The Welcome Mat May Be Pulled Out from Under Them

After running as a prominent print magazine for many decades, U.S. News and World Report now serves niche markets, online and otherwise. One of those niches involves education, with the publication not only compiling its famous (and not entirely useless) yearly college rankings report, but also running short conferences on how to deal with alleged STEM shortages.

A September 9 article, “50,000 Foreign-Born STEM Workers May Be Forced Home,” is the first of many “poster children” pieces we will likely see in the media in the coming months. A recent court decision found that the 2008 executive branch action extending the Optional Practical Training part of the F-1 student visa had not been put through the legally required procedures to seek public comment. The judge gave the government until next February to perform a do-over.

The message of the US News article is that, due to some silly judge, the U.S. will lose tens of thousands of talented foreign students. “The deadline is looming,” ominously intones the article. As some of you may recall, the statistical evidence suggests that those students tend not to be so talented after all, but really the salient point is that there is no way this doomsday will occur. The USCIS will pull out all the stops to avoid it, and indeed, I’ve seen immigration lawyers quoted as saying that the court decision will spur the government on to accelerate its planned FURTHER extension of OPT to 6 years.

Meanwhile, a White House petition to retain OPT now has over 100,000 signatures. While it is clear that most signers are foreign students or others with vested interests, the government will treat the petition as “broad public support.” This could be quite embarrassing (if the mainstream media — or Donald Trump 🙂 — gave it good coverage), as the above Computerworld article points out:

The technology workers’ local believes that the OPT program brings in low-wage workers, creating unfair competition. Miano said the OPT action creates a hot political issue for the Obama administration. The administration didn’t act to protect U.S. workers at Southern California Edison and Disney, but “now that foreign workers will be losing their jobs, how would it look if Obama went into overdrive to protect their jobs?”

As usual, the government response to such a charge would be that “foreign students create jobs, not steal them,” the standard “Intels good, Infosyses bad” argument, which sadly many people find convincing.

As with many such articles, the US News piece quotes a couple of employers as claiming they just can’t find qualified Americans to fill their jobs. Yet a glance at their Web pages shows their current openings to be quite run-of-the-mill. They may have to offer higher pay, horror of horrors, but they could get good workers domestically if they wanted to.

Well, why don’t they want to? The first, and more obvious reason is to save money, and not just because OPT workers are not subject to Social Security tax. Students are young, thus cheap to hire, and due to the fact that the green card serves as compensation, YES, they will work for less even aside from the age issue. Attorney Whitehill’s claim in the article is absurd; even at cut-rate wages, the students are making much more money here than they would back home, not to mention getting an extremely valuable green card in the process.

The second reason is that the foreign students, if they are being sponsored for green cards, are de facto indentured servants, which is of huge appeal to employers.

Not that I don’t sympathize with the foreign students. I had an extremely talented student from China a year ago, whom I strongly encouraged a Silicon Valley employer to hire. The student was indeed hired, but lost the H-1B visa lottery. OPT will basically give him one more shot at that prize, but without the planned extension, that will be the end.

Yet that misses the point entirely. If, as was the intent of the old H-1 program, H-1B visas were given only to “the best and the brightest,” my former student wouldn’t have to worry, as the H-1B cap would never come even close to filling up. And Americans wouldn’t have to worry either. Win-win, as they say. Unfortunately, those various parties who would lose are calling the shots.

52 thoughts on “The Welcome Mat May Be Pulled Out from Under Them

  1. IMO, SS and Medicare taxes should be on total payroll such that an employer does not benefit from hiring an individual on OPT or other FICA exempt program over a US citizen or legal resident for whom FICA taxes are required from both the employee and employer. Even still an individual working on OPT has a significant salary advantage over an employee paying FICA taxes.

    There is no requirement that an individual on OPT be paid according to the requirements of even the flawed H-1B program. In fact, for the first 12 months of OPT there is no requirement that the individual be paid at all – not even minimum wage. Faculty members are sometimes requested to allow an international graduate who has been unable to find a job to do volunteer or intern at the university while he/she continues to look for a regular position. Those that so often so so without university knowledge or approval placing the university at risk for permitting a non-employee, former student access to university facilities and resources.


    • I’m pretty sure that an unpaid OPT would be in violation of the regulations.

      While there is no prevailing wage requirement for OPTs, the latter are absolutely mobile, and thus won’t get cheated that much. BUT they will still be cheaper than older Americans…


      • The 17 month extension must be paid with an e-verified employer. The earlier one can even be self employment as long as it is in the area of study. Many self report employers claim time in the first 12 months to be unpaid training time which apparently is acceptable work experience. The grads are also supposed to report employment statuses to the DSO; some admit they do not do so – and then worry after they need the paperwork from the employers for later immigration processing.

        DH went around with the grad office about NOT allowing the informal internship. The student was trying to bully him into allowing it and went to the dean since it was not explicitly against the rules of the program. Giving a non-student, non-employee access to the building, labs, and equipment was not going to happen on his watch. I pulled all of the info at that time; of course, things change rapidly. It was permitted by the program but really bad policy.


  2. Professor,

    Did you ever see the following in academia? In my business (!) graduate program, the college required the department (economics) to maintain a certain number of students every year in order to meet revenue expectations. In order for this to happen, regularly 50%+ of the students would be from China or India, many of whom spoke very little English. This was at a top 100 USN&WR university, not some joke of a school.

    It’s both incredibly irresponsible, I think, to flood the local talent pool with graduates, insulting your previous graduates, but also irresponsible to those students the university can pretty much bank on never getting jobs.


