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.


5 Comments for "H-1B Visa Holders Not Immune from Pink Slips, Deportation"

  • George March 12, 2009 10:47 am

    There's a huge flaw in Donna's argument. The main issue that everyone talks about is cheap foreign labor becausr of "corporate greed" and willingness to do anything for profits and cutting costs. Donna is talking about high salaries for H1Bs. NO company would give away money to average workers (CEOs and high ranked executives are the only exception, because they ARE the company and the ones who make decisions and of course they want to give themselves the most money). Unless these companies high value in these foreigners, they're not going to give them such high salaries and go through the waiting time and extra fees for visas and such. Why bother with additional red tape and expenses if you can find equally talented work here quicker and cheaper? Contrary to what some people like to believe, companies aren't going out of their way to hurt the American worker (outsourcing probably is the only case but several companies don't do much of that anymore because of the problems inherent to that model). If the company is greedy it will be greedy on a consistent basis and will not spend extra money for the same position to hire a higher-paid foreign worker unless they're that much more talented than an average person applying for the job. Your statement is contradictory and just made the case for a lot of H1Bs. I've seen several highly talented foreign workers but also a lot more ones that aren't worth giving visas to. I highly doubt that the stupid ones I see get 95-105k, but can think of some of my talented foreign colleagues that may get paid that much and I don't see anything wrong with talented people getting paid more. The system needs to be cleaned up to avoid dumb ones from coming over and lowballing on the costs - that's what people should focus on when complaining about H1Bs.

  • Ellen O March 04, 2009 9:13 am

    Send laid off H1-B workers back home Think that is harsh? I work for an Indian company that has just laid off 80 people out of 1,500. 90% of them were 'Western' even though it was clear that in most cases the expertise was with the Westerners (who had much more experience than the recent graduates in Bangalore). And cost is only part of the reason since an experienced tester is worth 5 to 10 trainee testers. They were clearly looking after the interests of their own. And why not? In a down turn it makes sense and rational countries do that. People look after their own. Maybe that is why the US does not!

  • Donna S February 13, 2009 8:17 pm

    These companies such as Bank of America, etc destroyed the pipeline that provided US IT workers back in 2000-2001. They sent the work overseas. Fast foward several years, these overseas workers get visas to come here. Price to company: $90-105k (or more) in salaries; $7K to transfer H1-B; $20k to get person green card after 6 years. Managers of many departments are now of same ethnic background. I have seen sign-on bonuses of $5-10k and up, higher salaries given to people of same ethnic background, people being flown in from their native country to take interviews, people accepting jobs and then taking 4 week off to vacation in their homeland before they start. Trust me, no American would expect this type of treatment. Only in this counrty, people from other countries get treated better than we are. This is economic war and no one sees it. Did anyone ask those idiots who were testifying before Congress whether they have set up any programs to create a pipeline of IT workers for the future. No entry level people were ever hired at the last company I worked for in Boston. Where do they think these people are going to come from in 5 years???????????????? BTW, I have been a technical recruiter for 15 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ram February 10, 2009 9:00 am

    Its understandable that visa and legal immigrants is the topic of discussion and source of heartburn. I would like to bring your attention to 3 points: 1. Any idea what the unemployment rate is for qualified IT / high tech workers? It was 1.5% early January. It could have gone up since then. In general its lower than the rest of the professions. So the idea of H-1Bs robbing jobs unfairly from real qualified people who want to work is local/individual level at the best. 2. Whom can USA afford now? A tax paying legal H-1B or an illegal who depends on the Government for helathcare, kids education among many and also a source of crime. Where should the priorities and loyalties should be for the Americans at this hour? Why is there so much press for outcry about H-1Bs and not the illegals? 3. Similar argument. A major portion of disposable income of every american family is spent buying goods made in foreign countries. The concept of economic trickle down fails when those foreign countries don't buy US amde products and services. Where is the erform or outrage about that? Let us not get carried away because few disgruntled people with access to internet are making bulletin board material

  • john February 07, 2009 9:52 am

    Same crap...'some' different faces! Nothing ever really changes without blood and guts being spilled! Any average guy having done what the bank execs did would be in jail already for years...what do they get?..A trillion dollar 'assistance plan' so they can now throw more American workers out of work for that all 'so yummy' cheap overseas labor...What a great deal for the average guy!

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