Edit: I found this article in regards to the President’s plan for the H1B and other work visa’s while browsing on dice:
Welcome to this week’s Ticket of the Week segment or TOW for short. TOW is where I cover a range of hot topics and trends from within the industry that include actual examples of tickets from previous employers and clients edited only for confidentiality reasons. Have a suggestion please use the contact page and someone will get back to you promptly and you may be featured in the segment.
Editor’s note: TOW segment usually post on Saturday morning’s, however due to the inauguration being today we decided to post it one day early. Hope you enjoy!
First I’d like to say that this is not a politically based post as politics aren’t the subject of this blog. However, the topic of President-elect Donald Trump and the H1B Visa directly affects numerous personnel within the IT world. For the uninformed you can read a full breakdown of the program here provided by the good folks over at My Visa Jobs. The short version is that it allows companies to hire “specialized skillsets that they wouldn’t be able to find” without use of the H1B visa, and personnel are selected via a lottery based system.
As with anything else in today’s world there are both supporters and objectors to the program. Tech companies are firmly entrenched on the support side of the program have repeatedly attempted to lobby Congress to support a raise of the cap for H1B visas as evidenced in this 2013 report by CNET. In theory the program isn’t really a bad idea and there are examples of it being used properly. Julia Preston of the NY Times wrote an article on the subject in 2015 that provided an example of it being used correctly in the beginning of the article, and that same article also exposes the problem.
Companies are abusing the H1B visa system by flooding the lottery system with applications to improve their chances of obtaining one. This makes it difficult for the companies doing the right thing such as in the NY Times article. Under the program these H1B workers are supposed to be paid what an American worker would make in the same role, but research shows that companies are saving an average of $17,678 per worker in the Charlotte area alone. The Charlotte Observer wrote an excellent piece on this issue here, highlighting Bank of America as that area’s largest offender. Interesting enough they declined comment for their story and this one as well.
I won’t name the Company here but I personally witnessed, not even a full month ago, an American worker train his H1B replacement while being provided a false sense of security in regards to his position. I’d honestly never personally been affected by it until that moment as I considered that person a good friend and colleague and that is what inspired me to write this post. The internet is littered with articles on the subject, but with a new President incoming I decided to add my own take and I’m not the only one worried about the coming changing of the guard. Indian Tech companies are especially worried and Quartz Media has already provided a rundown of the temperature of that region here.
During one of this year’s debates the President-elect was quoted as saying, “I know the H-1B very well, we shouldn’t have it, it’s very, very bad for workers. It’s unfair to our workers and we should end it.” That could’ve been all campaign talk or could we soon see H1B reform from Capitol Hill in Washington? Time will tell but Trump’s Attorney General selection Jeff Sessions also had the following to say on the subject of the H1B visa, “We shouldn’t be bringing in people where we’ve got workers,” and added “There are a number of ways to fix it” according to The Des Moines Register.
Why is it “very, very bad for workers” according to Donald Trump, and to be fair plenty of others within the affected industries? Well, from my perspective, these specialized skillsets are more often than not falsely represented. There is no shortage of qualified network engineers here in the United States so why are these roles being filled with H1B workers while qualified Americans sit at home unemployed? Secondly the pay is supposed to be equal so why exactly is it cheaper for corporations to use H1B workers? Notice I didn’t say cheap but they are cheaper and that is why companies take advantage of it. Intel was a defendant in a $415-million-dollar lawsuit, and investigated by the Department of Justice along with Apple, and Google and accused of attempting to suppress employee wages. To me that means paying someone with an H1B $80,000 for a position that’s worth $100,000 is circumventing the whole “paid what a US Citizen would make” stipulation within the program. That puts qualified Americans out on the streets or being forced to support their families and lifestyles on wages that have been unfairly reset by the program.
Personally, I don’t blame the corporations as they will continually seek an advantage, that’s just smart business regardless of the unintended consequences. As I’ve said in previous post the basis of their operations revolves around their bottom-line. I do believe some sort of H1B reform is needed, and I also believe that when used correctly it is a good thing for the country and our industries. What I don’t want to see is more and more people and their families being adversely affected by this. If it was up to me I would implement more thorough review of the criteria necessitating and H1B for starters. I’d also implement strict measures in regards to salary to prevent one for one swaps of workers. One way I’d consider doing that is by making it so that H1B workers actually cost more than their American counterparts. This would essentially force Corporations hands to really decide if the position in question is a skill that they need and have exhausted every other available avenue to obtain.
However, at the end of the day, I’m just a Network Engineer. I will continue to monitor the situation closely and possibly even write a follow up upon the completion of the new administration’s first 100 days in office. Do you have thoughts on the H1B program and it’s use? Please leave a comment below and let’s have a healthy discussion.
Let’s make tech great again shall we?