  3. Norm, the term “best and brightest” is subjective. More importantly it is essential at what stage do you make this judgement? Lets put aside the H1b’s coming via body shops aside for the sake of this argument and lets concentrate on those Foreign STEM students who are coming to US universities especially for advanced graduate degrees. Why cant the onus of selecting the best and brightest be given to only the top 50/100 US schools? Instead of putting a CAP on who can stay here post graduation, put a strict criteria and CAP on what quality of students can come here to seek “ADVANCED degrees” and then stay in the market.

    I bet no American politicians against STEM immigration would think about doing that.. Simply because it hinders a large source of revenue that Universities generate by charging out of state fees to foreign students. Also the fact that foreign students are not eligible for any government grants such as FAFSA make foreign students more desirable.

    Many US schools go to India,China and ROW to advertise to 21-22 year old prospective students about how their universities can flourish their careers. From my own experience, I can tell you that while they advertise, they provide extra emphasis on the “Job Prospects” through OPT and H1B post graduation. Frankly (atleast I can speak for Indians) the job prospects is the MAIN reason that makes these universities attractive to the students. If the Universities simply say that we are an excellent school and you should come on F1, study and go back home then I doubt how many foreign students would be willing to enter US schools.

    The overall point I am trying to make is when a naive 22 year old foreign student gets an admit from a recognized US school, it automatically creates a belief that he/she is brighter than the lot who applied and did not get .Although at present it is a False belief, because the amount of fees that the foreign student is going to pay is more important to the University than the credentials of the student. Later when the student goes into the Job market then critics say that he/she is not so bright and they should not be allowed to stay here. Just like the American Workers, this entire process is also UNFAIR to the Foreign students as well who spent a large sum of money to educate themselves in US and want to make a life here.


    • As you said, ranking of the schools is a political nonstarter. And, wow, do you REALLY believe that such a policy should be extended to the top 50-100 schools? Those students are the “best and brightest”? That’s criminally absurd. Top 5-10 would make sense, but again, this is just hypothetical.

      Of COURSE the foreign STEM students have U.S. job prospects, and green cards, as their main motivator for coming here. If there were no H-1B, OPT etc., U.S. STEM grad programs would evaporate (until they were forced to pay a high enough stipend to attract the Americans).


      • Well Top 50 or Top 10 .. whatever the American Government feels appropriate. The key is to only let those in the Top 10 come into US as best international students and later in the workforce.

        So do you think it is appropriate or moral for US Universities or rather some US politicians to exploit foreign students when they want large amount of fees from them but when it comes to pushing them into the labor market ..all types of reservations start popping up regarding their quality.

        Just take your example as a long time critique of OPT program for foreign students, According to you majority of the current lot of foreign students does not have the “best and brightest” quality they should not be in the job market to compete with Americans. You also point out that the current OPT and H1B policies are immoral and unfair towards American workers… Then do you think it is moral and fair to allow foreign students in the US schools at the very first place..simply because they generate revenue for the program?


        • Of course I don’t approve of the U.S. schools using foreign students as cash cows, and have said so many times in my writings.

          But if H-1B, OPT etc. were greatly tightened up, word would get out quickly, and the foreign students wouldn’t be fooled.


        • Do you think the university rankings actually reflect excellence in programs? It is more of the good ol’ guy and gal network. Especially at the grad level, the adviser is critical.

          At the university I know best, they are placing restrictions on certain classes of students whom they believe are hampering their rankings rise. Other restrictions are being placed on classes, in particular class sizes. These restrictions are directly related to some of the criteria used by the ranking organizations.


          • @Cathy… I agree University rankings might not be the best way to judge the quality of the programs … however it was just an example .. My overall point is that there is should be fixed methodology of identifying the best and brightest students before inviting them over to the U.S as students .
            It is disgraceful to seek them first for money and then judge them on they are actually best and brightest


    • A US degree was never a guarantee of a US job. In fact, desiring to settle in the US is contrary to the requirements for obtaining a student visa.


      • Cathy, I don’t think either that a U.S. Degree is a guarantee for a job .. But there is a difference between getting a job and having the opportunity to stay in the job seeking work force

        It is true that student visa is not meant to fulfill the desire to permanently settle in the U.S. .. However as a student it is absolutely legit to have a desire to seek post graduation employment in the U.S. for a reasonable amount of time in order to gain sufficient industry experience and also possibly recover tuition costs … if that was not the case then why would Congress create a pathway for foreign students to go onto h1b and later green cards?


      • @Cathy .. I am not saying a U.S degree should be a guarantee for a job.. however there is a difference between getting a job and having an opportunity to participate in the job seeking labor market

        You are right .. A student visa is not meant to fulfill a desire to migrate to the U.S. permanently … However it is completely legit for a student to have a desire to seek employment in the U.S for a considerable amount of time Post graduation … Mainly to get sufficient industry experience..if that was not the case then why would congress provide a pathway for f1 students to switch to H1b and later green cards ?


        • I have always believed that a foreign student – many of whom have received a taxpayers funded education in his home country and even funding for his US education – has the obligation (as is a requirement of the program) to take the knowledge gained and return home to benefit the development in his home country. If the US and other developed countries retain those international students who have the best chance of dragging their home countries into the 21st century and out of the Third World status, what has been accomplished? The world can do without another app and even advanced technological invention (which would come in time anyway) so that those in developing countries can move forward.

          Keeping the international students in the US does nothing but increase the disparity of living conditions and opportunities between the developed countries and the Third World. It takes far more “doing for” a country by outsiders than “doing with” natives who are home working with and teaching what they have learned during their international studies.

