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The Ins and Outs of the H-1B Debate
With immigration a red-hot political issue, new rules for H-1B visas have reignited controversy between US technology professionals and their employers. The rule changes are part of the proposed immigration reform bill, which increases the number of H-1B visas available annually from 65,000 to 115,000 and also raises the possibility of “unlimited” visas for noncitizens with advanced degrees.
But what effect do these specialized visas -- intended for highly skilled workers -- really have on the US employment marketplace? Do they make it more difficult for techies to find jobs? Do they lead to lower wages? Are the visas a competitive necessity for US companies in search of programmers, database analysts and other technical personnel?
Sorting through the hodgepodge of evidence, statistics, reports, pseudo-studies, vitriol, PR claims and media reports about H-1B visas will leave your head spinning. But that’s not a reason to avoid the task. Here are some of the key sources cited by both sides of the debate. Read them, and then share your thoughts on the Technology Careers message board: “Whither the H-1B Visa?”
Center for Immigration Studies: Lower Wages for H-1B Workers
A 2005 report from the Center for Immigration Studies claims the wages paid to H-1B workers are not comparable to those paid to US workers despite a prevailing-wage requirement. The report, “The Bottom of the Pay Scale: Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers,” contends “wages for H-1B workers in computer programming occupations are overwhelmingly concentrated at the bottom of the US pay scale,” with few H-1B workers earning high wages by US standards. “On average, applications for H-1B workers in computer occupations were for wages $13,000 less than Americans in the same occupation and state.”
Federal Audit: Oversight Needed for H-1B Program
A 2006 study of the H-1B program by the US Government Accountability Office found more than 3,000 H-1B petitions were approved even though the wage rate on the application was lower than the prevailing wage, which is contrary to the program’s rules. The 3,000 were considered a small fraction of the 960,000 H-1B applications approved between 2002 and 2005. However, the study found the US could check applications more thoroughly to ensure the integrity of the H-1B program.
Information Technology Association of America: Make H-1B Program Responsive to Market Demand
The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a technology industry trade association and lobbying group, cites the flood of H-1B petitions as evidence of the need to raise the H-1B cap and make the program more flexible.
Electronics Group: Not Enough Qualified Workers
A policy brief by the American Electronics Association, known as AeA, contends H-1B levels should be increased because high tech executives “continually assert that the necessary workforce cannot be found adequately enough within the US workforce” and “there are not enough American-born students in the math, science, technology and engineering fields.”
Compete America: H-1Bs Help Keep US Competitive
Industry group Compete America cites a variety of statistics regarding the validity of the H-1B program. Case in point: “H-1B professionals constitute a low percentage of the US workforce. During the economic boom of 2001, when H-1B usage was at its height, these temporary professionals still accounted for only about [0.1] percent of US non-farm employment.”
University Professor: IT Labor Shortage Is a Myth
In “Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage,” professor Norman Matloff of the University of California at Davis computer science department contends that industry PR efforts have essentially dominated the H-1B debate, creating the belief -- a false one, he says -- that there is an IT labor shortage.
San Francisco Chronicle: Different Points of View, Different Numbers
An in-depth 2007 report in the San Francisco Chronicle points out that the “main antagonists in the debate use different numbers to support their cases.” Employers see “razor-thin unemployment rates,” Indian nationals see “1.1 million foreign-born professionals and their families trying to go from temporary, employment-based visas to green cards,” and “workers see nationwide tech industry payrolls still below their 2000 peak.”
Мадмазель, Медам, Месье! "Глория" меняет курс и направляется в Кейптаун! Кому это не нравится будет расстрелян на месте. (с)