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How the H-1B Visa Program Impacts America's Tech Workers (computerworld.com) 332

Computerworld is running an emotional report by their national correspondent Patrick Thibodeau -- complete with a dramatic video -- arguing that America's H-1B Visa program "has also become a way for companies to outsource jobs." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the article accompanying the video: The vast majority of people who work in IT did everything right: They invested in their education, studied difficult subjects, kept their skills updated... But no job is safe, no future entirely secure -- something IT workers know more than most. Given their role, they are most often the change agents, the people who deploy technologies and bring in automation that can turn workplaces upside down. To survive, they count on being smart, self-reliant and one step ahead...

Over the years, Computerworld reporter Patrick Thibodeau has interviewed scores of IT workers who trained their visa-holding replacements. Though details each time may differ, they all tell the same basic story. There are many issues around high-skilled immigration, but to grasp the issue fully you need to understand how the H-1B program can affect American workers.

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How the H-1B Visa Program Impacts America's Tech Workers

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  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @12:36PM (#52738293) Homepage Journal

    ... how to work long hours for next to nothing.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Where did you go to school? None i've been to paid anything.

      Long hours lots of tests.
      Homework just in case you thought you would have free time.

      Zero pay. Or if we're talking college you get to pay them $50K for 4 years.

      Seems to me like they teach it already.

    • by cahuenga ( 3493791 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:28PM (#52738521)
      In short - "It is entirely reasonable for American citizens to endure a drop in standard of living down to Third World levels in order to fluff corporate profits."
      • It be fair, it's not ALL Americans, it's just the poor and middle classes.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          It be fair, it's not ALL Americans, it's just the poor and middle classes.

          ... only in America do software developers making $150k/yr consider themselves "poor".

  • Impossible... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday August 20, 2016 @12:37PM (#52738297) Homepage

    Fully impossible I say. The usual pro-H1B supporters on here say there's nothing wrong, and it's really good that all these people are being brought in to displace American works and push wages down. Just like how it's happening here in Canada with TFW's and employers are laying off employees because they don't want to pay the wage, then paying the 1/3 the wages that they were going for. And that ranges from welders and pipe fitters to skilled factory labor and IT.

    • No 'highly skilled' job stays that way forever. What once required a college degree is now being taught at highschools [muskegonisd.org] as a skilled trade type job. I've talked teachers at that school and they say they can't graduate people fast enough.

      • Re:Impossible... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:14PM (#52738447) Homepage

        They don't even teach welding in highschools anymore, you need to go to a specialty college to learn even the basics. Seems to me though, your "stuff being taught at highschool" isn't. Rather it can grant partial college credits towards an applicable program...in college, we had that 20 years ago too. But a college doesn't have to honor the full amount that is gained, and the board of education can drop the accredited amount when you least expect it.

        • Re: Impossible... (Score:5, Informative)

          by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @02:58PM (#52738915)

          I completed highschool 10 years ago (2006).

          I took Welding (Gas, Arc, and MIG), Drafting and CAD, Computer Science, Carpentry, and Electronics. My high school also offered Machining, Autobody, Small Engines, etc.

          It was drilled into our heads that College/University was required to enter the real world, but many of my graduating class that took the "trade" courses went right out into the work field and learned more as they need it in the field.

          I started my own business in high school doing web design. Out of high school I worked full time "regular" jobs in advertising, direct sales, retail, low voltage wiring (ethernet, coax, 18-2, 18-4), security system installation, and then locksmithing.

          My business slowly grew as life progressed. While working for the locksmith I had an opportunity to focus on my business fall in my lap and I took it. Since then business has only picked up and grown year-over-year.

          I am Canadian, living in Canada. The majority of my clients are in the US. :-)

          • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

            I completed highschool roughly 10 years previous to that in the middle of the 90's. My group was the last to have welding, drafting/cad, carpentry and electronics, or even basic electrical work. We were also the last group to do machining, pipe fitting, or automotive. Every program relating to that was cut, gutted, and removed. Right up until this upcoming year those programs haven't existed, they were all replaced with arts, or just really anything else that they could think of that was no use. Even t

    • Re:Impossible... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:30PM (#52738541)

      The usual pro-H1B supporters on here say there's nothing wrong, and it's really good that all these people are being brought in to displace American works and push wages down.

      The sad truth is that not all H1Bs like the situation either. I met one who worked for an American international subsidiary in India and was now a H1B in the US. Four of them lived in a two room apartment, provided by their employer. They never went out to lunch with the other American folks on their project . . . because their wages were so low, that they could simply not afford it. Instead, they went home and cooked for themselves.

      The one I met lamented that he wanted to go back to India to get married and start a family. He also commented that they could sense the disdain for H1Bs among their American colleagues.

