H-1B Debate in 2021: Is the Visa Necessary, or a Tech Job Killer?

Are American immigration policies hopelessly outdated and doomed to put the country at a disadvantage when it comes to curating specialized talent? Or does the federal government need to tighten its policies in order to preserve American jobs?

The debate over those questions is continuous. The Trump administration attempted to crack down on work-based visas such as the H-1B; now the Biden administration has rolled back at least some of those rules and regulations. A July 13 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, titled, “Oh, Canada! How Outdated U.S. Immigration Policies Push Top Talent to Other Countries,” illustrated both sides of this ongoing debate.

For critics of the system, the arguments are pretty clear-cut. “Current H-1B implementation promotes usability at the expense of filling skills gaps and protecting workers,” Dr. Ronil Hira, an associate professor at Howard University, said in his statement before the committee. “As a result of these choices, the majority of H-1B workers are competing with, rather than complementing, the US workforce. Their hiring and employment are adversely affecting the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers. Further, the lack of adequate protections mean H-1B workers are frequently subject to exploitation.”

Hira added: “For more than fifteen years, offshore outsourcing firms have been amongst the largest H-1B employers. The rise of H-1B visa use fueled the rise of white-collar offshoring, destroying middle-class jobs and shipping innovation overseas. In 2020, the most recent data available, more than half of the top 30 H-1B employers continue to be offshore outsourcing firms. These companies exploit the H-1B program’s weaknesses to facilitate the transfer of U.S. jobs offshore as a lower cost alternative to hiring U.S. workers, and sometimes even directly replace incumbent U.S. workers with H-1B workers who are paid wages that are far below market wage rates.”

The Trump administration, in its final months, attempted to tackle at least part of the criticism over offshoring by proposing a new system that would have assigned H-1B visas based on wages. Raising wages wouldn’t have necessarily hurt companies’ attempts to secure highly specialized workers (such as artificial intelligence experts) whose skills are always at a compensation premium, but it would have eroded the margins of the business-services and consulting firms that apply for thousands of H-1B visas per year. Critics have long claimed these firms use the H-1B to bring in contractors at relatively low prices.

But as Forbes recently reported, the DOL rule is seemingly dead in court, citing a client alert from Berry Appleman & Leiden, an immigration-centric law firm. “DOL did not oppose vacating the rule because it had already significantly delayed the effective date to allow time to consider concerns raised in the litigation and regulatory comments,” read that alert. “The agency is in the process of reviewing information it received in response to a Request for Information on prevailing wage methodology.”

Meanwhile, advocates of the H-1B argue that America really does have a talent deficit—one that can be filled by bringing in highly skilled people from overseas. To restrict the H-1B, they argue, is to drive that talent to other countries, such as Canada. “In the United States, H-1B visas are essential because they typically represent the only practical way for high-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work long-term in America,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, testified at the same Congressional hearing as Hira. “However, numerical restrictions on high- skilled temporary visas block the vast majority of foreign-born applicants from working in America in a given year.” 

Anderson continued: “In March 2021, employers filed 308,613 H-1B registrations for cap selection for FY 2022 for only 85,000 H-1B petitions (65,000 plus a 20,000-exemption for individuals with an advanced degree from a U.S. university). That means over 72 percent of H-1B registrations for high-skilled foreign nationals were rejected even before an adjudicator evaluated the application.”

Anderson (and other H-1B advocates) believe that the premises underlying H-1B criticism are faulty. Foreign-born scientists and engineers, they argue, aren’t uniformly willing to accept less money than their American counterparts, and those who earn lower salaries are generally newer entrants to the U.S. labor market. Also, the number of jobs in the U.S. isn’t fixed, which makes it harder to argue that jobs are being “taken away” by workers on the H-1B. 

Only one thing’s for certain: This isn’t a debate that will resolve anytime soon. Tech companies everywhere seem dedicated to utilizing the H-1B visa, and the Biden administration has yet to announce any sort of overarching policy that tackles critics’ concerns.

