TCS Daily


April Fools for Highly Skilled Workers

By Ilya Shapiro - April 17, 2007 12:00 AM

Because April 1 was a Sunday, the day exposing the foolishness that is U.S. immigration policy fell on April 2 this year. This is the day when employers are allowed to begin filing petitions with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly the INS) for highly skilled workers to be given what are known as H-1B visas.

H-1B visas allow employers to hire foreign workers in certain professional occupations. They are good for three years and can be renewed for another three. Though an H-1B cannot lead to a green card—so the foreign professional is tied to one employer and has to leave the country after a maximum of six years of being a productive member of society—it's still a pretty good deal.

The problem is that there aren't enough of these visas: Congress limits the number of H-1Bs that can be granted each year, and that magic number has been set at 65,000 for four years now. Before that, and in response to the technology boom of the late '90s, Congress temporarily raised the H-1B cap to 195,000. But that expansion expired in 2004, and the cap has been reached earlier and earlier each year since.

In 2005, that meant August. Last year, it was May 26. This year, the cap was reached on... April 2 -- the very first day you could file. Yes, by that Monday afternoon, USCIS had received over 150,000 H-1B applications. Officials quickly announced that it would randomly select 65,000 petitions from all those it had received April 2 and April 3.

As for the vast majority of employers and employees who were out of luck, the immigration laws said, like so many Cubs fans on what was also baseball's opening day, "wait till next year."

Except, in this case, next year means putting your business or career on hold until October 1, 2008—the day that people who secure H-1Bs for fiscal year 2009 can start work.

Now, why do I care about this issue so much? Because I myself am a foreign professional. No, not an engineer or scientist—haven't taken math since high school. I'm actually a lawyer, and I do quite a bit of political law right here in Washington, DC.

What helps me is that I come from Canada—my parents took a wrong turn at the St. Lawrence when we immigrated from the Soviet Union—which gets a special provision of un-capped visas under NAFTA. Still, these NAFTA visas are only good for one year at a time, and I have to maintain the legal fiction that after getting my education in the US and living my entire adult life here, I have no intention of staying permanently.

But at least I get to be here, tenuous as my grasp on the American dream may be. As the H-1B petition statistics demonstrate, there are hundreds of thousands of qualified people with job offers in America who cannot realize their dreams in their home countries. These are people who, like my engineer parents, want a better life for their children and see the United States as a bastion of freedom and rule of law in an unruly time. They aim to leave places that, while not always oppressing them, have sclerotic economic systems less conducive to entrepreneurship and growth than America (India, France, most of the world).

Yet neither the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act the Senate passed last year nor the STRIVE Act, a bill now pending before the House that combines increased border security with a guest-worker program, contemplates the doctors, scientists, and software developers (forget lawyers and pundits!) the country needs. And, as I said before, even those in that category who make it here have to leave just as they've planted roots and become increasingly assimilated.

Thus America continues to maintain an incomprehensible and counter-productive immigration policy, damaging both pocketbooks and heartstrings from Silicon Valley to the Bay of Bengal. And unless Congress and the White House do something to fundamentally reshape immigration rules with respect to skilled workers (let alone the hard-working gardeners and construction workers who get all the news coverage) things will only get worse.

I just hope I get married—absurdly, the only route to permanent residence open to people like me—before I have to leave the country.

If only this were all a bad April Fools' joke.

Ilya Shapiro is a Washington lawyer who writes the "Dispatches from Purple America" column for TCS Daily.com.


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38 Comments

No more visas
Why are any special visas required at all?

If an employer in the USA is willing to hire someone from.... anywhere in the world, why shouldn't he be able to?

I know someone who entered the USA on an H-2B visa for Marriot Hotels. He was supposed to stay with that employer too, but found a better job in Chicago.

Instead of wasting time processing millions of visa applications every year, scrap the system, allow anyone with a valid passport into the country. Caveats are NO government aid of any sort, NO anchor babies, and if they find employment and are not US citizens (speaking English) within 5 years, they are sent packing.

The current INS buracracy should be able to keep track of these folks if they don't have to process millions of visa applications each year.

This would open the door to thousands of English speakers from India, Philippines, and Europe who don't want to sneak in through Mexico or Canada.

Good post
Though taxes need to be paid, but I assume you would included that.

Visa's and Guest Workers
“Instead of wasting time processing millions of visa applications every year, scrap the system, allow anyone with a valid passport into the country.”