          IMO, a country which develops and educational system to export workers rather than improve itself does not have the best interests of the country as a whole in mind. Even if the receiving country’s workers were not being disadvantaged by the foreign workforce (certainly not the case currently), the sending country has far greater needs for a trained workforce. How much could have been accomplished in the Third World if the man hours of work by the IT expat workforce in the US had been expended in their home countries as professionals in the health care system and the creation of infrastructure.


          • @Cathy … Your belief that most students who come to US gets funded by the government for their education is outright false .. majority of the Indians pay the fees from their hard earned savings .
            The amount of students from countries like India who come to US is not even a fraction of those who graduate each year .. So it’s not that all talented people from India are simply migrating to US. And if that hurts so much to US citizens to compete with third world citizens then why don’t your U.S. Schools spend their energy and efforts to attract American students for their advanced degree programs ?


          • There are many who feel that the U.S. schools are betraying their American students.

            Competition on the basis of quality is healthy, and I’ve always strongly supported bringing in “the best and the brightest” from around the world. But only a small percentge of the foreign students are in that category.


  4. Mort Zuckerman is the billionaire owner and editor-in-chief of US News & World Report. I’ve seen him occasionally as a panelist on ‘The McLaughlin Report,’ where he never seems to miss a chance to promote H-1B. When the subject is the economy he says things like ‘We tightened immigration security after 9/11, but now we’re losing these foreign geniuses – raising the quota is the most important thing we could do for the economy.’

    He probably won’t mention this latest case, which involves a high-level Ohio State professor, perhaps a ‘genius.’


  5. > As usual, the government response to such a charge would be that “foreign students create jobs, not steal them,” the standard “Intels good, Infosyses bad” argument, which sadly many people find convincing.

    Regarding the “foreign students create jobs, not steal them” argument, I’ve been having a discussion on the website of an immigration lawyer at regarding the infamous 2.62 number. The number appears in a sample email that the lawyer is suggesting that her readers send to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). Anyone interested in the discussion or who wants to counter any part of the email to DHS may want to check it out. I’ll repeat a relevant part of one my posts below:

    I likewise see a similarity between the argument that each advanced foreign STEM graduate creates 2.62 jobs and the argument that the doubling of tax revenue under Reagan proves that tax cuts raise revenue. If you google “Effect of the Reagan, Kennedy, and Bush Tax Cuts” (with the quotes), you’ll see my analysis on the latter. Both arguments propose that there is a secondary effect so powerful that it counters the obvious primary effect. A tax cut of x percent should have the immediate effect of cutting tax revenue by x percent. But if that tax cuts causes a huge GDP growth, in theory the smaller percentage of the larger GDP pie can actually be larger. Similarly, the hiring of a worker removes one job from the job market but, if that worker creates more than 1 job, he or she can in fact create jobs. Now one would think that the proposal of such a powerful secondary effect that counters an obvious primary effect would merit strong proof. In fact, I think both have gotten free passes from many people because they represent free lunches. If each graduate creates 2.62 jobs, how can anyone oppose this policy? Everybody wins! Happy, happy, joy, joy!

    In fact, like all policies, these policies have benefits and costs which must be carefully analyzed and debated. It is my opinion that these free lunch arguments are designed to short-circuit this debate. Hence, I have no problem with the debate, just a serious problem with free-lunch arguments.


    • @Econdataus .. I agree with you completely that 2.62 is a factually incorrect number. But the reality is there are some few truly best and brightest immigrants who have created much more than 2.62 jobs .. Sadly the pro-immigration group exaggerates these rare facts to promote their agenda.
      However .. Don’t politicians like Seasions and Now Trump also exaggerate facts to spread their anti-immigration agenda .. let’s say for example a simple fact that Hal Salzman has stated in his research Paper about Stem field .. ” US graduates more than twice Stem students each year than Stem jobs” which might very well be true .. However during the senate hearing Salzman himself admitted subjectively that many of them are also Foreign students.
      I am not undermining Salzman’s research … However this is a very important disclaimer which people like Sessions and trump most likely deliberately leave out while making statements .. So that regular Americans believe that U.S. Universities graduate twice as Many American citizens each year .. thus a possibility of debate over the result automatically vanishes .
      Another such case is that of “74% of Stem graduates are not working in Stem field” … Which again might be true .. however while making such a statement the anti-immigration group conveniently ignores that the statistics also involves engineers who got promoted as Managers and other leadership roles .. Which actually is a positive thing ..(read the NFAP report from April 2015)
      I believe there are several immigrants willing to debate however people at both ends try to manipulate facts .. So simply blaming the 2.62 proponents is not appropriate .


        • I’ve been following you for a long time. I used to admire your views on H1-B in the beginning (especially when you advocated against corporations exploiting Indians and providing them with GCs within 3 years instead). You have slowly shown your true colors of being a xenophobic racist. You call yourself a statistician but leave out all logic when it comes to analysis of the good work by Indians. Why don’t I ever see you talking/blogging about the great contributions to the field by Indians, Chinese and Australians? I know for a fact that 50% of Google’s search team is Indian/Chinese. Apple’s kernel engineers are Indian (most of them). Same at Microsoft. I never see you commending their contributions and it is immensely hurtful for those of us who love CS and just love building things (which getting paid well). I’ve interned at 2 of the companies above and my managers absolutely loved my work and I am proud of it. Heck you might have used it. Shame on you professor. Shame on you.


          • It would have been a lot better if you had thought carefully before posting this. But now that you have, I am approving publishing it. I have a few comments:

            1. Just what is it in my post “The Welcome Mat…” do you object to? What is there that is xenophobic/racist about it? Did you miss the word “not” in my statement, “Not that I don’t sympathize with the foreign students?”