23 Responses to “H-1B Debate in 2021: Is the Visa Necessary, or a Tech Job Killer?”

  1. was drilled into me to get a degree in stem meanwhile the government is literally full-throated undermining the stem job market.. can’t find a single entry level job in tech that isn’t a scam run by indians that will ‘place you’ after training… total scam job market.

    • Jake Leone

      You can thank Obama for killing the job opportunities of our American youth, by increasing the term of the OPT program.

      When I started off in tech, I had to sit with my manager (the owner of the company I worked for at the time) while he did the accounting needed to the 15% FICA tax. He hated it. He did like me for it. He grumbled miserably about having to pay it.

      That OPT tax break is a huge incentive to not hire an American tech intern. You can’t tell me it isn’t, because I have direct experience that it is. Look, companies gripe about having to give even a 5% raise, you cannot tell me that the added 15% that FICA cost for American students is not a factor.

      Obama was such an idiot in so many ways on the H-1b visa and OPT program, and it cost us dearly.

      The best things we can do would be:

      -Extend the OPT tax break to all students and new grads. That evens up the playing field and will eliminate the incentive to discriminate against Americans in the U.S. workplace.

      And you can’t tell me there is a worker shortage, because that is a lie and we have the evidence. Facebook’s own employees, told Federal investigators (under threat of a Federal obstruction of Justice charge) that Facebook received hundreds of resumes and routinely finds that 30 or more are fully qualified for Facebook’s STEM/IT positions, but Facebook simply doesn’t have more than 1-job/ad that Americans are “allowed” to apply for.

      Literally we now know that Facebook finds 30x more local STEM/IT workers than it can hire. But we have had little ego blurbs by Tech CEO’s (Eric Schmidt once bragged about the number of qualified programming candidates Google was receiving). What they want is something they shouldn’t be allowed to have (and is patently immoral to create). They want indentured slaves, who can’t leave their job until Green Card day, which conveniently never arrives for some groups. If these guys really didn’t want that then why would Eric Schmidt have risked jail time in the infamous no-poaching scandal?

      An American, with all their rights, simply cannot compete with an indentured servant.

      If you (FACEBOOK) have any information that runs counter to these statements, made to Federal investigators, then bring them up to U.S. DOJ. Or bring them to court when the trial starts. Until you can do that, we have to treat every statement that there is a STEM/IT workers shortage as a bald face lie.

      Further, STEM unemployment is determined by people who had a starting STEM job and then lost it. If we are excluding American grads (only half of U.S. STEM grads ever find a STEM/IT job) from the STEM workplace (via OPT/H-1b/(Green Card indenturement)) then of course STEM unemployment will be artificially low. So the real number is the fact that only half of U.S. citizen STEM grads are ever hired by our Tech companies.

      Many find better paying jobs. Hey a police officer can make 100k/year, have a pension, and full benefits. Most people will take full-time, fully benefited work, with a pension, over any less than 60k/year contract programming job. But that is a fact in the U.S. labor market, and our Big Tech companies (which routinely earn several hundred thousand dollars in profits per employee) simply refuse to face reality.

      We got guys like Bezos who want it all and then make crass statements like thanking all the Amazon employees (who have no pension, often work contract) for paying for his 5.5 billion dollar (11 minute) trip to space. That did nothing for the world except spew out more Green House gas.

    • Hi JC. Because of the H1B visas, wages in the tech field have dropped significantly for American workers. As a result of that, young, bright students, opt to go into other fields, thus causing an apparent lack of American born talent in the tech fields. It’s a viscous cycle that was caused by the tech companies seeking to maximize profits, often to obscene amounts at the C-Level, and they have bought their politicians with that money. I won’t get in to who started this and I would prefer not to make it a Democrat vs Republican thing. Unfortunately it is a political matter because of the laws passed, so one thing is certain, in this era of yoyo policies, the politicians will not have Americans’ best interests at heart. It’s really unfortunate. Americans created the tech field and have done significant things with it. Other countries have contributed too, but at heart, IT is an American invention.