I support replacing all visa programs with a guest worker program. Clear legal statues must be enacted for guest workers, including:
1) Requirement of a background screening and declaration of current citizenship.
2) Issuance of tamper proof identification.
3) Tax responsibilities and rights to government services (roads, schools, etc…).
4) Protocols (federal and local) in the event of criminal or civil legal involvement.
5) Requirement for Congressional review of the limit on the total number of guest workers on a yearly basis. Congress must also set the goals and criteria for guest worker admission each year.
6) Specific disassociation of immigrant status from guest worker status. Guest workers can apply for formal immigration status, but receive no guarantees.

Security requires that everyone in the US have a status…a citizen, a legal immigrant, a guest worker or a foreign visitor with a valid passport. Anyone else is trespassing…and must be immediately detained and deported. Current trespassers must either acquire guest worker status or leave the US by a to-be-determined date.

It must be Congress, and not employers or citizens of other countries, who authorizes guest workers and immigrant status on an ongoing basis. It is then up to the Homeland Security to enforce Congress’s decisions, and fully secure all US borders.

Guest workers
If you haven't realized it yet, there will be millions of boomers retiring in the next decade.

Who will replace them? Guest workers?

I was once a guest worker in Saudi Arabia. There tends to be some uncertainty associated with being a guest worker.

Eliminate the classification and allow people to work for whomever will hire. And they must have valid passports from their home countries.

But again, they cannot be permanent guest workers. They must become citizens after 5 years or go home.

This eliminates Congress screwing up the allocations.

As a side, this would also force other countries to provide incentives to keep their best and brightest.

Competition
"“Skills are rising sharply in these countries,” Financial Week recently quoted Martin Walker, senior director of the Global Business Policy Council (the A.T. Kearney unit that sponsored the survey), as having said. “The ongoing reason for the attractiveness of these places won’t be costs; it will be the increasing skills of their labor force.”

One indication of the improving skills of workers is the double-digit increases in university enrollment reported by China, Brazil and Egypt, Walker said.

At the same time that quality talent has increased wages, some other costs — most notably in telecommunications — have actually declined. Further, the offshoring labor savings are expected to last another 20 years, only at smaller rates.

“[The study’s] findings reinforce the message that corporations making global location decisions should focus less on short-term cost considerations, and more on long-term projections of talent supply and operating conditions,” Laudicina said."

http://news.thomasnet.com/IMT/archives/2007/04/offshore_outsourcing_labor_cost_advantages_decline_report_says.html?WT.mc_t=blg&WT.mc_n=blg0407&channel=email

It won't be long before other world economies will keep workers at home and the USA will need to beg for workers like the Middle East counties do.

Good idea...
This is a good idea, because it eliminates the bureaucracy involved in the processing of such visas. My wife and I spent nearly $1K on her visa application when we got married, and it was a total bureaucractic mess. Mind you, this was before 9/11.


Because hard working educated people don't vote democrat.
The immigration issue is about vote buying and expanding the government, not what is best for the nation.

So it's OK for India
to protect the jobs of their people by restricting who can come there and work, but not the US?

guest workers
nicely stated.

visas
This makes too much sense.
Gov't would never go for it.

Democrat government that is.

Come on in! Improve yourself! But don't get yourself on the
dole or slam the USA because you're unhappy that you're not
getting a free ride.

no benefits until earned. (S.S. for example would be earned).
No crowding emergency rooms for free treatment except in dire
life threatening emergency.

one tires of the attitude of immigrants who complain that the USA is not exactly like the place they left.

guest workers
nicely stated.

Better law-abiding engineers than illegal farmhands and menial workers
I just put up a blogpost on this subject, an excerpt of which is: "I would much rather import a law-abiding Scottish mechanical engineer, a Serbian electrical engineer, and/or an Indian computer scientist that would develop a robotic tomato picker whose manufacturing, sales, and maintenance will create thousands of good paying jobs for American workers than to either pay tens of thousands of imported low-skill foreigners who must live impoverished on the margins of our society or else go without my favorite vegetables because the high-wage domestic tomato pickers are not productive enough to keep their cost low."

The post is at:
http://ideasinprogress.blogspot.com/2007/04/make-robot-mow-lawn.html

This is a good idea
Two good posts here marjon, but I think we are in a situation where we must secure the borders and round up as many of the present illegals as possible before we can move forward.

Once that is done, therre are several ways to implement and open worker program.

one tires of the attitude of immigrants who complain that the USA is not exactly like the place they
We get that a lot from Yankees who move to Florida!

foreign workers
Back when I worked in software development, the programmers from India had generally sub-standard skills.

All this talk that the U.S. somehow needs to import Indian programmers to remain competitive is hogwash.

Part of my reasoning for leaving programming for law practice was that I could see the effect that the Indians would have on wages in software, and guess what, I predicted correctly.

So just think guys, your pro-immigrant policies helped expand the lawyer class by one additional person, me.

