Pixel Tracker

Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 6:00 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Joe Guzzardi: Fearing H-1B Tightening, Tech Giants Ramp Up Lobbying

Since Congress created the H-1B program in 1990, IT services companies have had things go mostly their way. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics show that the federal government has issued about 1.8 million visas through 2017 to overseas workers who displace or block employment opportunities to experienced, skilled Americans.

H-1B visas are valid for three years, are routinely renewed for an additional three years and routinely lead to citizenship.

But President Donald Trump has ordered tighter H-1B qualifying standards, which have put a big-league scare into tech giants Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro.

In February, USCIS announced that it will require “detailed statements of work or work orders” about the job that would be performed by an H-1B visa holder when employed at a third-party site. Employers will need to file more details, known as requests for evidence (RFE), to confirm why a foreign-born applicant should be given preference over American applicants.

Previously, adjudicating immigration officers didn’t have to review third-party contracts, dates or location of precisely where the H-1B visa holder would be employed.

In anticipation of the April 2 H-1B filing date for fiscal 2019, immigration lawyers have criticized USCIS for overly stringent demands, and India’s largest IT service companies have increased their lobbying budgets.

A Center for Responsive Politics review showed that Tata increased its lobbying expenses 37 percent to $110,000; Infosys, up by a multiple of four to $200,000; and Wipro, up by 5½ times to $130,000. Indian workers receive 70 percent of the total H-1B visas issued every year — 65,000 go to overseas applicants, and 20,000 are reserved for foreign nationals studying in the United States who earn an advanced degree.

The agency defends its more rigorous standards. USCIS noted that it has found “significant employer violations” among H-1B employers that include paying less than the required wage, not paying workers the required wage while they wait for project assignments, and having employees perform nonspecialty occupation jobs.

In short, IT specialists hire many, but pay little.

Employers cannot point to tangible evidence that they truly need overseas workers. In fact, high-ranking industry officials admit that qualified Americans are readily available.

Industry representatives routinely claim that because of a qualified personnel shortage, about 500,000 jobs cannot be filled. But in a moment of rare candor in 2016, then-Infosys chief executive Vishal Sikka admitted that if new regulations slowed the flow of Indian cheap labor techs to the United States, the employers’ solution would be to hire “locally,” meaning American.

“There are enough universities, enough ability to hire, enough ability to teach,” he said.

At the same time that Sikka confirmed what H-1B critics had been insisting for decades — that no shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers existed — the Business Insider reported that HP cut 55,000 jobs between 2012 and 2016; yet, the company filed more than 2,000 labor condition applicationsfor H-1B visas.

And CNBC reported in “Silicon Valley: Much young talent, many fewer jobs,” that at San Francisco’s annual Internapalooza, more than 5,000 college-age students showed up hoping to get a chance at a Silicon Valley job, evidence that an abundant supply of young talent is available.

Understanding why employers love the H-1B visa is easy — it expands the applicant pool which, in turn, allows them to pay less in salaries.

— Joe Guzzardi is an analyst and researcher with Progressives for Immigration Reform who now lives in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter: @joeguzzardi19. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.