One company, Syntel, a Troy, Mich.-based services firm, was listed as the top employer by the DOL with about 55,000 LCAs, even though the company only employs about 21,000 people globally. About 81% of Syntel's billable workforce is in India, according to its most recent annual report.
Asked about the applications, Syntel, said in a statement: "The number of slots in LCAs that Syntel has filed is not indicative of the number of actual workers placed at a given location, nor does it accurately reflect our future hiring plans."
Syntel said that the DOL allows a company to file an LCA for an unlimited number of workers per application. "It takes the same amount of time and effort on an employer's part to file [and for the government to approve] an LCA for 100 slots as it does for a single slot," the firm said. Based on that, it decided that "filing LCAs for up to 100 potential workers per application instead of a single application" saved the government and the company paperwork.
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and researcher on H-1B issues, said, "It is plainly obvious that the LCA process has so many loopholes to render it a joke. Heavy users of the H-1B program should be making good faith efforts to recruit American workers but exploit loopholes that enable them to bypass American workers."
Hira added: "And the wage floors are so low that the LCA process invite firms to use the H-1B program for cheaper labor."
Among the immigration attorneys expecting a high number of H-1B petitions next week is Ian Macdonald, co-chair of Littler Mendelson's Global Mobility and Immigration practice, who believes a lottery may be implemented this year and will result in some casualties, companies which don't get the workers they need.
"The demand for H-1Bs is a strong indicator that the economy is improving," said Macdonald.
The bad news, said Macdonald, is that in many of the areas where the economy is improving highly skilled workers are needed, "and the H-1B category is used to obtain highly skilled workers in areas where there is no U.S. workers or a limited amount of U.S. workers," he said.
Macdonald said H-1B use by outsourcing companies means the work is being conducted in the U.S., even if it is done by foreign firms. The U.S. gains tax revenue from it, otherwise that work can be fully outsource overseas, he said.
Former Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.), who was the author of the 1990 immigration legislation that created the H-1B visa, recently testified in Congress about the H-1B issues in support the IEEE-USA's position. He believes that a better path for the U.S. to address skills needs will be by making permanent residency available to STEM graduates of U.S. universities.
Morrison said he agrees that more skilled workers are needed, but that the U.S. should meet this need by keeping the foreign U.S. university graduates here.
"By getting green cards right away, there is no financial incentive not to hire Americans if they are qualified," said Morrison. Employers also lose their power over foreign workers on H-1B visas if they have to shift from temporary to permanent workers.
"All those disadvantages to American workers go away if you use green cards," said Morrison.
Hira wants changes to the H-1B program. "The principal problem with the H-1B visa program is not the cap," he said. "Instead, the problem is that the majority of H-1Bs are being used to substitute for American workers. The data show this quite clearly -- most H-1Bs are being used for cheaper indentured labor and also for offshoring jobs."
Hira points to legislation recently introduced by Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), bill S.600, which is modeled after similar bills that Grassley had previously introduced. It would raise wages for H-1B workers, give U.S. workers an opportunity for open jobs, and limit the visa's use by IT services firms.
Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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