Did any of you pro-H1b visa advocates ever consider what smart caucasian Americans will do with themselves when faced with lower wages from Indian competition? Do you really think that it would not have the effect of increasing the lawer class.

Do you really want me drafting complaints for new lawsuits, or would you rather pay me $100K/year for programming ?

You had your choice as to what kind of economic climate you create for programmers, and in my case, you lost, because now I am out doing what another lawyer who does the same type of litigation as me described as "going around ruining people's year."

Oh - one correction - Another classmate of mine from law school was also a refugee from programming. He now practices law in S. Calif.

There is no shortage of Unemployed American programers
It's nice to see people advocating importing an unlimited number of people to displace the already heavily displaced American programmer. Please believe the corporate false claims of a labor shortage and ignore the fact that this blogger directly benefits from the visa, as he openly states. We love the stagnating wages and the inability of newly graduated Americans to enter the profession that is now dominated by Indian contracting companies.

There are plenty of Americans available with the expertise to do these jobs. The problem is, they don't work as cheaply as people who want an opportunity to become a US citizen.

Allowing an unlimited number would guarantee that no US citizen or green card holder would be able to hold a middle class job. You don't think there are lawyers from India/China wherever that would love to come here and learn American law and replace you also? They will work for less, they have family back home who can benefit from their income.

Why bother rounding them up?
They must get a passport like everyone else and they would then be as legal as everyone else. Employers would be required to follow all current laws.

If someone who spoke English was available, say from India or Philippines, an employer may just fire the former illegal and hire someone better suited for the job.

The system is not fair now and I don's see any way to make it fair except to eliminate visa requirements for all and let the market decide who will be hired. (Don't forget my previous caveats.)

Another side to this is foreign nationals would be welcome to open a business as well as be hired.

Plenty of unemployed blacksmiths.
It won't be long before programming will be accomplished by computers.

But when India develops its economy and needs more programmers who will they hire?

If it were the dawn of the iron age that might make sense
No one is claiming that there is a blacksmith shortage and begging the government to subsidize their business by flooding the market with cheap foreign blacksmiths, so I don't see your point.

AI's are no where near being able to develop software. Most humans are terrible at it, an AI hardly has a chance.

They will hire Indian's because no one else is allowed to work in India.

Shortage of High Tech Workers?
If we had a shortage of these workers three things would occur. 1) Wages would dramatically increase. 2) Unemployment within this group would approach zero. 3) More students would choose that career path. Obviously, this is not the case. The shortage is a con job put together by executives like Bill Gates to increase his profits.

another example of decadent america
Here's another example of the US shooting its own wiener off. Instead of letting in all the clever, educated, sophisicated people in, instead they keep them out and let in all those crappy wetbacks who are doing the work that the poor white trash and negros should be doing.

Jobs
I went to a major defense contractor's web site and searched all jobs related to computers.

There were over 500 hits.

Those jobs cannot be exported.

Why can't you find a computer job in the USA or do you want to work in India?

39,000 hits on 'software' on Dice
Just a quick look at the Dice web-site, there were 39000+ hits for the keyword 'software'.

Because, otherwise, you end up with a null positive result
How many would get visas? Not many I suspect. Why would you? you have bene here 10 years without one and see no reason to suddenly put yourself on the "citizenship clock" or face returning to your former home. This does nothing to deter the illegal problem without border enforcement AND a proven ability to find, prosecute and return illegals to their country of origin.

Enforcement is the key to making any program of this nature work. Without it, you might as well open the borders and end all immigration laws.

I said passports, no visas required (now or for my plan)
If you are from many countries, no visa is required for a stay of up to 6 months. You are not supposed to work either.

Why not just extend that to all countries, extend the stay to 5 years and let people work for whomever will hire them. Passports will be used for tracking, or, if you prefer a new fangled biometric government ID card would be required to be hired. INS would keep track of these people, after 5 years, out or citizenship.

This would end the illegal problem because the only people who would be illegal are those without a passport.

Doesn't answer the question
How many of those here illegally, or those thinking about coming here illegally, would run down and get the passports. Enforcement now, and in the future, is very important. We need a 0 starting point, or as close to one as possible. No way to do that without some enforcement of the illegal alien status.

LOL…
And from Californians who move to Montana!!

Enforce passport laws.
Passport laws would need to be enforced.

But that is all.

If illegals could be "not-illegal" by getting a passport from home and registering with the INS, and be above board, you don't think they would do it?
(The IRS gives illegals tax IDs now!)

Especially if employers were forced to produce passports or birth certificates for thier employees?

With NO special quota visa requirements, there would be a large pool of new talent, with passports available, ready to work.

Don't forget my caveats redgarding changing the 14th amendment and requiring citizenship after 5 years in the USA.

Still doesn't cover it
Your caveats are fine, and I agree.

