they often go into debt to come over here and then are stuck in a vicious cycle of can’t quit horrible job because visa is tied to current job, and it isn’t fair to the qualified candidates who are passed over because the contracting agencies are only looking for people they can exploit. And the fact that these exploitative contracting agencies mostly target victims from India makes people in the tech industry who have caught on to this angry at all Indians… even though I suspect the medical industry may not follow the same rules as the tech industry.

      Blame the companies who are victimizing everyone, people, not the victims. I was “recruited” for a training course by one of these companies that was looking for a few American citizens to add variety, and they sucker these poor people, building up their confidence in the minimal skills they have, making them think they’re actually qualified when they are not. The people they bring over to steal our jobs are just as much victims of these companies as we are, instead of developing real skills they’re being lied to, told “everyone lies and says they’ve worked for us for years in jobs they haven’t done, it’s the system”.

  3. Stuart

    U.S. Firms and staffing agencies need to stop using, lower skilled, no experience foreigners for American Jobs – This is done for 1 reason only, LOWER PAY. (Offers for highly skilled positions in healthcare and tech i got this week….$18/hr. $22/hr. $25/hr. !#$!!$?? Totally F’n ridiculous; less than union janitors make) But they’ve learned that Corp. America and its leaders are dumb, all we have to do is sit at our computer, act like we’re working, while texting home all day, and they will pay us. We can even take long walks around the building 5x/day… (Do you know how long I would have lasted in my fast paced, results driven past employers taking walks around the building all day??) Oh no, i would have been put on the street. You;re lucky if you get to eat lunch.
    But now, if you go to college here from a foreign country, forget about hb1 visa’s, you get 6 years after to work in the US, “and then we just apply for green card and we can stay longer.”But they need a job to stay, so they accept lower pay than Americans, but they should, they are 24 with 0 experience, taking jobs that are meant for industry experts with 20+years experience, but for them, its straight out of college they get 6 figure jobs.
    *Put all HB1 Visa Jobs on a website, allow Americans to apply to any of them and to have preference if the skills fit. I’m sure there’s one that already exists, but its not for Americans, who helps us find employment? no one.

    • Government should audit the IT outsourcing companies every 3 months on their practices, placements, visa applications and then fine them heavily for every abuse. In most case they bring low skilled college graduates and train them on the job at client site, total frauds

      • ILOVEAUSTRALIA

        Mate, it seems you know lot about people who invlove in scam & Fraud. Why dont you honest with US government and report to Appropriate Authorities and notify who these people are.

    • yurakm

      Stuart: I worked 45 years as scientist and as programmer aka software developer. All these years, every day, I walked time to day around buildings, or outdoor, and/or looked at windows when I thought hard on what to do, or how to do, or tried to understand old, tangled codes that I had to debug, or modify, or refactor. Not all time, of course – but pretty often. Otherwise I could not do what was expected from me and what I expected from myself. And yes, I never had problems with my management for the reasons.

      It is hard to imagine for me how people can code non-stop, without breaks to think, except if both design and coding are very straightforward, to not say trivial.

  4. Shaun Patterson

    We are dumping all H1B workers – The ROI is just not there! The communication gaps alone cost us about 20% of time billed! In short there is no benefit!

    • Tennessee

      I will tell you why giving spouses of visa holders opportunity to work is beneficial for USA. Highly skilled professionals in microelectronics are in high demand in the USA. (have you heart, USA can’t get the 5G technology right and China is currently ahead in this game). So, USA needs skilled engineers. And they come on a visa that is valid for 3 to 5 years. This is not a short term thing, these people come to live in the USA for few YEARS. Which company will make the effort to get a visa for someone who is to stay for just few months here?!? Highly skilled professionals are usually hired with an open end contract with opportunity to obtain a green card or extend their visas (and why not take this opportunity if it makes sense for them and the employer too?!). Now, to become highly educated and learn all the skills you need, it takes time. Hence, a skilled professional is often above 30 years old and by that time, has an established family: small children who need to grow having two parents and spouses who chose to spend their lives with the loved person. So, spouse visas are granted so that families remain together which means the US government officially agrees that family separation is not a good thing. Now that we understand that part, lets look at why having the spouses of visa holders work is beneficial for the US economy.
      Most of the time, the spouses are as skilled and highly educated professionals as the lead visa holders (I mean, why do you think a smart person will like to have a basic conversation with a clueless spouse at home and talk smart things only at work?!? Would you like to have such a one-sided relationship?). More often than not, the spouses have the same qualifications as the lead visa holders. After all, I know a lot more cases when couples meet at or through work and not in a bar (actually, from around 300 people I know, only two couples met in a bar and one met online; all others met at work and are colleagues till date). Now, you wish that a supposedly highly skilled professional stays home and does nothing only because he/she was not the first one to obtain a work visa? How is this beneficial for the US economy? This person will not spend money is shops because he/she does not earn money and will not feel comfortable spending someone else’s money. Furthermore, I have observed that families with a single source of income are much more cautious about spending and investment than families where both spouses work. Also, don’t forget that the visa holder who works will pay less taxes because he/she supports an entire family where he/she is the only one working. This is per law – it is based on the income and number of household members supported by it. So, nor the businesses, nor the US government earn anything out of a work visa holder spouse just staying in the country without working. Have you thought about that?
      And finally, I need to ask you this. Why are you so afraid of a foreigner taking your job? Are you not good enough in what you’re doing? Is it that easy for others to take your dreamed job from under your nose? Employers often prefer local work force for a number of reasons. If they opt to hire foreigners, it means they are convinced this will work better for them in a long term. In this case, you should ask yourself, what do I need to do to get more competitive than the others (others being foreigners or even not). If all people work in this direction, i.e. “starting with the man in the mirror” (Michael Jackson), every country will become great again and without the help of foreigners. Don’t you agree?

