I’m a big believer in international competition and in Have brains, will travel. So I’ve never been able to find a comfortable position on the H-1B visa controversy. Do American companies need foreign talent so badly that they must import specialized workers to fill critical positions? Or are they using H-1B to lower costs by paying below-industry rates for foreign workers?
When I thrash around over these questions, trying to figure it out, I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. If American companies need foreign talent, let them justify their needs and let’s get to it.
Keep in mind that this is all about ensuring American companies have a competitive edge. It’s about making sure they have the talent they need to keep American business strong. Even if some American workers don’t like it.
But H-1B should have nothing do with creating opportunities for foreign nationals in the U.S. Sorry, but I’ve traveled to progressive countries where getting an entry visa means signing a statement that you will not work in that country. You will not take a job from a local. It makes sense for a nation to protect its jobs and to absolutely favor its own citizens — including the U.S. Likewise, once a foreign national is allowed into the country to work, that individual should be extended many of the same rights and courtesies (and obligations) its own workers have. Otherwise, why let them in?
So here’s where this all gets dicey. Why does the H-1B program — which ostensibly protects the interests of American companies — give an edge to foreign companies by letting them bring foreign workers into the U.S.?
When a reader recently sent me a rundown on H-1B Visas, I slapped my head, rubbed my eyes and looked at the numbers again. The top 4 employers on the H-1B list are Indian companies. (If you already knew this and I’ve been asleep at the wheel, slap me. The controversy that’s been emphasized in the media is about how H-1B screws American workers. Turns out it screws American companies even more.)
Why is the U.S. helping foreign companies import foreign labor?
According to an Informationweek analysis reported in Fierce CIO, these 4 foreign companies were granted over 12% of the 85,000 H-1B Visas issued in 2008.
INFOSYS TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED: 4,559
WIPRO LIMITED: 2,678
SATYAM COMPUTER SERVICES LIMITED: 1,917
TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES LIMITED: 1,539
How does this protect the competitive interests of American companies?
10,693 H-1B Visas were granted to just 4 foreign companies. Microsoft is #5 with 1,037. The 4 Indian companies at the top of the recipient list received more H-1B’s than the next 50 American companies received as a group.
Guess I’ve been a dope. The H-1B program is a U.S. government subsidy for foreign companies operating in the U.S. No wonder Microsoft campaigns for more H-1B visas — it’s competing for a U.S. subsidy with India. The U.S. government ensures foreign companies operating in the U.S. can hire foreign nationals.