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H-1B: A good system gone bad

Bart Perkins | March 28, 2017
The H-1B visa has worthy goals but terribly flawed implementation. It’s time to fix it.

Job losses like these damage the U.S. economy. In addition to paying U.S. taxes, the Mandarin speakers, would have made it possible for non-Mandarin speaking, American engineers to assist with projects in China.

  • Many H-1B employees are treated unfairly. Many are forced to work significantly more than 40 hours per week without overtime. Those who complain are threatened with dismissal. Both employee and employer know that without a job, the H-1B visa holder has to leave the country. Worse, if the employee is attempting to get a green card, that employee will have to restart the entire process after finding a new job. Searching for “H-1B visa holders treated unfairly” shows blogs discussing various types of abuse. Even more telling, the search reveals a number of lawyers advising persons holding H-1B visas to “know your rights.”
  • Some H-1B visa holders lack advertised credentials and associated skills. Searching for “H-1B visa fraud” produces thousands of results. Some people have been fined or jailed for creating fake college degrees or inflating experience.

Immigrants make a significant contribution to our economy. Over 10% of the 2016 Forbes 400 were born outside of the U.S. In describing the 2016 Forbes 400, the magazine noted, “The very act of immigrating is entrepreneurial, a self-selecting risk taken in an effort to better one’s circumstances.” And many do. As a boy, my father-in-law spent several years in a postwar European refugee camp before coming to the U.S., where he attended college and became a well-respected physician.

In the short term, the government should do some simple things to improve the program. It should increase the price of acquiring an H-1B visa from approximately $3,000 to $50,000, thereby making salary arbitrage more difficult. It should eliminate the $60,000 salary limit for asserting that no American lost a job to a H-1B visa holder. H-1B visas should only be granted to firms headquartered in the U.S. and not to foreign subsidiaries holding a U.S. tax ID. The number of H-1B visas granted to any firm should be limited. Finally, H-1B visa holders who lose their jobs without cause should be given additional time to find another job before being forced to leave the country.

As an American IT professional, I want to see H-1B visa abuse stopped. The H-1B is only one of many problematic visas, but it clearly illustrates problems with current immigration legislation. I hope that Congress will reform immigration law in ways that better support IT professionals, IT organizations and IT companies. Write to your congressperson before you are also replaced by an H-1B visa holder!


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