H-1B Visa Holders Not Immune from Pink Slips, Deportation


Guest Blogger: Don Sears

More fodder for the H-1B visa saga -- one that many U.S. workers know all too well: Lay-offs.

Here's the twist: If holders of a H-1B visa is laid-off and cannot find work almost immediately, they must leave the country.

As the MercuryNews points out, Silicon Valley companies and other organizations are vying to keep these workers here in the States, while some in Congress publicly suggest that companies like Microsoft, which just had layoffs, should let go H-1B visa holders before Americans are put out of a job.

There is no easy answer to the problem, especially when jobs are in tight supply.

Perhaps some sort of reasonable time extension -- say, several months -- would make sense. As of now, the law requires individuals to pack up and move almost immediately. While it may be difficult to empathize, at least for some American workers who feel they have received a raw deal in this economy, it's hard to blame anyone trying to improve their family's life when they are here legally.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press has an investigative piece that looks at major U.S. banks trying to take advantage of H-1B programs while laying off American workers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to disclose details on foreign workers hired at the banks that have received federal bailouts. The AP has requested the information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Nearly all the banks the AP contacted also declined to comment on their foreign hiring practices. Arlene C. Roberts, spokeswoman for State Street Corp. of Boston, which has received $2 billion in bailout money, said the company has reduced H-1B hiring in recent years, and just hires for specialized positions.

Jennifer Scott of Yreka, Calif., a retired technical systems manager at Bank of America in Concord, Calif., said in 2004 she oversaw foreign employees from a contractor firm that also sent overnight work to employees in India.

"It had nothing to do with a shortage, but they didn't want to pay the U.S. rate," she said, adding that the quality of the work was weak. "It's all about numbers crunching."

I imagine the debate over H-1B visas--which economist Milton Friedman called a "government subsidy" seven years ago--is going to become a larger, political debate in this rapidly charged year of recession.


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