  2. Jake_Leone

    We have well documented cases, Southern California Edison, Disney, U.C. San Francisco (and hundreds of others). Where Americans were directly replaced, and asked to train, lesser skilled foreign workers, here in the United States, on an H-1b visa.

    Anyone who says the H-1b visa isn’t being used to replace Americans, is a bald-face liar. The only thing that keeps Stuart Anderson blabbing the lies, is the fact that he is making a living out of it from the donations of wealthy corporate clients.

    Facebook’s own employees have told Federal investigators, that Facebook protected foreign workers from having to compete with local STEM/IT job applicant. Facebook’s own employees told those same Federal investigators that the Americans (Facebook refused to consider) were better qualified than the foreign workers Facebook was protecting from local competition.

    Facebook further, refused the Free Offer of the San Francisco Chronicle to place the Green Card Perm ads on the Chronicle website. In this way, Facebook hid the potential job opportunities (currently held by foreign workers) from local STEM/IT workers.

    Facebook’s own employees told Federal investigators that for every STEM/IT job that Facebook openly advertises, Facebook receives hundreds of resumes. Of those hundreds, Facebook’s own HR people told Federal investigators, that 30 or more are better qualified than foreign workers Facebook is protecting from local competition.

    Further Facebook’s own employees told Federal investigators, that they would have hired the local STEM/IT candidates, if Facebook actually had jobs that Americans were being allowed to apply for.

    If Facebook says, to the press or public, it is facing a STEM/IT worker shortage. You have to assume that is a bald face lie. Because Facebook’s own employees told Federal investigators that Facebook is finding 30x more local STEM/IT people than it can hire.

    Look 30x more fully qualified local STEM/IT people (in fact better qualified than Facebook’s foreign STEM/IT workers) than Facebook can actually hire means only one thing. The STEM/IT worker shortage is a manufactured lie. And Stuart Anderson is a bald face liar.

    If Stuart Anderson has any, ANY, information that counters the statements of Facebook’s own employees, in the case of DOJ vs Facebook, then Stuart Anderson should bring that to the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    But Stuart Anderson doesn’t have any such information and neither did Facebook. Facebook’s only challenge to the DOJ lawsuit was on jurisdiction, and that was rejected. So now this case of 2600+ cases of discrimination against local U.S. STEM/IT candidates can go to trial.

    If any of Facebook’s own employers, were not 100% candid with the Federal investigators, they could face a Federal obstruction of Justice charge. The same charge that landed Martha Stewart, a billionaire, in jail.

    But realize this, all of big tech does the same thing. They all receive hundreds of resumes per job openly advertised job add. They all find dozens of qualified candidates. And the reason is simply, Big Tech isn’t having any issue attracting workers. Because anyone, in their right-mind, would exchange an insecure job at a startup for a job at a stable Big Tech company.

    The 2 guys who founder WhatsApp (which Facebook paid 19 billion for to squash competition), applied to Facebook. Facebook didn’t have work for them apparently, they were not of the correct nationality apparently.

    There is no STEM/IT worker shortage. There is simply a scarcity of workers that DO NOT have their full 13th amendment right to leave their job, without repercussion. Foreign workers simply don’t have the all the rights that Americans have, that is there one qualification that puts them on top of 30 or more better qualified local STEM/IT workers.

    Too bad for Facebook, rating one worker over another, based upon the rights they have, is literally against the Federal Anti-Discrimination Statute.

    That is why Offshore Outsourcing companies prefer to use the H-1b visa. Because that visa’d worker won’t leave. If they leave and the next job fails, they return back to India where there prospects are zero and they have a bad reputation, and they get to live in abject poverty.

    At Facebook, workers waiting for the Green Card can’t leave, until Green Card day. And Americans simply can’t top that qualification. How disgustingly immoral, sick and bigoted such policies, AT FACEBOOK, are. But Stuart Anderson like them, because he is a bigot who hates Americans equally.

    Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs and several other CEO’s were willing to risk jailtime for the same kind of power. The power to tie engineers down and deny them their civil rights. And you have to read the Email exchange between Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs to really understand the dynamic. It is a sick exchange between to oligarchs, who sickly fire a successful recruiter, who successfully signed an Apple engineer to Google.

    That’s the reality people. Engineers are just hard working people. These CEO’s deal in evil. And just read the Email exchange between Eric Schmidt and Steve Jobs and you will know and understand what I am saying. Stuart Anderson is in league with evil, and as such he cannot and will not speak the truth about the H-1b visa or changes made by the Trump administration, many of these changes (not all) would actually greatly benefit H-1b workers and the U.S. economy.

    Raising H-1b wages would kick the Offshore Outsourcing companies out of the system. Stuart Anderson opposes that change, in an article he paid to have put in Forbes. Stuart Anderson is against the change from a Brain-Dead lottery to an H-1b allocation that would allocate H-1b visas based upon salary.

    This guy, Stuart Anderson, is brutal bigot. Whether it is Americans facing discrimination at places like Facebook. Or OPT workers waiting for years for an H-1b visa (and they filed a lawsuit to get rid of the Brain-dead lottery). Or workers facing decades long wait for a Green Card it is because of bigots like Stuart Anderson that this occurs, because they only really care where donation money comes from. They literally have sold their souls for the sake of the Chamber of Commerce and its business interests.

    The fact that Stuart Anderson, will not allow commentary on any of his articles should tell you enough that this guy FEARS the aweful truth about the bigoted lies he is advocating for.

  3. Tina Eman

    If there is such a high shortage of IT technical workers, why is my high tech IT technology work as a consultant obtaining the same hourly rate of compensation as I was getting in 2010? Not only do I have 10 years more experience, but wouldn’t simple supply and demand increase the going market rate? It is almost like competing against lower waged H1B workers is keeping rates low – shortage indeed.

  4. The answer to H1-B and offshoring/nearshoring is simple. Tax the corporations using both for ever dollar spent on both to level the net cost between hiring US citizens and hiring H1-B and offshore resources.

  5. 99% of H1B are necessary, there may be a few cases of fraud, but that is not disqualifying of the whole process and professionals. Otherwise look at congress, would you close the congress for a few bad apples?, would you cancel the Republican party for a few insurrectionists?, no, I don’t think so. The H1B is healthy and necessary for the economy as shown by the market and the Big Tech getting the highest profits and productivity numbers in all history.

    • Jake Leone

      No, you lie when you say 99% of H-1b visas are necessary. Half the H-1b visas go to Offshore Outsourcing companies that perform redundant business process duplication that winds up moving entire departments and all their jobs to India.

      Necessary is dependent on POV of the implementor, H-1b is implemented by the U.S. government. In this case we are talking about a government program, that is supposed to serve the American people, not business interests solely.

      Half the H-1b visas go to Offshore Outsourcing companies and they are redundant. We already have the necessary people, Offshore Outsourcing companies are merely duplicating the process, that isn’t necessary, that is waste.

      Profit isn’t a necessity to the American people. If companies earned just enough profit to stay in business, then that is all that is required. It is necessary for government to keep people employed, by giving away H-1b visas to Offshore Outsourcing companies we are working against that necessity.

      People working isn’t about profit. It is about keeping a roof over you head. When we talk about keeping employed, we are talking about true necessity.

      If instead of wasting half the H-1b visas on Offshore Outsourcing companies, we reserved those visas for companies (foreign or domestic) that actually create jobs in the United States, or we instead switched to a salary based allocation of H-1b visas (another more practical solution). The Offshore Outsourcing companies would no longer, unnecessarily (and completely without necessity) be receiving an indentured workforce, courtesy the U.S. Federal Government.

