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Readers rant about IT worker who trained H1-B replacement

Patrick Thibodeau | June 18, 2014
Readers question the need for the H-1B program; we answer some questions about the visa.

The story of A. B. and the training of the IT worker's H-1B replacement struck a chord with Computerworld readers. It provided an opportunity for them to vent, argue and share their views about the visa and its impact on U.S. workers.

More than 3,400 people commented on the story, and many sent in emails as well. There were a number of major themes in these responses.

Four of them follow:

One: "There was never actually a rule that they (an employer) had to prove there was no qualified American." Aging Hipster.

Aging Hipster is correct. There is no requirement that companies try to find a qualified U.S. worker before filling a position with an H-1B visa holder.

The U.S. Labor Dept. writes: "The H-1B employer is not required to recruit U.S. workers, unless it is H-1B-dependent."

What does H-1B "dependent" mean? A firm that has 51 or more full-time equivalent employees of whom 15% or more are H-1B visa holder is classified as dependent.

H-1B dependent employers, which include all the major offshore outsourcing providers, "must take good faith steps to recruit U.S. workers for any job for which they seek H-1B workers," according to the Labor Dept. But there are loopholes.

H-1B dependent firms can sidestep the "good faith" hiring rule if they pay their visa-holding workers at least $60,000, or hire a foreign engineer holding an advanced degree.

H-1B workers must be paid the prevailing wage, but the employer that brings in an offshore firm will pay a blended rate that accounts for the differences in U.S. and overseas salaries. Employees overseas are typically paid a fraction of a U.S. salary.

At the start of a contract an offshore outsourcing firm may bring in quite a few H-1B workers to a worksite, but the long-term goal will be have about 20% of the workers onshore, and 80% offshore. These percentages can vary widely depending on the type of work.

Two: Sadly, this is all too common. -- JPRZ.

JPRZ is correct. Offshore outsourcing firms are taking more than 50% of the annual base H-1B visa cap of 65,000. Another 20,000 visas are set aside for advanced degree graduates of U.S. schools.

The two largest H-1B users in 2013 were both Indian-based -- Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.

Three: "I want these visas eliminated." Email.

A middle aged Florida woman, who believes she lost her telecom job to an H-1B visa holder, wrote to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) about last year's immigration bill that passed in the Senate. In response to A.B.'s story, she shared her correspondence.

The woman asked for anonymity to avoid jeopardizing her job search.


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