Reading 03: H1-B & Immigration

H1-B Visa’s have garnered lots of attention in recent years, especially with the intervention from the Trump campaign. The intention with the program is to attract very talented people from foreign countries to work in the United States. Ideally, it would increase diversity, increase worker competition, and provide a much larger talent pool for companies to work with. Theoretically, the program would be very beneficial to all involved.

Additionally, people for the program argue that there is currently a shortage of skilled tech talent in the United States. It’s argued that if H1-B visas are expanded and given to more people then tech companies would be able to find the talent to overcome the shortage of skilled potential employees.

However, there’s a lot of opposition to the program because of several perceived problems. For one, the program has largely been abused. Of the roughly 85,000 total H1-B visas awarded every year, the majority of them tend to go to technology consulting companies. These companies, such as Infosys and Tata Consultancy, apply for thousands of visas every year, playing the numbers game to win a large share of the lottery. Then, these companies get to bring these workers on relatively low salaries and rent them out to other companies.

Also, the workers of these consulting/outsourcing companies get paid significantly less than other H1-B visa workers at the major tech companies (the vast minority of H1-B visa workers). While the average salary for a place like Silicon Valley is upwards of $130k, the workers at such companies tend to have salaries ranging from $65–75k. This isn’t at all enough to live any sort of comfortable life in the Valley and is doing a disservice to the workers.

At the same time, there’s an argument to be made that the low salaries paid to H1-B workers also cause the salaries paid to native American workers to be lower as well.

Furthermore, because the company that hires the H1-B worker holds that workers visa, this leaves room for abusive practices. The company holds all of the cards and has significant leverage on employees. Certainly, this is unethical as it can cause workers to be more restricted than they would be otherwise.

Personally, I am against the expansion of the H1-B visa program. While I appreciate and support the goals of the program, its structure and framework leave its workers vulnerable to abuses.

Instead of expanding the program, efforts need to be made for widespread reforms of the H1-B visa system to make it more effective and safer for workers.

The lottery system needs to be less of a lottery in order to ensure consulting/outsourcing firms aren’t abusing the system and securing the majority of the H1-B visas.

More oversight and protections must be put in place to prevent companies from having so much leverage on the H1-B employees.

Most importantly to me, however, is reducing the importance of the H1-B program by making immigration more accessible. Allowing more of the people needing H1-B visas to get green cards is a much more effective system in my opinion.

In doing so, the United States could both retain most of the benefits of the H1-B program while also solving many of the issues. For example, two of the perceived benefits of H1-B visas, promoting diversity and increasing the pool of talented tech workers, would also come from making green cards easier to attain.

At the same time, this program solves the issues of companies extremely undercutting wages by hiring H1-B workers. As green card holders and permanent residents of the United States, companies would have to pay workers roughly the same wages as American citizens.

Additionally, potential abuses from companies’ leverage on their H1-B employees would be eliminated if these workers were instead on green cards.

Allowing talented foreign workers to enter the country and contribute to the American economy is extremely important, but H1-B visas are not the ideal way to achieve these goals.

On the other hand, a program like DACA is a fantastically implemented solution to both promote diversity and benefit the countries development. These types of programs should not be curtailed or eliminated as they are one of the better aspects of this country. However, the H1-B program specifically must be reformed in order to eliminate the abuses that come with it.

As a country, our aim should be to promote diversity and competition, but we need to do it in the right way.