      So, American workers do not like H1Bs, the H1Bs don't like being H1Bs . . . who likes the H1B concept? Oh, yeah . . . top level management. Well, at least someone is happy here.

    • Re:Impossible... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @04:52PM (#52739447)

      Actually, as a pro-H1B supporter, you're wrong.

      I fully acknowledge that there's something wrong. Companies like TaTa being able to bring over tech-workers for non-specific, non-highly-skilled generic coding jobs, and then contract them out is very very very wrong. What that does is generates immigration of people with mediocre skill sets, who will likely be net neutral on the economy, but a net negative on the wages of people working in the tech sector.

      That's really not good.

      On the other hand, what H1B should do (exclusively - it does this anyway, but it should *only* do this) is allow companies to hire people for very very specific jobs, with very very high wages, where it's not possible to find someone else to do it. There absolutely are legitimate H1B workers coming in and doing jobs for Google/Apple/FB/MS etc that no one else in America has the skills to do, and being paid multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. That's good both for tech employment (as it makes products possible that weren't before, and in doing so makes companies more profitable, and hire more people), and for the economy. An all round win.

      I can assure you, that if companies like Google/Apple/FB/MS could hire Americans for a role, they would not jump through the hoops of hiring a European for $200,000 a year, plus $150,000 worth of moving them to the US, plus tens of thousands of dollars in paying for visas and green cards. The key is to make sure that all H1Bs are for that kind of role, not the bullshit that TaTa does.

      [Disclaimer] I'm an H1B holder working for one of the above companies in a very specialist area.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @12:38PM (#52738301)
    in other news....
  • Up to date? (Score:2, Insightful)

    The only response 'modern' technologies seem to get from Slashdot is how the 'old way is better'' and "it'll never work". "Those kids are going to have to deploy apache servers BY HAND like I used to. None of that Docker Cloud Crap".

    For example "graphical programming languages", which by Slashdot standards are terrible, has a lot of job openings [indeed.com]. There are plenty of jobs for hardware in the loop (HIL) testers [indeed.com]. Same goes for people that know CAN/J1939 [indeed.com] and the tools that go with it [indeed.com]

    For those training their rep

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      The last point, about the college kids, is a good point. What engineers learn is that there is a new gradated class while employers pick the best of, and then replace their worst employees. From what I can tell employees get three years of training, and if they don't do well, they get replaced. It is not all milk and sugar for the graduates. There are years when less than 50% of graduates get hired because really only the bad employees are going to get fired.

      One wonders why employees choose to train th

    • Re:Up to date? (Score:4, Informative)

      by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @03:04PM (#52738957)

      Lots of people are incapable of thinking like the owner of a business, and are therefore surprised when things happen, despite it being obvious or inevitable from the perspective of a shrewd businessman. As a corollary, employees of public companies should get in the habit of reading financial disclosures and earnings call transcripts -- management often telegraphs what they're going to do, including outsourcing or layoffs. This puts you in the position of being one of the first passengers to learn that the Titanic has struck an iceberg, so make your way to the lifeboats before the rush.

      A few months ago, there was an article about how the IT department at a car rental company was outsourced. Not that I'm glad or anything, but someone paying attention should *never* make a career out of working in the back office of a business like that. The car rental business is tough enough as it is, but Uber/Lyft have added additional pressure.

      I work in a compliance function, so "infrastructure as code," Docker, and the rest of that shit make my life so much easier since we can automate large chunks of our security controls and audit work. That's progress. As an owner, having fewer admin grunts means more money to reinvest in higher-return activities (which as an employee you can help drive, if you're so inclined) and/or return to shareholders, who, after all, own the damn business and expect something from it.

      But this hard-nosed perspective, for some reason, strikes people as cruel, or you're viewed as the villain or whatever. It's just how the world works and you have to adapt accordingly, even if it's annoying and extra work at times.

      • Lots of people are incapable of thinking like the owner of a business,

        If we did that the most ethically sound decision would be to kill ourselves. The sort of thinking those people engage in, while it makes sense from a very narrow perspective, either leads to sociopathy or depression. That humanity still exists is due largely to the fact that most people refuse to think like their leaders.

        It's better to live in delusion.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @03:45PM (#52739141) Journal

      There are plenty of jobs for [this, that, and the other thing]

      There are plenty of job ADS.

      This is because, in order to hire an H1-B, the employer must first advertise the job to US persons.

      But there are whole classes given on how to gimmick the hiring process so that anyone who applies, other than the desired H1-B, can be plausibly turned down as unqualified. The US applicants waste their time, and the H1-Bs get the positions.

      Give us a call when there are plenty of HIRES of US citizens for these, or any, positions.

      • This is because, in order to hire an H1-B, the employer must first advertise the job to US persons.

        Not true - you're thinking of the green card process.