            2. I’ve never written about the “contributions” of Americans, so why should I do so for the Indians, Chinese and Australians or any other nationality? What I have said repeatedly, and acted upon it, is that U.S. policy should facilitate the immigration of “the best and the brightest,” regardless of nationality.

            3. I don’t doubt that your supervisors liked your work. Good for you. But do you approve of those same firms rejecting Americans who are just as talented as you? Maybe you claim that no such Americans existed? (If you think this, see Point 4 below.)

            4. I don’t know why you say that I used to advocate providing green cards within 3 years (though others have made such proposals), but the important point is that you agree that the foreign tech workers are exploited. Once you realize that, you can see why employers would prefer to hire you instead of an equally-qualified American. And if you do get a green card, in 10 years employers will prefer NOT to hire you — are you OK with that?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Because your “love of programming” causes you to take jobs for half of what they’re worth, and means that Americans who love programming also can make no more than half what the job is worth, because of you. You may be happy with that situation but others are not.


      • > …let’s say for example a simple fact that Hal Salzman has stated in his research Paper about Stem field .. ” US graduates more than twice Stem students each year than Stem jobs” which might very well be true .. However during the senate hearing Salzman himself admitted subjectively that many of them are also Foreign students.

        @Mack – As Norm said, it would help if you would post the URL for Hal Salzman’s statement so that he can discuss it.

        I’m guessing that the hearing is the one posted at the following URL:

        Is that the hearing and, if so, can you give the time in that video that Salzman made his admission? Also, it would help to have the URL of his research paper. I assume that its results were contained in his 30-page statement to the committee in that hearing at the following URL:

        Click to access Salzman%20Testimony.pdf

        The closest thing that I can find there to your quote is the following:

        As increases in the supply of guestworkers are being debated and proposals developed to speed the path to green cards, U.S. colleges are already graduating more than twice as many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates than the number of STEM openings generated by our economy each year.

        In this case, Salzman is talking about there being no need for increases in the supply of guestworkers, not that we don’t need any of the foreign graduates from U.S. colleges. In any case, if you can point out the exact quotes, the question should be easier to answer.

        Regarding the 2.62 number, I just got done looking at the p-values for the regression (and similar regressions) used to create it. I posted them in the last table at and wrote the following description following it:

        In the above table, p-values showing strong evidence (P < 0.01) are colored red, p-values showing moderate evidence (0.01 < P < 0.05) are colored orange, and p-values showing weak evidence (0.05 < P < 0.10) are colored green. Looking at the groups of two or more strong (red) p-values, it appears that there is a strong positive association from 2000 and 2001 to 2009 and 2010 and from 2008 through 2010 to 2012 and 2013. On the other hand, there is a strong negative association from 2005 and 2006 to 2009. As can be seen in an earlier table, 2006 to 2009 was the longest period of growth in the immigrant level (imm_level). Therefore, if the goal is to study the effect of growth in the immigrant level, this would seem a better period to study than 2000 to 2005 or 2010 to 2013 which included the job losses of the tech crash and the financial crisis, respectively. In any event, the table does show that the p-value for 2002-2009 is stronger than the value for 2000-2007, the time span used in the study.


        • Here you go: this is the URL of the research article by Salzman

          I believe there would be a much larger paper available out there that he must have researched and documented. However this article has a clear statement
          “The nation graduates more than two times as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields”

          Look at Hal Salzman’s response to a closely related Question asked by Senator Flake at 1:28:50

          I am not sure if Salzman has explicitly specified somewhere in his research that how many stem graduates from Universities are foreign students and how many are American. However the issue I have is with politicians using the above mentioned statement liberally without the disclaimer

          Well if you look at Trump’s immigration plan
          he shamelessly tweaks the statement made by Salzman “We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs” (he actually refers to the same url that i have mentioned above)

          Norm, this is just my observation, please do let me know if I am viewing the use of this statement incorrectly


          • Hal says that at the Bachelor’s level, which is the focus of his research, only 7% of the STEM graduates are foreign students. I know that in the computer field, it is 8%.

            At the graduate level, for CS, it is much higher. You probably think that’s wonderful, but it’s actually awful. As I’ve explained elsewhere, the situation is exactly the opposite of what the industry lobbyists say. They claim they hire H-1Bs because so many CS grad students are foreign, but in actuality, the reason so many grad students are foreign is that the H-1B program has held down wages, thus making grad study unattractive to Americans. This is exactly what the infamous NSF paper predicted back in 1989.


          • So Just to clarify the statement “Our nation graduates twice as many STEM graduates each year then Stem Jobs ” is Bachelor’s only?

            Secondly I understand foreign students bringing down wages. However how much is it bringing down to discourage students to pursue higher STEM degree the question

            The Table 6 in this paper shows that recent grads with Masters or higher in STEM get the best pay compared among other fields.

            Unless this information is completely wrong, no other Non-Stem field (Bachelors/Masters or higher) pays better than STEM field . Offcourse the numbers in STEM are not as high as one might wish for a Master’s degree in CS but it is still much higher than most of the other Non-Stem options a student has.

            As a recent student myself. If I were to look at this data I would not be discouraged to pursue Masters in STEM at all. Infact if “best pay” was my only criteria I would choose STEM blindly.


          • You are making false comparisons.

            The real issue is what economists call opportunity cost. In this case, the question is, should someone with a Bachelor’s degree in CS continue his/her education for a Master’s? In purely financial terms, the answer is No. The premium in starting pay due to having a Master’s instead of a Bachelor’s degree is not worth spending two more years of school without industry-level income. And the person would NEVER catch up.