      • Milly

        No, Tennessee, no. Just no. When the H4 EAD was in the comment gathering phase there were thousands of comments from the H1b and H4 visa holders. They said the H4 EAD would be a 2-for-1 H1b visa – effectively weakening our immigration controls and ignoring the concept that there is NO established labor need for the H4 visa holder to work. Then, there were the less-skilled family of the H1b visa holder – we started seeing them working the jobs we normally see reserved for our children in their late teens and early 20s. Thanks to them for causing more depletion of the ‘bank of Mom’ when the kids couldn’t earn as much on school breaks to help cover their tuition. Tuition costs that are borne by the student and family in this country. So double thank you. Plus Mom having to deal with H1b visa holders who are such ‘experts’ with their tools that I finally had to SHOW them how to use GOOGLE to find out how to make their code work (because they wouldn’t stop whining about not understanding) – with the risk of being gotten rid of if there is any conflict – shaky ‘bank of Mom’.

      • Majority of spouses are undereducated and cAnt even speak English, those who know English work as qa testers and business analysts. I know one person who worked in hr in India now working as a business analyst in a major bank. You are not right about husband having great intelligent conversation with wife, majority of them come from village with low education and low skills. To work in 5G technology you need real smart Chinese guys who studied ogre St American institutions. You are are another delhiite lamenting Indian talent, you don’t know nothing

  5. Dumping the spouse work permit is designed to keep people from coming and staying especially overstaying their visa(s) and it keeps people from bringing their spouses and having kids here and making it harder to send them home when they lose their job and/or their visa(s) expire because their kids are now US Citizens.

  6. John Smith

    There are easy fixes for the immigration problem (both legal and illegal), increase the minimum wage for H1’s and fine the hell out of people who hires illegal workers, but for some reason the guy who hires a lot of cheap foreign labor and illegal workers on his properties is going to fix that 🤦

  7. American Programmer

    Fixing H-1B is simple: Increase the minimum salary from $60,000 per year to $120,000. That will allow companies to hire that rare, exceptional talent that they claim they can’t find while preventing them from using the program as a cost-savings measure.

    • Increasing salary requirements won’t help.i have first hand information from cognizant employees who were brought here on h1b with government stipulated salary , they were brought as managers and they got green card through company. After getting green card they reduced salary . You have to understand that these companies are run by crooks and they don’t have any value system or ethics

  8. Unemployment is at 3.6%, meaning that the economy is booming and H1b only adds up to it.

    If you are still unemployed in this age, you better learn new skills.

    Or learn a new language, many H1Bs are bilingual or trilingual, which is now required in many companies with operations abroad.

    If the world is changing, why wouldn’t you change?

  9. Mel Wagner

    To all the American folks in this thread that are disgruntled with the system… As a Software Engineer who has been working for years for a big tech company and have interviewed many candidates, I can tell you that most of the candidates sent by the recruiters are Asians or Indians. So we don’t even have a choice to select someone else. Now, I don’t know whether other people are just not applying for the jobs or whether the recruiters are so biased that they only select Asians and Indians. One way to workaround this problem is for candidates to make contact with engineers that work for the company, they can then refer the candidate internally, so they have a much higher chance of being selected for an interview. Also, you know about agism. Maybe don’t add the year you graduated in college to your resume. And keep only the most recent years of experience.

  10. Milly

    Please remember to call your representatives in Congress about this. The Democrats have come up with HR 1044 to remove the per-country caps on green cards specifically to make it easier for the H1b visa holders who want to apply for green cards. We do NOT need to add inducements to continue the abuse of the H1b visas. Call and tell them that HR1044 is NOT supporting their actual constituents.