      And such changes would not affect the number of foreign workers in the United States, it would not make workers more likely to relocate to Canada. What such changes would do:

      – Increase the chances that Silicon Valley companies would win an H-1b from the current 1-in-4 chance (because of the massive redundant application by Offshore Outsourcing companies), to a 1-in-2 chance (the 1st year). Then to 1-in-1 chance in the second year.

      Immigration lawyers unanimously oppose a change to a salary based allocation, because it would eliminate 75% (or more) of their H-1b application work. And those guys have massive, and Counter-Fiduciary influence on Big Tech corporations. By not advocating for this change, they are hurting the profitability and capability of our Big Tech corporations.

      – Increase the skill and experience level of the average H-1b recipient.

      – Increase the cost to Offshore work, and in doing so slow it down, preserving mudane and well scripted jobs in Accounting, HR, DB Administration, for a longer transition period, if that is truly needed.

      You can’t counter any my statements because you are afraid. And you know you have NOTHING to counter them with. I have been studying this program for decades and I am well educated in its affects on the American economy. If you had anything at all to counter with you had better put it out, because I will call out your incorrect statements at every opportunity.

    • Sorry Andy, you are wrong and probably know that you are wrong. The manufactured “shortage” of Americans willing to work in the IT field is a result of the H1B program. Americans created the tech field, we are certainly capable of advancing it. Your statement of “market” is wrong as well, since if there were pure market place dynamics, it would be American workers in the supply pool, period. Your statement of Big Tech getting the highest profits as supporting the H1B necessity is just supporting the C level people bleeding the American people dry.

  6. Do we really have a national shortage of programmers in this country that requires H-B visas? I don’t think so.

    This is simply a way for large corporations to find cheaper sources of labor.

    We have a greater shortage of doctors, but not an active H1B program for them. Our licensing program for doctors precludes this possibility,

    • Any shortage of IT workers is because the H1B program has depreciated wages to the point where interest in the field has waned. Simply put, a lot of bright young students are opting for other professions after seeing what the field has become. This reality has been created by the politicians.

      • Jake_Leone

        How true this is. Anyone with intelligence would take a steady job, with a pension and full benefits, over a contract job as a programmer.

        And the Big Tech companies that do offer full time work, are not having any problems finding talent. Facebook admitted to Federal investigators that it recieves hundreds of resumes for every STEM/IT job ad. And out of those hundreds of applicants, 30 or more are fully qualified for the STEM/IT job. Facebook employees said, they would hire the 30 (or more applicants per job ad) they turn away, if Facebook actually had STEM/IT jobs for them.

        Facebook also admitted, to Federal investigators, that the 30 or more STEM/IT applicants per job ad that Facebook turns away, are better qualified than foreign workers undergoing the PERM process at Facebook.

        These statements, to Federal investigators, were obtained under threat of a Federal obstruction of justice charge (See Martha Stewart’s case for more info, she did jailtime because she wasn’t truthful to Federal investigators). Facebook and the rest of Big Tech know they can lie to the public or via paid off press proxies all they want, but they also know they couldn’t lie to Federal investigators without facing major jail time.

        See the indictment (now going to trial) on the DOJ website.

        The OPT tax break and the massive preference for a Foreign indentured workers has made it difficult for Americans to find STEM/IT jobs, they are actually better qualified for than Foreign workers currently holding them.

        The result is that half of our U.S. citizen STEM graduates cannot find a full time STEM/IT job. And so, not surprisingly they take jobs in other sectors, that have full time work, benefits, and pensions.

  7. Sam Starfas

    If you say H1-B’s do not hurt American jobs, you are blind and dumb as Joe. When I started in high-tech American’s were working hard and doing great work. The H1B’s came about. More jobs went overseas. Quality lacked. Engineers would work late to fix the offshore code. Editors spent more time editing offshore documents, errors galore, etc. But, companies saved money. And that is all they saw. But, if a company ever really tracked the money wasted, they would save having the jobs here. The 24hour lag cost us some much time and quality. Cuz we had to hurry to finish products after a response, or code or docs came from overseas.

