Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
The Almighty Buck

H-1B Tech Workers May Be Severely Underpaid 307

DocBones sent a link to a provocative story in The Business Journal of San Jose about how foreign high-tech workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas often earn far less than they are worth, perhaps because the terms of their visas make switching jobs so hard that they can't bid out their services effectively. Industry spokespeople deny any wage differences. Trade groups keep on lobbying to raise the current 115,000/year cap on H-1B visas to 200,000/year. The whole issue is a mass of claims and counter-claims, each one "supported" by statistics and surveys. Is there a "right" side or a "wrong" side here? Does anyone with first-hand experience as an H-1B worker care to comment?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

H-1B Tech Workers May Be Severely Underpaid

Comments Filter:
  • Well, I DID move from one of the richest countries (Switzerland) to the US, and I took a 30% pay cut.

    BUT: Prices being far lower here in San Diego, and a host of other things which we value highly as a family adding positive points to the tally, it made our own standard of living come out about equal. Plus, there's a far bigger job market locally in my field (biotech/biotech-related comouting) than anywhere in my country. And we haven factored in the climate yet. :)
    All these comparisons and evaluations are going to be different for each person, but for us it was a no-brainer, pay cut or not.

  • The H1-B program should be shut down. Having indentured workers in the industry hurts workers, both H1-B and citizens. It would be better to just let them in, i.e. give them green cards. Then they can negotiate for a higher wage. The H1-B program is a good deal for companies because indentured workers are cheap workers.

    Our immigration policy makes no sense. We make it too hard for productive people to come here from China and India, for example. But then, we let Castro dump his prisons and insane asylums on Florida. We allow people to immigrate who will mooch off "the system". The policy is bass-ackards. The H1-B visa was probably created as a workaround but it is being abused.
  • Perhaps because the person from America is less likely to move to Denmark and leave the project hanging?
    That is the only legitimate reason I can think of for paying foreign workers who aren't yet citizens less. There IS a risk associated with it, though a small and flimsy one.

  • West Roxbury is fairly nice. I live in the student slums of Allston/Brighton, and my rent is $550/m. I'd suggest Quincy - Altus used to live there, and it's on the Red Line and still very cheap.
  • Yes, buying a $200 plane ticket is resourceful. The vast majority of people in a less-developed country couldn't afford one. Or didn't you know that?

    I've done a lot of remote work. There's no substitute for physical presence.
  • Santa Clara programmer, if you are already in the United States as an H-1B why would you want additional H-1B's to be issued? It seems to me that you would be even more impacted by the competition then citizens would be.

    I am sorry that one of your countrymen is so obnoxious to you simply because he got here a little bit before you did but that is the way of the world I guess. People are the same all over.

  • Folks:

    There are some basic and rather fundamental things that are being missed in this discussion. Anecdotal evidence for abuse is easy to find, but the most important issues are being missed by focussing on individual cases.

    That is, the companies primary motivation to bring on an H1B person is to lower their employment costs. Period. Moreover the apocryphal nonesense promolguated by many tech companies as to why they need more H1B's is absolutely insulting. The one and only reason they want H1Bs here is to lower their costs. That is to raise their profits.

    While you may argue one way or another about how good this is, remember that a business is in business to make a profit for those that own the business. Period. The H1B mechanism allows them to lower costs (which count against profits).

    What this creates unfortunately is a technological underclass of worker. That is, a person who is bound to a particular employer for a period of time via the H1B mechanism. The argument is that the H1B provides a method for the employer to pave the way for the H1B to enter the country as a contributing member supplying a badly needed skill.

    The problem is that the skills are not all that badly needed. This is rather grossly misrepresented by our high tech lobbyists in DC. The H1B effect is not just to bind a set of workers more closely to an employer, but to also depress the market for wages for those not on the H1B, as they are competing for the same jobs as the H1B people.

    So if you are starting to get the point I am trying to make, that employers are using this to help contain their costs, well, then you are on the right track of understanding what is going on here. I do not apologise for this policy, I abhor it. It is important to understand it regardless of how frustrating it is to deal with it.

    I would prefer a free and open job market, but it doesn't exist. The high tech salaries are exploding far faster than profits and growth. This should be something that H1B people can take advantage of. Unfortunately with the program in place as it is now, they cannot. They are effectively excluded from this market. The market for H1B people is in fact an attempt to regulate and control the wages for the non-H1B types.