        For H1B they must simply have shown that the job requires a specialist, and that they have the capability to pay a rate that's over the market rate for the position.

      • > Give us a call when there are plenty of HIRES of US citizens for these, or any, positions.

        Um, 'Murican born. 'Murican trained white boy. Getting poached by those companies because of what buzzwords are in my resume.

      • Give us a call when there are plenty of HIRES of US citizens for these, or any, positions.

        Tech unemployment is about 3%, compared to 5% for the general economy. Everyone I know is hiring. If you can't get hired in today's tech economy, the problem is with you.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @12:43PM (#52738323) Homepage Journal

    to work the way that it is sold as working.

    (1) Keep the number of H1B workers about the same.
    (2) Bring fewer new H1B workers into the country by offering permanent residency to ones already here.
    (3) Require participating companies to meet minimum goals for H1Bs converting to permanent residency in order to continue participating.
    (4) Since fewer new H1Bs will be coming in, raise the standard so they really do bring in hard-to-find skills.

    Good people don't just take jobs. They create jobs. That's why employers like to locate in tech centers -- concentration of talent. So if someone's good, bring them in and keep them. It's beyond folly to have a program which kicks good people out of the country, along with skills and know-how that they've accumulated. It's disloyal to the country.

    • There is no way to fix H1B because on the day it is open, you have off-shore companies from a certain country applying in bulk for a visa for ALL of their employees.

      Even if they only get 5% of the spots applied, it's a win-win for them.

      Of course, if you aren't from that country or from a company like that, good luck on the "lottery".

    • Then you know the company is going H1B because there really is a shortage of workers, and not simply because they're greedy sons of bitches looking to lower their labor costs rather than paying what it takes to get the employee they want.

    • So long as they have an underclass of ultra cheap labor to support their middle class while they're getting trained they will always be cheaper than Americans. H1-B isn't just about driving tech wages down, it's about eliminating training costs. The Indians get trained in a very, very narrow skill set for pennies. Then they get cycled in and out and you don't worry about investing in them as employees.

      We've built our society around a social contract where you work hard, make your employer rich, and get
    • It's disloyal to the country to prioritize economic migrants over citizens. One is invested in the future of the nation. The other is not.

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @12:43PM (#52738329)

    Maybe all of that social justice stuff is really just a ruse to get people to think they're not a bunch of greedy monsters who have more in common in their attitude toward paying workers with John Calhoun than Bernie Sanders. One reason I'm voting Trump is Trump is precisely the sort of asshole who might call up the AG, ask if the statute of limitations under the criminal component of the antitrust laws has expired on the anti-poaching settlement and if the answer is "no," might say "bring indictments." Will he? Who knows, but it's a possibility and would be hilarious to watch some of these self-righteous fuckers face the full wrath of the federal government in criminal court.

    • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @02:52PM (#52738893)

      So let me get this right..

      You are voting for a guy who regularly stiffed laborers of their pay (hundreds of cases on record), who stiffed subcontractors and other businesses on their pay, and who said he was using u.s. labor when he was found to be using foreign labor.

      P.T. Barnum put it best. There's a sucker born every minute.

      Fortunately, Trump has basically lost the race.

      Just for funsy's go to Youtube and search for "trump praise clinton". You'll see only 7 years ago he was saying she was terrific and would make a good president or vice president.

    • Basically. I want more economic nationalism, less globalism. I want the trade and immigration policies of the nation to serve the interests of the workers and citizens. There's more to a nation than GDP.

  • Bullshit.

    This has been happening in industries for decades, there is nothing inherent about IT workers that gives them more knowledge just because it has been happening more recently.

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:14PM (#52738439)

    Corporations laugh at the regulations that are never enforced unless there is some sort of massive publicity. Even then... Our congress is bought and paid for.

    I'm amazed at all the idiots who think a billionaire who has gone bankrupt (yet somehow still has billions) many times with failed businesses is going to change that.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:21PM (#52738487) Homepage

    I'm wearying of it, but so far I just post the same thing over and over when I read about this topic. You don't see this with comparable white-collar high-knowledge professions like accounting, teaching, law, medicine and engineering. ...because they are all licensed.

    This is not about unionism or protectionism. It's not holding onto the job for nationalism's sake or racism. Any race can get a license, indeed foreigners can be licensed - if they can pass the tests. Most of this outsourcing is not about putting in equivalent people; it's about being able to afford more of them and make up for the lower productivity and accuracy.

    Information technology should be a licensed profession for multiple reasons; there are a lot of crappy local programmers that shouldn't have such jobs, too. This isn't about handy helpers or kid's games any more: our civilization depends on code that works right and we lose money, privacy and opportunity every day from IT failures. Medicine was not a licensed profession just a few generations back; it was licensed when it was time. For IT, it's now time.

    • Why would I pay a licensed programmer in the US when I can have my projects done in any country in the world?

