One of the next targets under consideration for modification or deletion under the Trump regime’s fascination with immigration is the H-1B visa. These visas allow companies to import talented employees from overseas. They are not considered to be immigrants and the visas have time limits. These employees are frequently IT professionals, medical/research professionals or engineers that provide needed skills for American businesses.
Many of the big tech companies that we are familiar with might not exist or might not exist in their current forms if not for H-1B visas. As the video below describes, these foreign professionals have contributed billions to the American economy over the years.
Now, there are two primary knocks on these visa from those on the right. I don’t quite understand this since many of their benefactors probably benefit from these very visas. But the visas are often credited with taking jobs away from Americans and holding down wages because visa holders will work for less.
From here on in this post is all my observation and personal opinion.
There are certain financial restrictions on these visas. It is unlikely they are being underpaid so dramatically that they are depressing wages for their American peers. But they may be underpaid for their experience level…many of them hold master’s degrees while the American professionals in similar positions often only have a bachelors. So yes they are being underpaid in that sense. And overall there aren’t enough of them to have a big enough impact financially on an individual company that their wage levels could have a significant impact.
And taking away American jobs? I call baloney on that. The American educational system just isn’t turning out enough science, technology, engineering, math or medical professionals to keep pace with America’s needs in those areas. We just aren’t getting the job done. And with the continued assault on education, both at the local and at the university level, if that were all reversed tomorrow it will take years to catch up again.
Ok, this next item has a bit of fact in it because I am already seeing this trend. If President Trump blows up the H-1B visa program, it isn’t going to create American jobs (until we get the skilled workforce we need). And it will be a boon for Latin America as American firms and offshore firms set up shop in Central and South America (nearshore as it is now called) so the employees who would have been H-1B workers can work in the same time zones as their US colleages. Quite frankly other than hands on medicine it is to the that technical people can work anywhere.
So the vitality of the American economy right now relies on pulling in the best and brightest from around the world. Their value to our economy can be measured in billions of dollars. There are no American jobs be taken…but there are hundreds of thousands of American jobs at stake if we can’t maintain the growth and vitality of the American economy.
SO, let’s watch the video!
3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On the H1-B Visas”
The link above from Forbes may be of interest. Other nations have increasingly advanced in engineering, physics, medical and other technical fields. Maybe our skills have been diverted more into video games, Twitter, NFL, Facebook, et al.
Just a note, Disney replaced a bunch of tech workers in 2015 with H1-B workers, and forced the employees losing their jobs to train their replacements. I think Disney caught enough flak on this that they had to backtrack, but I’m not sure. I do recall it was kind of a big deal at the time (to those who were paying attention).
I’m a lefty but I’m not keen on this program. A review might be nice, but not from the perspective of the current anti-immigrant atmosphere. Let’s look at it from the perspective of companies twisting well-meaning programs to benefit themselves.
While lobbying Congress for more H-1B visas, industry says H-1B workers are “the best and brightest”. Come payday, however, they’re entry-level workers.
The GAO put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B workers are hired into entry-level positions. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the US Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent” . This belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B workers are hired because they’re experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce.
So this means one of two things: either companies are looking for entry-level workers (in which case, their rhetoric about needing “the best and brightest” is meaningless), or they’re looking for more experienced workers but only paying them at the Level I, entry-level pay scale. In my opinion, companies are using the H-1B visa to engage in legalized age discrimination, as the vast majority of H-1B workers are under the age of 35 , especially those at the Level I and Level II categories.
Any way you slice it, it amounts to H-1B visa abuse, all facilitated and with the blessings of the US government.
The visa laws need an overhaul so that the visa is only used for it’s stated purpose – to attract (and pay accordingly) TOP talent.
 “GAO-11-26: H-1B VISA PROGRAM – Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program”. United States Government Accountability Office GAO Report to Congressional Committees January 2011.
 “Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report to Congress October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014”. U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services. February 26, 2015.
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