Tech firms lobby for US visa expansion

Tech firms lobby for US visa expansion

Summary: H-1B visas remain a bone of contention for tech companies crying out for skilled workers -- or are they just looking for cheap labor?


Immigration is a hot topic in Congress at the moment, and the tech industry is determined to have its say.

According to Reuters, a number of tech firms are lobbying to raise the official cap on H-1B visas, which allows citizens of other countries to stay in the United States for up to six years.


In order to secure such a visa, you need to have a "speciality occupation," advanced skills or a degree in a field which is lacking local talent. Demand has soared for the visa, which has an annual cap of 85,000. Because of stiff competition, 65,000 of the visas are awarded through a lottery system -- which can leave firms in purgatory while they wait to see if their overseas staff have the right to work in the States.

As a result, some technology companies have asked Congress to consider a bill proposal that would gradually raise the cap to 300,000 as well as alter the current green card system. Intel, for example, believes that raising the cap will lower company uncertainty while decisions are being made, and the current process "puts a real constraint on our ability to hire the skilled workers we need to allow us to innovate, create new products and create new jobs.”

Over 100 firms have petitioned Congress for a "market-based" visa system which is flexible enough to change depending on market conditions and the need for skilled workers. One argument for this system is that American universities are not producing enough graduates in fields including engineering, math and computer science, so restricting a firm's ability to poach talent from abroad also hampers its competitive edge.

Other organizations, however, feel that the idea of the US being a dry pool when it comes to talent and specialist workers is exaggerated. Instead of offering work to now-unemployed but more experienced -- and probably more expensive -- developers from the US. opposing groups argue that the program is nothing more than a source of cheap labor. In addition, some employers abuse the system by bringing in workers to hire them for entry-level work.

These operations are not limited to the US. In Australia, the prime minister says many firms are abusing the 457 visa application system, and using it to hire foreign IT workers when local talent could take the roles instead. According to the PM, the IT industry is the worst offender, and because of the visa abuse, the government plans to tighten restrictions on immigration.

According to the publication, an estimated $132.5 million was spent last year on lobbying Congress by computing and Internet firms. For some leaders, barriers to hiring are the real issue, rather than the idea that the US has a talent shortage. As the economy becomes more connected and globalized, it is necessary to attract global talent in order to compete properly.

Last year, 129,000 H-1B visas were issued to temporary workers as university employees amongst others are not counted. If an employer wishes to hire an overseas resident with an American university degree, there is a separate cap of 20,000 currently in place.

Image credit: Vancouver Film School

Topics: IT Employment, IT Priorities, Tech Industry

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  • Seriously?

    We have one of the worst job markets in decades and this is Hathor companies want to solve their shortage of people?

    It is sad when all of our elected officials are so willing to sell out their own people!
    • Oops

      How they not Hathor...
      • Even haters want cheap labor

        Imagine your car breaks down and needs to repair. Two mechanics in town offer exactly the same quality of service. One charges you 80/hr while the other 70. Which one do you go to? I guess it's obviously the 2nd. BANG! Right there you are looking for cheap labor as well. Don't try to spin, twist or anything. Just admit it.

        Nowadays people are so brain-washed by liberal propaganda they could not maintain the bare minimum common-sense any more. The whole point of economic growth is not aboiut keeping everyone employed. NO! It's about making it more efficient, and that way the labor cost will necessarily go down. To survive, you have to constantly learn new skills or you are to lose out.
        • How little are you willing to make?

          Are you willing to take a pay cut for the sake of capitalism? How about all of the CEOs who make 7- and 8-figure annual salaries and get massive golden parachutes? Do you believe that any of them should be willing to take a pay cut for the good of the economy?

          Unless either of those questions can be answered in the affirmative, then you're basically saying little more than "deal with it". If that's the case, know that one day, your customers or your employer will pull the same stunt on you. Deal with THAT.
          Third of Five
        • Wait until @LBiege shows up on the unemployment line

          Then we'll see how much of your pablum comes out.
          • lbeige will blindly blame liberals

            Even though we have been warning of these and other issues the corporatists have been doing...

            Even the stock market for when the next crash comes... followed by them saying people need to invest more - never mind "do not invest what you can't afford to lose" and we put retirement money in a big gamble ponzi scheme, but people did save and lost all when the insider traders and others cashed in... remember Enron? Many don't...
        • i pay for quality but get junk

          People are learning new skills, right down to college... they are not seeing opportunities.

          Did people have to retrain so often in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, etc?

          In 1980 ceos made 40x their workers. Now it is well over 400x and far more for those that haven't wiped out the competition via price wars and other predatory tactics yet.

          How about corporate welfare? To companies that offshore?

          As we offshore or devalue labor the government starts deficit spending. Why do we give corporate welfare to cheap corporations that offshore rather than train or help those of us going back to college to surviv e?

          And as ayn rand also broke her own rules the moment they became inconvenient... taking social security After whining for decades about how bad altruism is...

          Happy researching and learn what a liberal is as well...
        • You said it yourself

          You made the distinction in your own example -- "in town". This isn't just about me competing with someone in Bangalore with a tenth the standard of living and a third the cost thereof. This is about my government artificially tipping the balance of labor within the borders of my nation at corporate whim. Simple expansion of supply is problematic enough, but that expansion includes acceptance of below market wages as well. That crosses the line to egregious.