            A note on level: If I recall the details of Hal’s research correctly, he and his coauthors compare the number of Bachelor’s graduates to ALL jobs, whether filled by BS, MS and PhD holders. So their research actually is biasing things in FAVOR of claims that there is a STEM shortage. Yet they still find no shortage.

            You might ask, why not compare Master’s graduates to Master’s jobs? The problem is that there is no such thing as a “Master’s job.”


  6. For some reason I can’t reply to your post. So I’ll post my reply here:

    “It would have been a lot better if you had thought carefully before posting this. But now that you have, I am approving publishing it. I have a few comments:”

    I probably should have. My cortex filters shut off late into the night.

    1. Just what is it in my post “The Welcome Mat…” do you object to? What is there that is xenophobic/racist about it? Did you miss the word “not” in my statement, “Not that I don’t sympathize with the foreign students?”

    Ah, nothing in this post specifically. But the tone of your blog in general where you sort of tend to portray an “us” vs “them” picture, Why can’t we all just be people who love CS? Also, i did come across generalizations in your posts where you were saying we don’t assimilate well. Sure that might be true for some but some of us do assimilate and I sure as heck won’t have a problem if my daughter marries a black, white or chinese guy. I grew up reading Nancy drew, hardy boys and Archie comics. I’m also quite interested in U.S politics..I mean who can stop following Trump’s antics :)?

    Nonetheless, what i said is pretty strong accusation and I take that back.

    2. I’ve never written about the “contributions” of Americans, so why should I do so for the Indians, Chinese and Australians or any other nationality? What I have said repeatedly, and acted upon it, is that U.S. policy should facilitate the immigration of “the best and the brightest,” regardless of nationality.

    Fair enough.

    3. I don’t doubt that your supervisors liked your work. Good for you. But do you approve of those same firms rejecting Americans who are just as talented as you? Maybe you claim that no such Americans existed? (If you think this, see Point 4 below.)

    Definitely not. But then none of the firms i worked at indicated they were doing so. Also, I don’t believe any of them rejected me in favor of them. They simply picked those who passed the technical interview (which was a grueling 8 interviews spread across campus and on-site btw). Now, it’s a whole other discussion when it comes to discussing merits of tech interviews. Way too many false negatives. So I will not go there. The top students in our class (GPA-wise. Again, many don’t approve of this as well) tended to be invited for interviews by the Big 4. And all of us got jobs at these companies. The mediocre students got offers from the defense companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman etc and they were quite happy with it. Also, if you think about it, it is a bigger hassle for these companies to hire me compared to an equally smart American. It is actually more expensive with the visa, greencard applications and all. I am talking about the top companies here. Body shops, I certainly agree, they should certainly be banned from getting H1-B visas. I know the caliber of candidates who join Infosys, TCS and the likes. They are the bottom of the barrel in India as well and they should in now way be competing for a visa meant for the best and brightest around the world.

    I also think this is where the crux of the problem is. 80% of H1-B visas are gobbled up by these outsourcing firms. Also, 90% of time, it’s immigrants from these companies who often have problems assimilating into the American way of life (because they didn’t do their schooling here). I think there should be a closely curated white-list of companies who can get H1-Bs. And there should be stringent rules for putting companies on that list.

    4. I don’t know why you say that I used to advocate providing green cards within 3 years (though others have made such proposals), but the important point is that you agree that the foreign tech workers are exploited. Once you realize that, you can see why employers would prefer to hire you instead of an equally-qualified American. And if you do get a green card, in 10 years employers will prefer NOT to hire you — are you OK with that?

    I read that in a pdf that you had where you discussed reforms to the H1-B. May be I misread it, it’s been a while.

    Again, I agree that foreign workers are exploited in the sense that these Big companies do not seem to advocate for greencards but they do advocate for more H1-Bs. So in some sense, exploit may be the wrong word here. To put it crassly, they’re “using” us and do not care as much about our well-being. However, I’m not shackled to the company i work for. I can always leave for company that pays me more. And to me this seems like free-market capitalism at play. Corporations want wage depression at the same time, the meritorious will prosper.

    Like I said above, I do not believe I was hired over an equally smart American. Heck, our team right now is in dire need of people who at least know how a producer-consumer queue is written or grokked the basics of concurrency. Also, my interviews were done by engineers (of all nationalities, Swedish even!), so unless there’s some huge conspiracy going on, I do not believe engineers who interview are even remotely aware of these nuances. They just hire whoever they feel is smart enough to work with them.


    • A lot of what you say is the same as what the industry lobbyists say. I’m sure you’re sincere about it, but those arguments are fallacious, for example your statement, “It is a bigger hassle for these companies to hire me compared to an equally smart American. It is actually more expensive with the visa, greencard applications and all.” The expense isn’t that much, since the companies do it in bulk, and in any case it is only a one-time expense, whereas they save in wages EVERY YEAR for the 6-10 wait for a green card. Do the math.

      In “dire need to hire,” yeah right. It’s a great line, but they don’t mean it. For one thing, they want to hire people who are new or recent grads, because the older people cost too much. The “dire need” is to hire cheap people. I’ve been seeing it repeatedly for 20 years. See my blog post, “`We’re Desperate to Hire — Unless You Refer Applicants to Us’.”

      Yes, actually, there IS a conspiracy of sorts. But it’s at the HR level, and at the higher levels who give direction to HR. The message is out to screen out the more experienced applicants (yes, yes, there are exceptions). Result: Your team and even your manager, falsely thinks there are no qualified applicants.

