The recession is over, salaries are going through the roof, and there's a shortage of trained IT workers stifling the competitiveness of U.S. companies. It makes sense, then, to finally raise the cap on the H-1B visas, the legal document that allows technology companies to hire foreign nationals to work in the United States. You should support the bipartisan move in Congress to do just that.
None of the above is true. If you believe it, you've fallen victim to the propaganda churned out by technology companies eager to find a source of relatively low-paid workers whose desire to stay in the United States makes them unusually complaint and ripe for exploitation. What's more, the very simple laws of supply and demand will tell you that a glut of IT workers would have the effect of lowering wages and working conditions for everyone in the industry.
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This is not just my opinion. Two of our colleagues at Computerworld, a sister publication, have done serious reporting on this issue and shown exactly who has imported the most workers under the H-1B program. The largest single users of H-1B visas are offshore outsourcers, many of which are based in India or, if U.S.-based, have most employees located overseas.
All seven of the companies that lead the pack when it comes to importing workers under H-1B are outsourcers, according to an analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service data by Computerworld. They are: Cognizant, Tata, Infosys, Wipro, Accenture, HCL America, and Mahindra Group.
"This is just affirmation that H-1B has become the outsourcing visa," said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and researcher of tech immigration issues.
There's no shortage of IT workers
Before I go further, I'll repeat something I always mention when I cover the immigration issue: In no way do I think the foreign workers themselves are the problem. Like people everywhere, they simply want to make a better life for themselves and their children. An overhaul of our entire immigration system is long overdue. But raising the cap on H-1B visas is not the right way to go.
Under the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, authored by a bipartisan group of senators including Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), the maximum number of H-1B visas for high-skilled foreign workers would jump from 65,000 to 115,000. That number would be adjustable based on economic demand and could eventually go as high as 300,000 a year. Dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders would be allowed to work in the United States as well.
The bill has the support of major U.S. tech firms, including Microsoft and IBM, both heavy users of H-1B visas, and rests on the premise that there is a shortage of skilled IT workers. "It's critical that America address the shortage of workers with science, technology, engineering, and math skills. There are high-skilled, high-paying jobs being created by American businesses across the country that are being left unfilled because of this gap," said Microsoft general counsel and executive VP Brad Smith.