By Debashish Sinha – Chief Marketing Officer, Systems In Motion
I’ve been reading Prof. Vivek Wadhwa’s posts on TechCrunch and other media outlets with great interest, and a growing sense of consternation. I admire him greatly for his positive contribution to the technology industry and academia. It’s also for this reason, I’m compelled to try to dispel a myth Prof. Wadhwa appears to be rather naively spreading, that better regulation of H1B visas being enacted in the current immigration bill that past recently in the Senate will somehow harm Silicon Valley innovation.
The most recent example of this, is the post “Big Labor’s Anti-Immigration Rumor Machine“ dated June 28, 2013, and a HBR Blog post titled “De-bunking Myths About Highly-Skilled Talent and the Global Race for Talent“ dated June 24, 2013.
In these articles, Prof. Wadhwa uses data compiled by the Brookings Institute that is highly circumspect (more on that later) suggesting that a H1-B worker is paid more than an American born worker for the same job, and extrapolates its finding to conclude that there is a huge shortage of skilled labor in the U.S. and it should be filled by loosening guest worker programs, not regulating or tightening them.
I’d like to debunk Prof. Wadhwa’s “myth debunking” with just one piece of data that is actually the most relevant.
Below are the Top 10 US Employers of H-1B Guest Workers. These are the number of petitions accepted by the USCIS for H-1Bs in 2013. The thing that is almost immediately, glaringly, noticeable is the lack of names like Google and Facebook on this list. In fact, none of these companies are Silicon Valley companies whose businesses are ostensibly being hampered by a lack of highly skilled talent. These companies, instead, are all Outsourcing companies whose businesses are tied to cost reduction through labor-cost arbitrage.
|Outsourcing companies using most visas, reducing visa availability for US tech industry*|
|*Compiled by Computerworld from USCIS data|
These companies are so hungry for these H-1B visas for people working on the front-end of outsourcing engagements, that they gobble up all the visas making it near impossible for the true innovators looking for highly skilled foreign talent to actually acquire them. There are, in fact, visa petitions for the H-1B visas placed by these outsourcing companies within a very short period of time that fills out the entire quota for the year. For the Year 2014, the USCIS started accepting applications on April 2, 2013. By April 7, 2013 the there were 124,000 petitions filed and a “lottery” determined the 65,000 who would receive the visa.
In 5 days the USCIS received nearly twice as many petitions as the cap! The Top 10 visa petitioners were all outsourcing companies. Does anyone really believe that the best way to help Silicon Valley companies access the best and brightest in the world is to increase the available visas and loosen regulation? Seriously?
This travesty does not even take into account the countless workers who come into the country on L-1A (Intra-company transfers) and B-1 (business visit visas) and misuse the intent of those visas to essentially displace a potential American worker.
In order to ensure that American businesses can find the right talent at a reasonable cost there are many things we as a country can do. From improving education policy, creating better post-education training programs, encouraging STEM education, and yes, drawing in the brightest minds from around the globe with the promise of a superior quality of life. What we must not do is allow people to abuse that desire, or the solutions we create to alleviate the challenges.
The Senate immigration bill S.744 is a step in the right direction for much needed reform in the high-skilled immigration area. The bill provides innovative American companies better access to world-class talent by increasing the H-1B visa cap and allowing more green cards for exceptional foreign students and workers. The bill also defines a category of companies as H1B dependent employers (those companies that are notorious at gobbling up H-1B visas) and tries to impose some limits, and additional costs on them.
No wonder these companies and their collective association, NASSCOM, is spending so much money on their lobbying operations with the American policymakers, and using Professor Wadhwa’s naiveté to influence American businesses and the public.