      Your point about assimilation is an interesting one, about which I would have far more to say than I could even start to write here. The topic is a nuanced one, and it’s not a black-and-white matter of either assimilating or not. One thing I have mentioned before, though, may give you a different picture of me:

      When my brothers and I were kids, we felt rather UNassimilated. We were all born here, of course, but our parents spoke a language other than English at home, at the strange foods and celebrated the strange holidays. Well, guess what! Ironically, that is exactly the same environment as my daughter grew up in. 🙂


    • >Heck, our team right now is in dire need of people who at least know
      >how a producer-consumer queue is written or grokked the basics of concurrency.
      >Also, my interviews were done by engineers (of all nationalities, Swedish even!),
      >so unless there’s some huge conspiracy going on, I do not believe engineers
      >who interview are even remotely aware of these nuances. They just hire
      >whoever they feel is smart enough to work with them.

      But here’s the thing, you must be interviewing only the bottom of the barrel, to get anyone with a BS in CS for whom anything like that could be an issue. Or else you’re just demonstrating the complete and utter dysfunction of the hiring process as it exists today, since only those who will work at half wages are ever going to be considered, yeah you might have to be careful since you’re going to see a lot of losers.


  7. One thing that I think needs to be addresses is that the type of work this fellow is talking about is less than 25% of the software industry.

    The bulk of the software is simple add, change, delete screens maintaining data and developing reports so that management can visualize the data.

    Even facebook is little more than tables and sql statements that a first year employee would be comfortable working with.

    Many Americans can do this and have done so for decades whether they had a degree or they were self taught.

    But they can’t get past HR whether it is an American firm or one from another country.
    And since they are citizens of this country and have families to provide for, I believe this is wrong.


  8. the statistical evidence suggests that those students tend not to be so talented after all

    Dr. Matloff, a methodology question, if you have the time to comment. I skimmed through the paper you link to in support of the above assertion, and note that you choose five criteria to determine who can be considered to be “the best and the brightest”: {high salary, …., employment in R&D}. Could one not make the argument that leverage is an important factor in all of these criteria? A native just might be better skilled at negotiating a salary, having the luxury to be employed in a position that encourages R&D and patent filing, and having the luxury to explore a more high risk/high reward PhD topic as compared to a utilitarian PhD topic that a foreign student/prospective immigrant might choose. In the rest of the post and in other columns, you (rightly) point out the limited leverage and options that foreigners have in the US job market, which is as it should be, since the market ought to serve locals first. But could this lack of leverage and options not explain the relatively inferiority that you find in foreign workers as opposed to a lower level of talent? Or perhaps I am missing something obvious?

    Full disclosure: I was a foreign (Indian) PhD student once who worked for a year on the H1B before moving back to India. I graduated from one of the higher UCs, and in my experience, American students who entered the program were top notch; without a doubt some of the smartest people I have been privileged to work with. (It’s just that foreign students vastly outnumbered them.) And not only did they not have a problem in securing employment, they (being natives) had a much larger set of options to choose from compared to similarly skilled foreign students. Also, in my experience, the foreign students were relatively deficient only in communication skills compared to natives, but my experience may be skewed. Employers try to hire the best candidates they can from the entire pool of candidates available to them, which includes both natives and foreigners; when foreigners pass their interviews and are faced wit the prospect of an H-1B lottery, a hue and cry ensues for expanding the visa cap. Could your numbers and conclusions about the STEM market be explained by the fact that there aren’t enough top-notch American graduates, and it’s actually the middle-of-the-road or mediocre grads who are displaced in the job market by the H-1B visa holders? So if every H-1B holder were to be fired tomorrow, the resulting vacancies could be filled by natives, but most of these natives may not meet the bar the companies have set for themselves? (You can argue that companies set unreasonably high bars too, I guess, but that’s a different story.)

    (I’d appreciate it if people avoid abusing me in response. I’m decidedly not an H1B fanboy, especially of the immobility constraint, which is one of main reasons I quit my job and returned to India. But the visa and its effects on native and foreign workers alike have been much more benign in my experience than is portrayed by the naysayers. Perhaps statistics obscures more than it reveals here? In any case, I just want to get some clarity.)


    • I try to avoid using the term native. I refer to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, which is far broader than natives. In my EPI paper, I do refer to natives in some of the analyses, but only some, and explain why. It is the industry PR people who try to force the discussion into one of “nativists.”

      The statistical analyses in my paper are not affected by the absolute numbers of people.

      I’ve never done any analyses, as far as I can recall, of the numbers of Americans who are displaced.The proper data for that just isn’t available. However, there are studies showing that when a field is flooded with workers, “the best and the brightest” are the first to leave the field. And I can tell you that in the 20+ years I’ve been studying this issue, I’ve known many, many older Americans who are extremely skilled and talented, yet have severe difficulty in the job market.

      My salary analysis is restricted to those who at least have green cards, so there is no leverage issue.

      I totally agree that statistics can mask much of what is occurring, and have always told me students and consulting clients that you needs both the quantitative and the qualitative; data by itself is not enough. As mentioned, I’ve been studying this issue for more than 20 years, and have talked to many H-1Bs etc.


    • I am working with a couple of very talented individuals to create Keep America At Work (Americans are welcome too) and I’ve had the privilege of working with talented people from all countries so I don’t have a problem with people of any race.

      What I fight, and what the two folks helping me fight is the displacement of americans and even H-1B’s in America.

      It is not due to a lack of talent, because these folks, as do I, have the skills yet two of us are unemployable (yes, race does not matter and being American or a temporary non immigrant visa holder does not matter either)

      The best way I can describe what really is happening is that we have a finite job market which has been caused by sending jobs to other countries.

      The red lines in this chart show the high point we hit in 2007 before this depression.

