Readers' Comments on H-1B Visa Surprise Visits

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2009-08-19

There is some buzz from readers on the recent blog article "H-1B Visa Companies Getting Unannounced Visits by Feds" and a healthy debate going on about problems with the laws around these visas.

Reader 'Vincenzo' writes (edited):

This search for fraud misses the REAL problems with the H-1B visa - 1) the "prevailing wage" nonsense and 2) the problems with portability - ie., the difficulties of an H-1B visa beneficiary of changing jobs.

1) Prevailing wage - this is a joke. There are large loopholes in this portion of the H-1B visa laws which allows employers to LEGALLY underpay H-1B beneficiaries. Moreover, it completely goes against the "free market" philosophy so many economists and corporate big-wigs love to parrot. Why not let the market dictate wages?

2) Portability - when an H-1B visa beneficiary becomes unhappy with his current employer, the H-1B visa laws do allow him to change employers, provided that another employer is willing to take over his H-1B visa. However, when an H-1B visa beneficiary does change employers, he has to re-file his Green Card application. So if he's been waiting for three years to get his Green Card, and then changes employers, that three years is completely wasted.

An anonymous reader writes about how the law should change to protect American workers:

Employers should have to actually offer the job to qualified US citizens (at least 10% of all applicants after advertizing the position for 90 days, all applicants if less than 15 applications received) and have all offers declined. Then the H1B visa applicant should be compensated no more than what was offered the US citizens; but the employer should be required to contribute (non-tax-deductable)an amount equal to all compensation, benefits, and travel/living expenses provided to the H1B visa holder to a University in the US that offers a degree that would qualify the degree recipient for the job. This payment to the University should be constrained to paying tuition, books, and fees for US citizen upper division students pursuing a STEM batchelors degree.

Another anonymous reader, who claims to be on the way to getting a green card, talks about some realities faced (edited):

I've been legally in the United States for more than 12 years. My green card is more than 3 years away.

I agree that the system sucks for immigrants. Other than the fact that I don't have job mobility, I am very well paid (almost 200K). I wish i had the option to move if I needed to, but the options available are limited.

The thing is, I pay federal, state and local taxes, social security, unemployment premiums (which I can never collect on) and I'm a participant in the health programs that my employer offers.

All these are a net benefit to all US workers (and me -- sort of) and just perhaps, in eight years or so, I'll be allowed to take the citizenship test.

And on the fraud detection strategies employed by the feds, another anonymous reader writes:

I have about ZERO sympathy for these companies being audited and some being caught abusing the H-1B visas. This has been going on for 15 YEARS; about time someone checked up on them. Sad it takes a recession of this magnitude to move someone to stop abuses of what is nothing more than a cheap labor pool of indentured workers so US companies can continue to live here and benefit from our society while undermining the ability of US workers to make a living. We've let in over 200,000 of these H-1Bs in a single year in the past 15 years or so. England has a similar program (used to be call the "Skilled Migrant Worker Programme"; know how many they typically let in? About 1,000. That spells "SUCKER" for you and me, allowing in nearly a quarter of a million of these people to be:

1) Stuck with their sponsoring company for 6 years (no raises, no bonuses); if they leave they have to find a new company within X days, pay a fine and start their 6 year immigration clock over again.

2) Paid far less than the "prevailing wage" standard (which is itself far too loose as pay can range all over for a given IT job title). This IS the reason these visas are sought - cheaper labor.

As you can tell, the heat of the debate over foreign technology workers is complex, and I thank those readers who offer some real depth and open communication on the issues affecting everyone.

The blatant racial comments, however, really have no place in this debate. The program has its flaws and strengths, but race, in my estimation, is not really part of the equation. Anger at the program is warranted, but not at the people who are trying to do right by themselves and their families.

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