The industry lobbyists’ massive PR campaign for expanding the H-1B work visa program includes making suggestions to journalists for articles. Typically these articles, amazingly, turn out to be sympathetic to the industry’s point of view, with little or nothing telling the other side of the story. (This typically arises from lack of due diligence on the part of the journalists, rather than pro-industry bias.)
One of the common types of such pieces is to present the current, “greatly oversubscribed” 65,000+20,000 yearly cap on new visas as causing the U.S.to lose many superstars who could make extraordinary contributions to the American economy if they were only allowed to stay here. The typical article will profile a few supposedly brilliant foreign students, and say that we are losing (or have already lost) them. Today’s Fortune article, “Foreign B-School Grads Left Out in the Cold in U.S. Job Market,” is a case in point.
These articles are highly misleading, for a number of reasons. First, as I showed in an August 1, 2014 blog post, many of those profiled turn out, upon closer inspection, to be ordinary people, graduating from ordinary universities, and doing ordinary work, not of the implied superstar quality. One example I cited was Sandeep Nijsure, whom Vivek Wadhwa had highlighted in a column titled, “They’re Taking Their Brains and Going Home.” I commented,
Yet, by Vivek’s own account, Nijsure is the epitome of my characterization of most H-1Bs as “ordinary people, doing ordinary work”: Degree from University of North Texas, working in Quality Assurance, i.e. software testing.
Second, many of these “lost” workers turn out to be working in the U.S. after all. My favorite example was described in that August 1 blog post, where I said, regarding former foreign student Saurabh Awasthi,
This is a case of special interest to me, as a reporter who had written about Awasthi back in 2008 called me a couple of months ago. The reporter, Mark Roth…told me that he had written about such “loss” [of talented foreign students] in 2008, using Awasthi as an example of a foreign student graduating from a U.S. school but who had been forced to return to his home country because of a shortage of work visas.
After the call, I looked up Awasthi, and found his LinkedIn entry. Turns out that he had not been forced to return to India after all! He landed a job with a U.S. firm in the financial field, which had been his goal.
How do these seemingly “gone” people turn out to be working in the U.S. after all? First, it is important to note that, contrary to the rhetoric used by the lobbyists and the politicians (the former teaching the latter what to say), we do NOT “send the foreign students home after they graduate.” Due to the OPT part of the F-1 visa, foreign students in STEM can work for 29 months after graduation (which the Obama people want to change to 36). During this time, they have full work rights, and the employer can use this as a holding pattern until the worker gets an H-1B visa.
Another major route to take is the L-1 visa, for intracompany transfers. The employer sends the foreign student to work for a foreign branch of the firm, and then brings him/her back to the U.S. under L-1, which by the way has no cap. The Fortune article mentions this. L-1 used to be used mainly by the IT services firms, but recently the mainstream tech firms have found it to be a gold mine.
Finally, have you been so foolish (I was, actually) to believe those numbers concerning how many more H-1B visa applications there are compared to the 65K+20K cap? As reported by the Wall Street Journal, in many cases multiple applications are being submitted, by different employers, for the same worker. The lucky worker, having received several job offers, waits until it is known which of those employers have gotten a visa for him/her, and then simply accepts one of those offers. Classical political ruse, double counting.
Now, what about those foreign students profiled in the Fortune article — are they superstars? Since I generally take a dim view of MBAs, that will be a tough sell with me. The lead exhibit, Sudhanshu Shekhar, seems to be a very social type who is active in student organizations, but is that all Fortune can offer as evidence of potential stardom? He seems to have developed a clever marketing package for Best Buy, and he is an IIT grad, good, but really, he doesn’t seem that special. And again, the U.S. isn’t losing him anyway; according to the article, his employer will put him in Holland for a year and then bring him back to the U.S. as an L-1.
By the way, the article contains a curious bit of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, it says that “U.S. MBA programs have admitted larger and larger numbers of students from outside the U.S. to increase diversity and bring more of a global mindset into the classroom,” but on the other hand notes that “Many of the companies that refuse to consider foreign-born MBAs…[cite] cultural differences.” Maybe the globalist view being promoted by the schools don’t jibe with business goals?
And once again, note the use in that quote of the lobbyist-supplied phrase foreign-born, which is calculated and misleading, and is a sure sign that this reporter got “help” in writing the story. Even more telling is this passage:
But now, Shekhar, who graduated from Kellogg with an MBA last year, is about to leave the U.S. in frustration, the victim of a controversial, lottery-based work-visa program that puts international MBAs in the same category as foreign mid-level IT workers accused of taking jobs from Americans.
This of course is example of something I frequently criticize, efforts of the part of the mainstream industry to portray the IT services firms as the main abusers of the system — thus deflecting attention from the fact that abuse of H-1B pervades the entire industry. Once again, the article has all the earmarks of a “plant.”