          By your example, if you are the 80/hr mechanic and the 70/hr is undercutting you because special rules were made to bring him from an impoverished nation to your town--what is your reaction? "Meh, it's globalization I'll happily charge less."???
        • And yet...

          ...Adam Smith made the claim that high wages contributed more to prosperity than did high profits (but he was called a "liberal" in his own day and for a century thereafter).

          But competition is one thing; demanding that government intervene to keep wages down is another. It's not like employers are asking for more green cards; they'd rather have employees that will be deported if they're fired or quit.
          John L. Ries
    • we don't have

      enough of the native population to qualify for the jobs
  • Cheap Labor is all it is

    Companies are pushing out workers so they can replace them with cheap foreign workers who actually have fewer skills. They can hire one onshore foreigner and 4 offshore foreigners and still cannot do the job.
    • If this is truly how it is...

      It's not that hard to protect an existing workforce that is being ignored, if that is truly the case (I don't think that is the case, but I still occasionally encounter disgruntled COBOL programmers blaming foreign competition for their lack of employment rather than their own lack of marketable skills) there is a rather easy solution: insist that H-1B workers be paid at minimum the average market rate for the work they are doing. This will allow companies that are truly starving for skilled employees more options. By ensuring these immigrant workers are being paid well, they become an asset to the community as well, spending their income on good housing, entertainment, cars, everything that gets taxed and the funds cycled back into programs that allow disgruntled COBOL programmers to remain functionally useless.
      • We're not talking COBAL programmers

        Or people who only know 20+ year old technologies. We're talking about the recent computer science graduates from American universities who can't get a job because even their entry level wages are being undermined by 3rd world slave labor.

        Your coy "everything can be rosy" simplistic answer is ridiculous.
        • Re: graduates from American universities who can't get a job

          Where do the Facebooks, Twitters and YouTubes come from? Did they descend from on high as part of a Government program? No, they were created by a bunch of young folk who decided to start their own companies rather than get jobs working for someone else.

          People like you seem to think of jobs as something abstract, like a precious metal dug out of a mine or something. They're not, they're created by businesses, and businesses are created by many of those same graduates you say can't get a job.
          • "Facebooks, Twitters and YouTubes" are the exception to the rule

            They're not enough to sustain the sheer amount of kids graduating today.

            "They're not, they're created by businesses, and businesses are created by many of those same graduates you say can't get a job."

            Not if they're being outsourced to 3rd World countries they're not. That's not an abstract concept. If M$ decides to lay off 1,000 workers in Bhopal India, that doesn't mean jack to me since those jobs aren't really ours anyway.

            Your coy "everything can be rosy" is similar to jvitous. Sock puppet time, anyone?
  • It's the same in Canada

    IT immigrants drive down the wages and working conditions. A person working in a mine in Ontario makes a better living than an IT guy who has to constantly retrain. It's getting to the point where it's not worth it.
    • and tjat is when they whine

      They have us train our own replacements (h1b fraud is real) but people see their antics, obey the market forces by not bothering, and then they say there is a shortage.

      It is one big joke. Especially the college fraud going on, but some around here (not you) would take those classes and have no clue they are being ripped off...

      Real liberals are for ethics and justice. Evolved society...
  • Offshore Outsourcing firms used 2/3 (>80,000) of this year H-1b application

    In 2012, more than half (> 40,000) of the H-1b visas were used by Offshore Outsourcing companies.

    In 2013, two-thirds of the H-1b visas applications (>80,000) have been submitted by Offshore Outsourcing companies.

    Prediction: any increase in the number of H-1b visas will be taken up by Offshore Outsourcing companies. These companies destroy jobs, and remove whole departments to overseas locations. How can we be so stupid as to allow this Job destroying government program to expand?

    The fact is our domestic Tech companies barely use the H-1b visa program. Why are our tech CEOs lobbying for an increase, they will never use?

    We have let the whining of a few tech CEOs (who want protection from the real free labor market), create and expand a Monster job-destroying government program, that is mostly used by Offshore Outsourcing companies.
  • OK, try this out

    The whole point of economic growth is not about keeping everyone employed.

    Then how do you expect the economy to grow ? I'm pretty sure unemployed people spend less
    than employed people. And they more employed people make the more they are able to spend!
    How you miss this basic economic fact is simply beyond comprehension.

    NO! It's about making it more efficient, and that way the labor cost will necessarily go down.

    Worker efficiency in the US has risen almost every year for the past 50 years. Only in the past 12
    years have the wages gone down or remained flat (except for CEOs which have skyrocketed without
    any obvious indication of any increase in their their efficiency). Labor costs (wages) do not go down
    with these increases, the percentage of cost of labor for a given good or service does. This means
    the company makes more profit, and there is enough money to give these more efficient employees
    a raise (called incentive I believe). Well they use to at least.
    Hemlock Stones
  • Good tech people are hard to find.

    Yea the U.S. job market stinks. However, the job market for IT people is better than it has been in a decade. Currently, my company has been looking to hire (onshore) developers, and the quantity of qualified candidates are just not there. There are alot of resumes, none of them have been very good. My company is small, and I doubt we'll go offshore, but if we were larger we would. It's not just about arbitrage, we just don't have enough talent onshore to get the job done. IT salaries have been on the increase as a result...which is good for me :). Onshore developers will always be in demand. At the end of they day you need someone here so you can sit on his/her desk and say "Where's my application?"