Campaign is set back - Why?
The H-1B program, approved in 1990 amidst fears of labor shortages,
permits US employers to bring in temporary workers by attesting
that they tried and failed to find US workers to fill jobs requiring
the equivalent of a college education; foreign professionals are
admitted for up to six years to fill these vacant jobs. In the
attestation-admission procedure, the employer's request opens the
border gate to foreign workers, and there is no further check unless
the government receives complaints that the employer broke his promise
to pay workers prevailing wages or committed other violations of law
Up to 65,000 foreign professionals can receive H-1B visas each year.
Since each H-1B worker can remain in the US for up to six years,
390,000 H-1B workers can be employed in the US at any one time. House
and Senate committees have agreed to increase the quota, but they
disagree on whether new worker protections should be added to the
program, including requirements included in the House bill, and
endorsed by the Clinton administration, that would require employers
to certify (1) that they tried to recruit US workers and (2) that they
have not laid off US workers to make room for the H-1B workers.
The campaign to raise the ceiling on the number of H-1B visas was set
back in June 1998 when the Chicago-based employment firm of
Challenger, Grey and Christmas reported that 21 well-known high-tech
companies had laid off 121,800 workers since December, 1997, more than
the number of H-1B workers who would be admitted if the quota were
increased. House Majority Leader Dick Armey in late June was
reportedly trying to broker a compromise between the chairmen of the
immigration subcommittees of the House and Senate.
In the meantime, the H-1B program is becoming more employer-friendly.
The INS published regulations on June 4, 1998 that permit employers to
file their Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) with local Employment
Service offices after they have requested H-1B workers through the
INS. INS also eased regulations requiring detailed itineraries for
H-1B workers who move around the US.
H-1B workers are often portrayed as the "best and brightest" from
outside the US who enter to work with a high-tech company such as
Intel or Microsoft on a frontier project, and then return home.
However, most H-1B workers are hired by temporary staffing
agencies--labor brokers--who lease them to US employers, and many H-1B
workers seek out US employers to sponsor them for admission as
A San Diego Union-Tribune article on June 8, 1998 noted the sharp
contrast between employer testimony and reality. Employer testimony
emphasized wages of over $65,000 a year, but Tata Consultancy
Services, the second-largest employer of H-1Bs, paid $35,000 to 13
Indian programmers with H-1B visas working for UCSD. Tata does not
recruit or hire US programmers; indeed, most of the top 10 US
requesters of H-1B workers have few or no US workers on staff.
An editorial in the July issue of a computer business publication
concluded: "Companies have a fiduciary responsibility to keep labor
costs low. If U.S. technology companies cannot find highly trained,
highly motivated American employees at a competitive cost, then a
shortage does exist. And if companies say they want to hire more
skilled foreign workers because those workers are cheaper, we should
believe them--and increase the number of visas issued." The article
could be viewed at: http://www.redherring.com/mag/issue56/toc.htm
but now link is invalid. . .
The top ten US firms and the number of H-1B workers they imported
between October 1, 1997 and March 31, 1998 were: Mastech, 672; Tata
Consultancy Services, 490; Sai Software Consultants, 224; Tata
Infotech, 199; ComputerPeople, 184; Intel, 144; Comsys Technical
Services and Syntel, 131 each; Quality Information Systems, 124; and
Intelligroup, 116. In the first six months of FY98, 44 percent of
H-1B visas were granted to people from India.