  11. Just Me

    Has nothing to do with race. Has everything to do with the fact that our jobs in the USA should first go to citizens of the USA. Have a spouse in another country? That was your decision. Go back to them if you can’t live without your family and get a job there. No jobs there or the government is corrupt? Then change that. That is on you.

  12. David Whiteman

    I agree with the President’s plan. I do understand what he is trying to do.. ive seen it too many times.. bring in two h1b eastern guys for the price of one good American engineer… seen it, it does happen. Its about time we have a President that sees this problem and tries to curtail it back in favor of the American worker. Awesome!!!

  13. Chris Fox

    Does ANYONE actually believe H1Bs are hired for their talent? Most of those I’ve worked with were barely mediocre, coming from a six week cram course and billed as “ senior software engineers,” while knowing next to nothing.

    Six Tata engineers worked for a year on a mobile project that crashed before showing a window, and Tata demanded payment.

    Do t kid yourselves, they’re hired because it’s cheaper.

  14. Chris Fox

    Does ANYONE actually believe H1Bs are hired for their talent? Most of those I’ve worked with were barely mediocre, coming from a six week cram course and billed as “ senior software engineers,” while knowing next to nothing.

    Six Tata engineers worked for a year on a mobile project that crashed before showing a window, and Tata demanded payment.

    Don’t kid yourselves, they’re hired because it’s cheaper.

  15. Nadeem

    If you stop H-1B, many corporations are ready to outsource the job. There is no easy way to get around this. At the end of the day American workers are the losers.

  16. ARLibertarian

    I’ve worked with a lot of Indians in the IT field, and they have run the gamut, from really good to just so-so.

    The #1 problem with an H1-B is that it IS tied to a job. For 5 years. One of my Indian co-workers never got a raise in 5 years. If he complained, his contract was cancelled and he would be shipped back to India. He was smart, stayed current on technology, and a real asset. But an American couldn’t compete with his low wages. Would you work 5 years with no raise?

    He was screwed by the H1-B fraud too.

    The sponsoring employer requirement enslaves these workers. Make it only 1 year. Then they can be free agents for 4 years. Then you’ll see a different attitude towards them. Of course, the H1-B contracting firms would fight that tooth and nail.

    But it would allow true competition.

  17. Venkat

    The true issue here is that the H4’s (dependent’s) are taking over the H1 jobs which is not allocated by the DOL. What happens when the H1 (principal) losses a “project” it will be under bench pay but if they don’t get a bench pay the H4 becomes the head of the family which is wrong! USCIS should really look into this cases because this has been abused mostly bu Indian nationals.

  18. As an IT manager for the airline industry I struggled with these issues for years. I was handed literally hundreds of resumes from approved contracting firms which were 90% Indian, but not necessarily H1B. I actually had one of my excellent Indian employees go through the resumes with me to identify fraud. He knew what to look for. Most were bogus. That said, many of my choices were from there, as well as Africa and Europe and the US. Increasingly however, more and more of our work was outsourced to Indian firms to save money and hundreds of us lost our jobs, most had outstanding performance reviews. I don’t think someone is entitled to a job just because they are a citizen, but, at least in my experience, it has swung too far the other way. CEOs and CIOs of course care more about the bottom line than anything else, so as long as regulations permit they will take advantage of the situation.

  19. Philip Thandal

    To all who are commenting here, last year the firm that I was working for wanted to ramp up employees in niche BPM technology for developing software for a new business initiative, we interviewed atleast 400 persons, only 15 got selected all were in H1b. The firm was ready to offer 100K for someone with just 1 year of experience, they were ready to pay $150K easily for experienced(believe me, it’s true). But we couldn’t find the number of persons we wanted. It was advertised in all major job sites. But only a handful of American citizens even applied. The firm was eager to give preference for American citizens, But we couldn’t find the talent for niche skills like BPM. Eventually due to business reasons, the firm couldn’t wait any longer so they had to approach one of the H1B firms to fill the positions (they too were interviewed prior to being selected). Though there is wide spread abuse, This is the true picture of most tech industry. People who have worked on high profile tech firms would have had this experience.

    • grumpyoldman

      Google results for BPM tech sound like Dilbert’s boss gassing about Big Data. If you could not find the niche skillset at the price you were offering, you weren’t offering enough. Rare skills warrant commensurate pay, something every real manager knows. Since you could not steal someone from another company, which really was the goal, and there was a snowball’s chance of you training from within, you resorted to the body shops, using the same old mantra from the 80’s: We could not find what we wanted, so we had to import it. The American in me says import your customers.

  20. Alamn Jani

    “who don’t think they can survive without their spouse’s income” – What is this even suppose to mean? High skilled worker should be paid enough so their family can survive in here.