H-1B in 1,000 Words

The Huffington Post asked me to write an op-ed on H-1B, and it was published this morning As usual with op-eds, the title is not mine (H-1Bs are not immigrants), but the piece does encapsulate all major aspects of the problem.  Comments welcome, of course.

30 thoughts on “H-1B in 1,000 Words

  1. Good article, timely also if there wlll be any change to status quo. Title of article should include the words “age discrimination visa”. Sadly, only computer use of visa discussed. Academia’s abuse of visa not mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. >That is why employers bring H-1Bs to the U.S. in the
    >first place rather than sending the work abroad, where
    >the wages are even cheaper.

    I would not say that, Norm, it’s just a basic assumption that work done in a local group will be better supervised than work done remotely, and it’s probably at least somewhat true, true enough to even discount the lower remote wages. I’ve never heard much good about work of *any* kind done remotely in India, or hardly anywhere else, either.

    >we should replace this with a single wage floor set
    >at the 75th percentile

    Why, what’s magic about 75th? I might argue for two sigma, or three. Anyway an auction hardly needs a minimum, if there’s real demand and real value.

    Overall an excellent column, Norm.

    There is one other aspect I don’t see here, I read in some other commentary and I think is accurate. Two aspects, really. An auction system pits the high-paying Silicon Valley firms against the WiPros and Tatas! Outstanding! Let Facebook and Oracle hire them ALL, LOL.

    I’d still end it 100%, and let the O-1 and others bring in the 1% geniuses, but the auction, with a healthy minimum above $100k, would mitigate much of the H-1B problem.

    (Actually, it seems that even average yeoman jobs around Los Angeles are finally above $100k, there’s been something of a bump in wages over the last year or so)

    I’m ambivalent about the Lofgren tiers, there might be virtue in them, although they of course are also played to downgrade all jobs to the lower tiers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 1) broken link referenced in the article “forecast (with approbation) by the National Science Foundation years ago.”


    “US tech giants take brave immigration stand that has nothing to do with profit whatsoever”
    by Kieren McCarthy

    Article gloats in skewering high tech companies for their hypocrisy in not opposing the Administration overall immigration changes while showing alarm at any tightening of H-1B visa numbers which are properly deemed, i.e., ” skilled-slash-cheaper workers”. Unfortunately the article echoes the Great Lie about the lack of U.S. workers, so long on smugness, short on understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article. The comments affirmed everything you wrote. One interesting comment was that Indian high tech is doing the same to Indian engineers in that older higher paid people are also being forced out of jobs. The article elegantly and objectively dispatched the myths and distortions created by high tech which get mindlessly repeated by media outlets.

    And of course, expect to get a counter article attacking all your major points. Unfortunately, I think some of the counter reactions you get will be personal attacks. But I imagine by now you are used to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Norm: Thank you for your essay. The controversial H-1B Visa is at its heart a “Cheap Labor Program.” The H-1B Visa program, created in 1990, cites as legislative precedent the obscure “Eilberg Amendment” enacted in 1976 that grants to colleges and universities the right to import UNLIMITED numbers of instructors and researchers – for typically low wages. (Such harmful provisions remain in current law.) . . . . . Firm, 75th percentile wages for regionally-determined broadly-defined job titles would go a long way towards curbing the employer abuses of the H-1B and similar work visa programs. A related problem is that political corruption as defined by federal RICO statutes (18 U.S.C. §§1961-1968) has played a significant role in the establishment and expansion of these harmful programs. To learn more, please conduct a Google query using both phrases “Gene Nelson” and “H-1B.” On 03 February 2017, there were 1,790 results. The related Google query “Norm Matloff” “H-1B.” yields about 2,750 results. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very good article. I tried to reply to the following comment by Thomas Peters on the Huffington Post site but I can only see it in a browser where I’m logged into my Facebook account. I assume that it’s pending or is possibly blocked due to the links. Anyhow, following was my reply:

    Thomas Peters wrote:

    > Norm Matloff are all foreigners young? I think not.

    Foreign workers are heavily skewed toward youth, especially in Silicon Valley. Look at the green line in the first graph at http://econdataus.com/h1bage.htm . As you can see, by far the largest age cohort among non-citizen software developers in Silicon Valley is 31 to 35. Of course, some number of those workers become citizens and the largest age cohort among naturalized citizens is 36 to 40 (the red line).

    The graphs at http://econdataus.com/stemage14.htm show the percentages of all workers in each age cohort for various occupations. As you can see, the largest age cohort for computer occupations is 30 to 34 and the percentages drop down to nearly zero by age 65, 5 or 10 years before other occupations.

    Regarding relevant skillsets, all of the above tables and graphs are generated using Census data and R, a relevant skillset which I taught myself over the last couple of years. I was laid off about a year ago and, from my experience, all of that acquired knowledge plus two dollars will buy me a cup of coffee. Despite the fact that data science is supposedly a hot new field, no companies are interested unless you have several years of working experience, including a year or two of Hadoop. They just aren’t interested in book-larning’. Hence, you really need to upgrade your skills on the job, if you have the opportunity to do so. I have over 15 years of C++ and Java and worked for a year in JavaScript at the end but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get much response to my resume.


      • Regarding my comments not showing up on Huffington Post, they do make the following statement about their comment policy at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/static/comment-policy :

        “Moderation – In order to provide a safe space for our community, comments may be pre-moderated by our team before posting to the site, but they will appear on your and your friend’s Facebook walls immediately.”

        Hence, it appears that my comments are in a state of permanent moderation or, more likely, I’ve been banned from the site. Anyhow, it’s good to be aware that, just because you can see your own comments doesn’t mean that others can see them. If they are not visible to you when you log out of Facebook, they’re likely not visible to anyone else.