      As you can tell, we have only created about 2 million jobs since 2007 (gaining the jobs back that we lost does not count) and as you can see by this next chart, 2015 has produced less than half of the jobs that 2014 produced so we’re headed in the wrong direction.

      And to top it off, we are bringing in about 1 million non immigrant workers per year when we are only creating on average about 1 million jobs per year which is creating this scenario.

      This is what is causing all of the resentment, and the Displacement of Americans in America.

      Perhaps the easiest way to visualize it would be to think of a large barrel that holds 142 million gallons, or jobs.

      And because we are not increasing the size of the container (sending jobs offshore), as we add 1 million gallons of water to it each year, those with fewer credentials (I admit it, I went into the navy rather than college), those who are older and less credentialed are being destroyed even though they have the skills.


      • @vbierschwale:

        I understand your barrel metaphor but not your numbers. I don’t understand how there can be a million new non-immigrant workers every year when the H-1B cap is 85000. Or are you counting the total immigration quota? In which case, these workers are immigrant workers and (theoretically) can compete with US citizens on a level playing field.

        I suspect if the H-1B program were canceled tomorrow AND tariff barriers were set up to discourage offshoring, it would help under-credentialed job seekers, which would be good. But I also suspect it would do nothing for older workers or combat age discrimination (who seem to be the bulk of people who are considered victims of the guest worker visa.) The reason has less to do with older workers’ skills and salary demands, and more to do with the fact that such workers are set in particular locations and lifestyles that they may be unwilling to give up. I read about a North Texas engineer whose wife complained to Obama back in 2012 about him having lost a job to an H-1B (it’s not clear that an H-1B was the proximate cause). The engineer was then flooded with job offers, but rejected them all because they required him to relocate to one coast or the other. I can’t think such workers would have a better chance in a job market reserved exclusively for American citizens and permanent residents. Surely younger workers (especially young military veterans like yourself) would be more flexible about relocation and displace the older generation somewhat prematurely.


        • You’ve got your facts wrong. That engineer in Texas was NOT “flooded with offers”; he merely had some inquiries. More importantly, the reason he was tied strongly to Dallas was due to child custody issues, NOT because he was too set in his ways to move.


          • You misunderstood me, professor. I was referring to the general population of older workers, and not to this person specifically, when I said that they were set in their locations and lifestyles. Perhaps a poor choice of words, so I’ll accept the rebuke and rephrase it to “older workers may be too constrained in their life choices to have the luxury to move”. That ought to accurately reflect the Texas engineer’s situation. But in this situation, who (if anyone) is to blame? Would a company in New York that sent feelers to this guy and others like him (and have their offers declined) be validated in hiring a foreign student from a local SUNY on an H-1B? Yet this particular case had a high profile because it was raised during the course of a presidential campaign, and what most Americans will come away with is that this man lost his job and remains unemployed because of the H-1B. This was sort of what I hinted at in my earlier comment (and thank you for taking the time to reply) when I suggested that reality might be more complicated than statistics would have us believe. So I wonder if you’ll get more purchase in your campaign to reform the system if you refrain from blanket condemnations of the H-1B program, and instead focus on the abusive cases. The way I see it now, both sides (1. businesspeople, managers, and recruiters who want the choice to hire foreigners and 2. US employees who have lost out, and people like you who conduct research and campaigns on their behalf) talk past each other all the time. They present different sets of facts and different sets of priorities, and paint the other side as greedy, immoral, lazy, Luddite, and what have you, which makes communication only harder. Anyway, good luck to you. This election cycle might actually produce some of the changes you desire, and I’ll be keenly following events.


          • You continue to have your facts wrong. The incident you cited did NOT occur during a presidential campaign. I’m sorry, but you just don’t know what you are talking about.
            The real issue that you are missing is this: Without the pool of H-1Bs to hire, the employer who finds a good job candidate in another geographic location would have to PAY MORE to attract him/her. What happens with H-1Bs, on the contrary, is that they are paid LESS than Americans.
            The whole geography issue that you are postulating is phony to begin with. The engineer you cited was in Dallas, where tons of H-1Bs were being hired instead of him.


          • The engineer’s wife talked to Obama in January 2012. 2012 was an election year, so my assumption was that Obama’s reaching out to voters like her was in some way connected to his re-election campaign. Besides that, I am not sure what fact I got wrong. I drew my observations from the article I linked to earlier (and from other articles that had very similar content.)

            This person lost his job at an older age. Simultaneously, a large number of people were hired on H-1Bs in that area. You seem to take it as an article of faith that the former is a consequence of the latter. But what are the hiring numbers for younger US citizens and residents in the area at the same time? Is it possible for you to separate out the hiring of younger people in general (Americans or otherwise) from the hiring of people on H-1B visas in particular?

            That companies constantly try to save money is an unexceptional observation; isn’t that part of a company’s DNA? Would older Americans still not have a problem in the job market if only younger Americans were in it, and no foreigner? What exactly is it you are asking companies to do today? Ensure that they not hire anyone willing to work on an H-1B as long as there is a single American tech worker unemployed, regardless of where (geographically) the company is and where the employee is constrained to be? You can sort of avoid this conundrum by banning foreigners from even joining undergrad or grad programs in computer science in the US. Perhaps that will have the effect you wish for, but it will take a decade or two for you to see results, I think.