But, as with anything, the devil is in the details. The one sticking point I have is with the estimated 12 million illegals presently in this country. I simply do not believe they will voluntarily go get passports and risk being deported in five years or less. You must round these people up and either make them legal (get them passports) or deport them. Either way, you run into the same issues that now exists as it applies to the present illegal population. If nothing is done about them, then you also encourage more illegals to try and get in.

Without an near 0 starting point (no illegals), no change will be effective in seriously reducing the number of illegals or curbing attempts to get here illegally and stay here illegally.

What did I say?
I said employers must verify origin with biometric IDs.

To the extent any document can be forged will be the limit of accuracy.

A few years ago I had to prove to my employer I was a US citizen with passport or birth certificate.

Start there and all those with valid foreign passports get to stay and work. Those without, must get one to stay in the country.


If illegals know all they must do is get a legal document from their government and won't have to sneak across the border anymore, I think they might comply. But they had better hurry because there will be those from other countries who speak English who will be looking for their jobs.

My guess the initial wave will be Indians, Chinese (say from Hong Kong), Filipinos and Eastern Europeans.

And I would also guess there might be diplomatic pressure applied on the USA to prevent all these people from escaping to the USA.

And there will be some people who might have to sneak OUT of their country. Some require permission to leave.

No Subject
What prevents the Indian contracting companies from filling defense contracts? The last thing I read said they are now focusing on defense contracts.

The reason people can not find "computer jobs" in the US is because corporations (collectively) save billions by hiring foreign workers on the H1-B, American replacement program. There is a clause stating that H1-B recipients must be paid the prevailing wage, but the reality is they are not. At the same time, they are using the H1 as a conduit to offshore as many of these jobs as possible.

If we desperately needed these workers because of some labor shortage then: Corporate America would be paying them more; Wages would be rising, not stagnat/falling; job requirements would not be insane laundry lists.

I personally have a job in the field now, but I could not find one for almost 2 years after I graduated from the #11 school in the world for IT(according to Newsweek) . At the time I also had 2 years of experience under my belt, which was much more than most graduates. Yep and I had to relocate at my own expense.

Ads != jobs
They already hired more H1-B visa holders than that. Also, it proves nothing except there are that many ads.
Recruiting companies often collect resumes in case they need them at a future date.(apply for a "jobs" at Lockheed Martin and resume goes into a database. You don't even get to pick which "job" you are applying for)

Unemployment rate for programmers is higher than ever, and it excludes anyone who got a different job to survive or was prevented from entering the field because entry level requires 3 years of experience.

Hold up, lets take a step back
As I first said, I generally agree with what you propose. All of what you say sounds good. But the point you seem to be avoiding is dealing with all the illegals (75%+ of which are hispanic and came across the southern border) that are already here.

Most of them, in my opinion, are not going to pack up and go back across the border just because they suddenly have a harder time finding work. They are also not going to run across the border to get a legal passport to get back in. Your plan forces them into even more of a corner than they are presently in. You must "help them out" by rounding them up and sending them home; then they MIGHT apply for a passport to come back.

The reason they are going to do anything they can to avoid this is because, in the mean time, Indians, and others are doing just what you say, taking the jobs they had and giving them little hope of returning. Many would rather live on the street in the U.S. then ever go back to their home country.

And, without border security, a significant number will just keep trying to get across the border.

You have a good idea overall, but without border security and a serious push to get rid of the illegals presently in the country, it won't solve the problems we now face, nor will it end the problem of illegals in th e future. It is my opinion that the key two cornerstones of any immigration policy is security and repatriotion of the present illegals. Without those two, the rest is just a house of cards.

Yes, help-wanted advertising is way down
http://www.kermitrose.com/jgoEconData.html#Employment

Because he hasn't passed a background investigation
and we're in the midst of an on-going war on terrorists.

I agree that they should not be processing millions of visa applications each year. The limits should be set to something much closer to 100K total visas per year to fight over-population and allow sufficient resources for conducting proper background investigations on every visa applicant. Oh, and the visa applicants must pay the full cost ($25K to $35K) for the background investigation, though employers and charities can make non-refundable contributions.

over a million under-employed and unemployed science & tech workers
And over 35K US citizens earn doctor's degrees in S&T each year, over 478K master's degrees in S&T each year, and about 1.3M bachelor's degrees each year in S&T fields.

Even if no more h-1B visas were issued for the next 18 years, we'd have plenty of people capable of doing the work well.

correction
make that
9.5K+ doctor's degrees
43.6K+ master's degrees
219K+bachelor's degrees
272K+ total science and tech degrees earned each year by US citizens.

But we'd still have plenty of home-grown S&T talent if H-1B visas were cut off for 18 years.

Who says?

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