      • Great post Dr.Norm.

        The zoe lofgren bill also has provisions for teh staple a greencard policy right? that should be highlighted as well i think.

        What do you think the final bill that will be approved will look like?


        • Not sure about the Lofgren bill. I haven’t read the details, but it certainly is the more convoluted piece of legislation I’ve ever seen regarding H-1B. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have any chance politically.


  7. Norm, Great article that describes the exploitation and discrimination that has been going on under the label “best and brightest”.

    Now the question is whether any new rules/restrictions will be put in place before April 1, when the next round of H1-b lottery starts. From what I see in the news, Indian offshoring industry lobbyists are going to present their case to US lawmakers and we should be putting pressure on congress/senate to stand up for American IT professionals.

    Meanwhile former Infosys CEO seems to have woken up from his slumber and recommends that Indian outsourcing firms should hire Americans and shouldn’t be depending on H1-b – may be an admission that his own firm’s hiring policies were discriminatory. I have seen many bodyshops recruiting only Indians from specific states or cities for their firms. Is this how h1-b is supposed to bring “diversity”?


    If the Indian outsourcing influence is reduced/eliminated, more Americans (irrespective of their ethnicity) will be encouraged to seek jobs in IT and that is how market is supposed to resolve the imbalance between supply and demand (if one really exist).


  8. Great article. I did not follow the logic of why the salary ordering would be a problem when related to the four experience levels? can you explain further with few more details?


  9. As a business owner, I can only do so much.

    I’m thinking of funding a activist group to attack American companies who practice age discrimination. Sue the daylights out of the obvious abusers, and with luck, make those >40 equal to race and ethnic groups who are so feared now, that unqualified people are hired to prevent lawsuits.


  10. There is the problem of “banking” visas for later use by both employers and H-1Bs.

    There should be the use it – on the date applied for in the petition, i.e. application no more than 6 months in advance of the start date and continuously there after – or lose it. All unused time now “banked” should be canceled and no longer available. Pregnancy should NOT be a reason for deferring a start date and women should be required to comply with corporate standards.

    Relink the H-1B and H4 6 year limits.

    The multi layer scheme should be illegal. I wonder how many of the startups opened by new green card holders who were formerly H-1Bs are “consulting” firms hiring a couple of people and placing these employees on a client through other consulting companies and not directly with the client.


  11. So, if an immigrant is paid way more than the US citizen for doing the same job, wouldn’t that also be a form of discrimination based upon national origin? I don’t understand why a country of 300 million+ people need something like an H1B visa program. Why don’t they simply make college affordable for every American and provide training to those who weren’t lucky enough to have good education? Like Bernie Sanders said recently: “No, we are not a compassionate society”.


      • First of all, H1B is used not only to remedy tech labor shortage but for other fields too. Secondly, I think your assumption is that the H1B program is entirely about cheap labor, which may be a bit naïve especially considering the fact that Indians are vastly overrepresented (in every field) than say the Chinese. Thirdly (and most importantly), my objection was really about the fact that regardless of whether there is a shortage, the policy, in principle, is discriminatory. It says that if you’re hiring a foreigner, then pay him/her way above their American counterpart regardless of his/her experience and regardless of the fact that they are performing the same job.


        • I have always said that H-1B is about hiring cheap, IMMOBILE labor.

          The notion that in some cases the law implies that the H-1Bs must be paid MORE than Americans is a frequent claim by the industry lobbyists. If you give me a specific scenario, I will show you why the claim is false.


          • I don’t doubt for a moment that people coming in on H-1B visa are hired for cheap, immobile labor (to suppress wages). Nobody reveals how much they are being paid or how productive they are, so it is difficult to come up with an example where someone has been given a job for other reasons. I am a US citizen, but, when I worked for a multinational, they paid me the same prevailing wage that they were paying the H-1Bs. There was no negotiation, they simply said “this is as much we’re going to pay you”. So, from my experience, there is no discrimination towards foreigners, US citizens and H-1B visa holders are all paid the same suppressed wage.

            H-1B program has been around for a long time. Its original intent may have been cheap labor (and it still is), but, people study deeply to game the system for their own benefit, especially, if it has been around for long. For instance, resourceful people in India may send their own family and friends into training to eventually get them H-1B visa to benefit from the remittances sent back. So, without writing a long confusing comment, I would like to convey that if the policy set by the American government is discriminatory, it encourages the resourceful people in the Industry (through contacts and relationships) to device ways to game the system for their own benefit. One scenario could be, if there is not much difference between how much a company has to pay to an experienced American and a potential H-1B, the industry might favor an H-1B based upon his/her personality traits (based upon, say, cultural differences) rather than his/her accomplishments. A whole system of fraud can be developed based upon this preference. Remember, what Vineet Nayar of HCL said about American graduates being unemployable. Even if it is true (which I don’t think it is), it is not okay to hire Indians in place of Americans. In this case, a few people would reap massively rich rewards. I would also like to point out as an evidence that today in the US, it is an acceptable practice for most people to acquire well paid jobs through contacts. So, if you’re not the right personality or aren’t resourceful, you may be left behind.

            Another important factor is that Americans have been out of job for multiple years. They can’t simply walk in and start working again in the STEM field . So, during the re-training period, the H-1Bs providing the training would get unfairly rich in a very short time.


          • As I have said so many times over the years, the primary way that employers save money through the H-1B program is by hiring young H-1Bs instead of older Americans.


          • Age discrimination! Impossible to prove! I doubt even a large class action Cadre would use it. EEOC allows suits to proceed, but never helps the plaintiff.


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