    Just look at your latest User Guide for a product you just bought. Junk probably.

    • jake_leone

      Thank you for confirming your agreement that Americans are discriminated against in the U.S. STEM/IT market place.

      And there is overwhelming evidence that this is the case, just read DOJ vs Facebook, which was filed after the election. And is available at the U.S. DOJ website.

    So we had enough h1b visa!!

  9. How many of you voted for the senile crook currently in office who sold your jobs to India and China? how many of you Voted for the orange bad man who tried to help save your Jobs? If you voted for the communist Anti-American Marxists (Democrats) then you got what you voted for. Enjoy! Seriously if you voted for Biden please reply and whether or not you’re happy with H1Bs-I’m taking a poll

  10. Hey Nik, what happened? Are they sending your job to an H1B? This is the first partially honest article you’ve written on this that isn’t cheerleading for the H1B system

    • jake_leone

      Let’s take a moment to figure out Stuart Anderson.

      No one ever fact checks Stuart Anderson, but it is easy to (for those that have studied this issue closely) to see many false claims by Stuart Anderson. Stuart Anderson says that H-1b’s don’t take jobs, but half of the H-1b visa’d workers work for Offshore Outsourcing companies, that specialize in replacing Americans on the job and then removing entire departments.

      Stuart Anderson said that doesn’t happen because the number of H-1b are fixed? When, the facts tells us that a fixed number of h-1b visas isn’t relevant to replacement. Because the H-1b is a trainee, at every job, that in turn trains his/her replacement back in India.

      And the H-1b workers goes on to replace another American at a different company contracting with the Offshore Outsourcing company. Such a cycle can go on every 3 months for 6 years.

      Further, Stuart Anderson is working in a counter-fiduciary manner. Silicon Valley would greatly benefit from a change from a brain-dead lottery to a salary based allocation. Currently, because of the lottery, Silicon Valley companies only have a 1-in-4 chance of winning an H-1b visa. If we changed to a salary based allocation, that would change to a 1 in 2 chance the first year. And then be 1-in-1 change in subsequent years.

      And the reason is because the Offshore Outsourcing companies would know they have no chance of winning an H-1b visa, and so would simply not apply for H-1b visas.

      Immigration lawyers would suffer because they would lose 3/4 of their redundant H-1b business. But it would not affect the number of H-1b visas given out each year, that’s a fixed amount. A change from a lottery, to a salary based allocation, would simply affect the number of redundant applications.

      Even 500+ workers, here on an OPT visa, have filed a lawsuit to end the h-1b lottery, because if has made it impossible for them to convert to an H-1b visa.

      Well, I think Stuart Anderson is really representing the interest of Immigration Lawyers. That is a very narrow constituency, that doesn’t really have the best interest of potential immigrants, Silicon Valley, or the American people in its heart in this particular debate.

      Stuart Anderson says either incorrect/counter-factual statements, or just doesn’t acknowledge the fact that more than half of the H-1b visas go to Offshore Outsourcing companies. This points to an individual that cannot be trusted to give truthful testimony before Congress, because he is actually saying incorrect and illogical things that are only in the best interest of immigration law firms, and no one else.

  11. Sumner

    A job killer because jobs in Information Technology Services are being outsourced to people with the equivalent of a HS Diploma and specialized training in the software in Demand. You can qualify for H1B with just HS diploma and 3 years experience. Experience that is certified by the same agency doing the H1B placement. Just make it a fair and even competition with Domestic workers. The outsourcing companies just prefer staff that they can commit for the duration of the typical 3 year Contract

  12. Daniel M Lark

    Just have a fair and honest competition for the jobs in Information Technology Services. We have local college I.T. graduates, that can’t even get an interview with Contract Vendors. The Vendors prefer staff that can be committed for the length of the typical 3 years contract. When I started 1980, changing jobs was the only way to get paid for your added experience. Today Vendors push back against domestic staff because they have that mobility. And H1B gives them alternatives.