            Let me restate something from my first comment on this forum: I used to be a grad student, and after getting a PhD, worked for a couple of years on an H-1B. There was no question of me being cheap labor (I can’t give you private info, but you will have to take my word for it.) In the companies that I was interested in and among my peers, there was no question of being indentured servants; we all struck hard bargains while applying for jobs and had no qualms about returning to our countries (like I did) should the job offers not be adequate or if the companies were not treating us well; virtually everyone I know had to be given raises and promotions on a periodic basis to prevent them from leaving their companies. We were all hired because we had specific skills the companies wanted. All my American peers have well-paying jobs (never had a problem find one or holding to one) and are doing well. Now, I have read enough news articles and a lot of what you have written on this topic of your research to accept that my experience was unrepresentative. But this is what I meant when I said that the companies and the anti-H1B activists are talking past each other all the time. Each side seems to cling on to its extreme positions (in your case, a blanket condemnation of companies using the H-1B and assuming that every job loss occurring in the IT field must be because of the visa program and a company’s urge to get cheap labor.)


          • You are correct in that the Wedel incident occurred in election year. But that was 9 months before the election, and more important, neither Wedel nor H-1B ever became an election issue. It was never raised in any of the election debates, for instance.
            In terms of “proving” that H-1Bs were hired instead of Wedel, you are setting up a straw man; mathematics-style proof is of course impossible. But what we do know for a fact is that Texas Instruments hires H-1Bs for such mundane jobs as Test Engineer. Are you REALLY claiming that Wedel wasn’t qualified to do those jobs?


          • But what we do know for a fact is that Texas Instruments hires H-1Bs for such mundane jobs as Test Engineer. Are you REALLY claiming that Wedel wasn’t qualified to do those jobs?

            Professor, I am not claiming anything, just wondering out loud. As I have mentioned in every comment, age discrimination seems to be a real and serious issue. Whether the cause for such discrimination is companies’ craving for cheap tied-down foreign labor or simply for (relatively cheaper) younger workers who will be willing to spend a lot more time working (those free meals at Google more than pay for themselves through the extra man hours they engender) is my query.

            These companies seem to have a set hiring model whereby they go to campuses to pick the best grad students followed by the best undergrad students; it just happens that foreigners make up a sizeable percentage of the former. Typical HR philosophy involves managing employees through stack-ranked performance reviews (a brutal process, which is a separate issue in itself). They retain employees who have the potential to be promoted further and further; if someone is deemed to have reached a plateau, they are kept in their roles if they have accumulated a lot of tribal knowledge, otherwise they are fired. According to this philosophy, hiring older workers at lower levels in an org is not advisable because there just isn’t too much time left for them to progress up the hierarchy even if they are capable (a stupid philosophy in my opinion, since older people bring experience and wisdom that youngsters sorely lack). So, strictly speaking, these companies (and I am generalizing here) don’t follow a free market philosophy in hiring the best available people for given roles; it’s about hiring the best person for a role who also has the HR-deemed potential to build a career in the company. Now, I have no idea if these practices violate any laws (you would know better), but they are widely followed.

            Perhaps you can convince companies to use a different hiring model that considers older workers too. Of course, if they are only looking for cheap labor uber alles as you think, then cancelling the H-1B or adding a lot more riders to it would be the only way to go to address the miscarriages of justice.

            (Caveat: all of what I said above refers to regular American companies, and not the Indian outsourcing companies. I don’t have any personal experience with the latter, though I don’t think they have ever hidden the fact that cheap software is their selling point; since they produce no original products or have never tried to build their own brands, they will collapse and die if forced to offer first world-competitive wages to their employees.)


          • Read my writings about the issue of there being so many foreign grad students in STEM. The summary is that an NSF report in 1989 projected, and in fact welcomed, that the coming influx of foreign students would hold down salaries and thereby drive the American students from pursuing graduate study. In other words, you and the industry lobbyists have it exactly backwards: The industry claims it needs H-1Bs because not enough Americans go to grad school, when in fact H-1B is the reason why the Americans skip grad school. By the way, most of the jobs taken by the foreign students don’t need a graduate degree anyway.
            Your “work extra hours” argument fails for the same reason that your “they’re willing to relocate” did — without the distorting effect of H-1B, the employers would have to PAY MORE.
            You ask if managers want to hire the best. One problem with that is that HR funnels the managers a bunch of foreign students, so the managers don’t have the full set of applicants to choose from. Also, HR (upon direction from above) sets the job levels at new or recent grad, further preventing the managers from hiring the best.
            NOW READ THIS CAREFULLY: I’ve seen a number of incidents, including recently, in which my foreign students and some older Americans whom I know apply for the SAME JOBS, and the foreign students get more interviews and more offers than the Americans, even though the Americans are at least as well qualified. In other words, contrary to the image you seem to have in which I am just imagining that there is a connection between age and H-1B, I ACTUALLY SEE THIS IN ACTION.
            HR, upon direction from above, sets new job openings at a certain level, usually for those who are either new graduates or not long out of school. Managers


        • The million per year I get from places like and I believe it consists of H-1B, OPT, the totals are pretty close to 1 million per year.

          If we factor in all visas which I believe we should, the figures are astronomical.

          This one will show the years from 2010 till 2014:

          Click to access FY14AnnualReport-TableXVIA.pdf

          This one will show the years from 2005 till 2009:

          Click to access FY09AnnualReport_TableXVI_A.pdf

          This one will show the years from 2000 till 2004:

          Click to access FY04tableXVIa.pdf


  9. Texas Engineer?


    He must be referring to me.
    Obviously he has not done his homework.

    How can I be constrained from moving when I was forced to live like this and even lost this?

    If you are suggesting that if somebody offered me the $67.50 per hour that I was making in 2002, I would turn it down, then I have one thing to say and that is you are crazy…

    Sure I would need an advance to fly out there and pay for an apartment, food, bus, etc, but it can be done.

    We simply are not getting past HR for many reasons.

    Perhaps we should start a database of applications so that we can show which company former software developers have applied to and never heard from?


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