      • by rbrander ( 73222 )

        The same reason these companies expensively imported people rather than sending the work to their country?

        The same reason you go to an American physician rather than to India?

        The same reason you have your bridge designed by American engineers rather than Indonesians? (hint: different reason on that one. It's not legal to build the bridge. What if it weren't legal to put a car on American roads without software from licensed programmers? That applies to the rest of the engineering...)

        • Flying to India to see a physician is more expensive than seeing one in the US, even if the Indian physician was zero cost.

  • by Uberbah ( 647458 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:22PM (#52738489)

    People should stop beating around the bush and call this what it is: a government run program to subsidize labor costs for businesses and shareholders, to the detriment of American workers and taxpayers. "Fair market rates" only apply when they are to shareholder's benefit. When they actually give the worker a leg up for a change - fuck you, we're going to bring in some grads from India to do your job. Grads who can compete without five figures of student loan debt hanging over their heads.

  • O RLY? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @01:22PM (#52738497)

    no job is safe, no future entirely secure

    When was the last time you heard of an H-1B worker taking a politician's job?

    • Politician's job? That's a real stretch of the word job, isn't it?

      • by mishehu ( 712452 )
        You're right, for most the word "career" should apply, even though most don't do their "job"...
    • Re:O RLY? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @03:12PM (#52738999) Journal

      I do get kind of sick of both the Republicans and the Democrats trotting out immigrants or children of immigrants as if that's some kind of badge of honor. The Republicans parade around Rubio and Cruz and Nikki Haley. Half of the speakers at the DNC were speaking spanish. Where's the speaker who says "My family has been here for 10 generations!" Isn't that kind of impressive? Maybe they've got some generational wisdom passed down? A strong stake in the future of the nation? There's nothing wrong with being from a recent immigrant family, but you'd think there'd be some kind of balance.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )


  • I know a lot of people here in Silicon Valley who are not naturalization seeking, and working on a visa.

  • And I have a lot of friends who eventual became citizens after getting their first job in the US with the H1-B program.
    Taking the best and brightest from other countries is in America's best interests. And there needs to be some new regulation to make it harder for companies to use H1-B as a way to train up foreign workers to prepare for a big outsourcing and inevitable local layoff.

    I think the easiest thing is add new restrictions. For example, if a company has paid H1-B in the last 18 months, they should

  • If your job was going to go to India or some other country, it was probably going to go anyway, HB-1 visa program or no HB-1 visa program.

    With HB-1 visa-holders coming her to "learn the trade" at least there are a few man-years of work being done here, with those people buying lunch and paying rent and the associated taxes in this country for those man-years.

    I know my skills are "portable" and that if I plan on having a halfway-decently-paying job until retirement I need to either:
    * be someone who can't be

  • "The program was intended to serve employers who could not find the skilled workers they needed in the United States." Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for ensuring that foreign workers do not displace or adversely affect wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. For every H-1B petition filed with the USCIS, there must be included a Labor Condition Application (LCA) (not to be confused with the labor certification), certified by the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • Well, you can try to abolish the H-1B Visas, but then, perhaps, American firms will be less competitive. And then, perhaps, the next Google will appear in China. Who knows, after some time of it, perhaps it's the Chinese who will be complaining of all those American cheap programmers that are willing to work for pennies because there is no work in their own country.

    You have to recognize that America is now the leader in software services, and I'd guess that the H-1B visa program has helped it getting to tha

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Saturday August 20, 2016 @03:25PM (#52739057)

    ... the poor proles masses pay for the few rich whilst fighting each other rather than revolutionising society. Especially the "American Dream" has gone down the drain. ... All this is nothing new.

    there is a new force in the mix, and wether it's HB1 or whatever pushing your sob-story right now, we should prepare for what's coming [youtube.com], because HB1 and the likes will be a joke compared to those overturnings ahead of us.

    You have been warned.

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 ) <icebalm@[ ]balm.com ['ice' in gap]> on Saturday August 20, 2016 @04:34PM (#52739369)

    A lot of people deride unions, but unless we have them, corporations pull this type of shit again and again. The government is either apathetic or complicit, which means the only protection for this type of shit is unions.

  • in a country where "socialism" is considered an insult? You get cowboy capitalism. As long as the American people keep voting for leaders who are economical extremists in this regard it's their own fault.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @05:36PM (#52739647)

    A country without borders is no longer a country.

    In an ideal world, the flow of labor, capital and ideas should be free and borderless - but we do not live in an ideal world.

    Countries have differing laws, social programs and structures. To protect a country's citizens and its social programs and infrastructure, there needs to be sensible immigration control.

    Flooding any nation with immigrants until social structures break benefits no one. Immigration is a noble thing (both of my grandparents were immigrants), but there are practical limitations that need to be enforced.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.