Bad News for U.S.Number of H-1B Visa Requests Remains the Same
Insurance Experts' Forum, December 14, 2009
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), U.S. companies are still requesting H-1B visas at about the same rate as last year, allowing these companies to hire lower-paid foreign workers, despite the fact that many U.S.-based workers could fill those same jobs. Incredibly, this is happening at the same time when many of these same companies are actually laying off their current employees.
How can this be, you ask? Shouldn’t we fill jobs here with our own citizens before asking the government to okay importation of foreign workers to fill them? Well, yes, we should, but obviously we don’t. The H-1B visa program, USCIS notes, is used by some U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field and a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors. Of course, it’s the technical folks that concern us here, and if we are to believe the unemployed or underemployed U.S.-based tech workers who have contacted me, our people are being ignored in favor of the H-1B workers—often because the foreign workers can be had for lower salaries.
Despite the rhetoric of President Obama’s recent job summit, U.S. firms seem just as hungry as ever for less-expensive foreign labor while paying only lip service to the need to employ our own citizens. In fact, the president noted that, “One of the great things about this country is we get the best and the brightest talent to study here, and once they study here, they start enjoying the intellectual freedom and the entrepreneurship, they decide to stay, and they start new businesses." Or, they stay here in the jobs they get via H-1B.
You know, I would much prefer to have heard something like: “One of the great things about this country is that we are dedicated to developing the best and the brightest talent here in order to keep our nation’s workforce strong and vital.” I suppose I am dreaming to think that our own leaders would put our country’s needs first, but what’s wrong with a little bit of common sense?
Adding insult to injury, many of the companies requesting these visas are among the most prominent players on the insurance and financial services technology and consulting stages—names you would recognize, but which I will not list here in order to save them the embarrassment. I must confess that I am old enough to remember the days when it really meant something for a company to be a “good corporate citizen.” Today, however, throats are so easily cut, especially when they belong to U.S.-born workers who might actually want to be paid a decent wage.
Now don’t get me wrong by thinking that I have something against H-1B workers. I have met several such individuals, and have always found them to be bright, articulate and hard-working. I do not question their qualifications, and I wish them only the best, but I cannot sanction hiring them for U.S.-based jobs when our own equally qualified citizens remain out of work.
I wonder, too, about those who actually make the decisions to request H-1B workers rather than hire homegrown talent. Do they ever think to themselves: “By hiring these 400 foreign workers, I am taking jobs away from 400 of my fellow citizens?” Probably not. How could they sleep at night if they did?
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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