De-Mything CPAEA Visa Myths

The CPAEA has a web-page that allegedly debunks myths about H-1B visas. The corrections need corrections of their own. For they give misleading information. Their biggest flaw is the presumption that vague government paperwork rules are enough to prevent abuse and citizen job loss.
1. Myth: H-1B visa holders get paid less than American workers, and they drive down the overall salaries of the U.S. work force. Reality: According to the Department of Labor, employers must prove that the salaries they provide H-1B visa holders are at least the "prevailing" wages for the specific jobs in that region. Employers typically file salary determination requests with the State Employment Security Agency to determine wages.
The Department of Labor (DOL) and related agencies only require that paper-work be filled out. The DOL does not really understand the difference between a programmer, software engineer, web developer, etc. Job titles in information technology are a fuzzy art, leaving open many ways to manipulate the paperwork. For example, an Indian visa candidate may have a lot of computer experience in India, but he/she leaves that experience off his/her resume and/or application so that a shady contracting company can represent them as a beginner, and thus pay an experienced expert a beginner's wage.

Further, even if visa workers are actually receiving "prevailing wages", adding more tech workers into the work force can still bring down average wages by flooding the market.

2. Myth: H-1B visa holders must leave the country as soon as they get laid off....Reality: Although a laid-off H-1B visa worker has no legal authorization to be in the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has never prosecuted anyone for remaining. The INS has no official guidelines regarding fired or laid-off H-1B visa holders, but it expects to issue guidelines later this year. Many jobless foreigners choose to leave, but mainly because of financial or familial, not legal, constraints.
This only shows how poorly the government keeps track of people and enforces rules. The same kind of sloppiness can also be found in other aspects of the visa system. The government is tightening the stay rules to respond to 9/11-related security holes, but other aspects of the visa system are still left wide open.
3. Myth: H-1B visa holders take technology jobs from American workers, relegating U.S. citizens to lower-paying, non-technical jobs. Reality: Employers may hire workers under H-1B visas only if they cannot find suitable U.S. citizens. The Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration (ETA) set up a technical-skills training grant program, awarding cash to business partnerships that provide computer and engineering training to American workers. The ETA says its goal is to "lessen their dependence on high-skilled foreign workers," not increase it.
The "cannot find" criteria is easy to manipulate. One trick is to list about 10 to 20 unrelated or marginally related computer skills that the probability of anyone actually having is less than the chance of getting hit by lightning. If a citizen applies, they scrutinize them very carefully. But they are lax on their visa candidate (because they already made up their mind). The Department of Labor is not going to send an inspector to verify every face-to-face interview. For they barely even have the resources to verify that the paper-work is filled in properly.

Training Americans for a flooded market is not going to do anybody any good. The "shortage" claims are a sham. I have personally worked side-by-side with visa workers using already-flooded skills and programming languages. They were taking jobs from American citizens.

4. Myth: "Body shops" are middleman recruitment agencies that exploit workers. Reality: Some lawyers and economists suggest that the companies actually help boost the economic and intellectual status of U.S. immigration, and that they helped fuel the late-1990s tech boom by filling positions that the U.S. education system could not fill.
The "shortage" claim is mostly a myth. In 1998 and 1999 during the dot-com bubble and Y2K updates there may have been a legitimate "shortage" of Y2K and web workers, but those days are long gone. Even during that time there was no formal effort to help unemployed IT workers fill those "shortage" positions. The unemployment offices were kept out of the loop.
5. Myth: Most H-1B visa holders are computer programmers imported from India. Reality: H-1B visa holders are diverse, according to the first and only demographic survey by the INS, which was published from 1999 data on the U.S. General Accounting Office Web site: Fifty-nine percent work in information technology, and 5 percent work in electronics or engineering. The rest are mainly teachers, researchers, accountants, auditors, economists, doctors or commercial artists.
Fifty-nine percent qualifies as "most" in most dictionaries. One can say that just about two-thirds are "technology specialists" (59 percent + 5 percent = 64 percent).
6. Myth: H-1B visa holders fill a critical void in the labor market. Reality: Economists, immigration specialists and politicians debate whether the United States--or any capitalist economy--has ever had a shortage of workers. Some say the market will immediately correct for shortages by driving up wages and providing an incentive for Americans to enter underrepresented professions. Others say the problem rests with the U.S. school system, which is not producing the same ratio of science-oriented students as do Asian countries, and the bureaucratic education industry cannot immediately adapt to market changes.
During the dot-com boom, many US students flooded into information technology because they believed that was where the future was. They responded to what appeared to be economic need by following the money. However, the demand for technology workers has been sliding downward ever since, leaving a good many skilled Americans unemployed. The H-1B visa system is Corporate Welfare.

Visa Education Myths | Fixing the Visa System | Offshoring Retraining Myths
Updated 2/7/2004