    So we are left with a legal binding contract, placing a person into the bowels of an organization for a set period of time. Last I heard, we outlawed that practice in this country (US) 135 years ago.

    Apparantly there are loopholes to be closed.

  • I don't have any experience with an H1-B, but my gf does. She's a staffing coordinator at a rather large company in Silicon Valley. She explained to me the common practise (not her practise, she just handles temps) a few days ago. According to her:

    Indians are brought over in boatloads. They're granted H1-B's, and several are crammed into a tiny apartment. They're paid way below the current rate, so they can't afford to move, or do anything social, or afford "luxuries" like cable tv. This works out perfectly for the employer--since the employee doesn't have anything to do other than work, they spend ~10-14 hours a day working.

    I replaced a guy at a job a few years back who was stuck like this. He had a ton more experience than I did, but he was getting paid roughly the same as I was, even though I was a newhire with almost no experience.
  • I am so tired of hearing about H-1B visas. I am US Citizen computer engineer, and feel this has hampered my gameful employment. Last year, right out of college, the only reason I got a job was a friend with the defense company I work for now. I tried, unsuccessfully, for many months, emailing and sending letters, resumes, and calling to no success. I couldn't even get a return phone call to either companies in the boston or silicon valley areas. Again I am hunting for a job and am running into the same problem. At job fairs, I receive comments on how great my resume is, I analyze with friends how I handled situations, etc. and they find no fault with my search, but still, no return, or even initial calls. Granted, as a result of no returned phone calls, I can not determine the exact nature of my lack of interest, but I feel very strongly that the visas do effect my chances. As was said in the 'I'm an Indian programmer working in Santa Clara':
    "My boss, for instance, only hires H1-B workers on his team (4/5 people are H1-Bs). There's supposed to be some requirement that he is supposed to search for American workers, but what he does is find an Indian, find some experience that the Indian has that is uncommon, and make that a requirement of the hiring process. That way, he can make a cursory search of the job listings, and say that there isn't a qualifed American worker."
    I don't advocate the expulsion of all workers with visas, by far they are very necessary as there is a strong desire for programmers, IT experts, etc. My mother constantly is bugging me to create a program to do this and that for her. However, my experience has shown me that companies first look overseas before searching for a possibly qualified american. If anyone is interested in seeing my resume or has any constructive suggestions, I would appreciate them greatly. I can be emailed at:

    "God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically." - Albert Einstein
  • This is my 3rd time over working as a temporary worker in the U.S. I had to wait 10-15 minutes at the border for the official to sign my VISA, but that's about it. I'm on a student J1 visa.

    If you have a degree or relevant expereince as a Canadian, the TN-1 VISA works wonders.

    Me thinks you just didn't go through the right channels. A year wait is wait too long - even an H1B only takes 4 months.

  • Big-O doesn't necessarily have to do with execution time, though that's what it's typically used for. It's also frequently used for memory usage. ie: "this algorithm uses a O(n^2) buffer"

    O(log n) isn't the nicest, O(1) is. O(1) is constant time. And yes, it does happen. ie: inserting at the head of a linked list is typically O(1), as opposed to inserting at the head of an array, which is O(n).

    And saying "if it's O(n^2) or worse, dump the algorithm" is going too far. For sorting algorithms this may be true, but for other algorithms, O(n^2) might be very good. There are some things where there is no known efficient algorithm, where "efficient" is defined as polynomial time. So there are cases where you even have to deal with inefficient algorithms like O(n!) or O(2^n).

    Also note that O-notation refers to "growth". Quicksort is O(n log n), and Linear insertion sort is O(n^2), so Quicksort wins for large datasets. Most linear insertion sort implementations will beat most quicksort implementations for very small datasets though. (and many implementations of 'qsort' will actually do something other than quicksort for very small datasets)

    Oh, and there are also cases where variables other than n will come up. For instance, in text searching, one might say n is the length of the text, and m is the length of the substring. The typical brute-force string search is O(n*m). KMP (Knuth-Morris-Pratt) is O(n+m^2) I believe. If m is small, and n is very large (as is usually the case), then KMP wins. Also, the O(m*m) part can actually be done once for the substring. Each search in each body of text is then just O(n).

    And to get almost back on topic, I'm working in the US on a TN Visa (that's "Temporary NAFTA"). I'm from Canada. TN's are also tied to employers, but since TN's are significantly easier to get compared to H1's, that probably isn't as much of an issue, but it is an issue.
  • How do you get a H-1B? What is it? I already have a visa, but it's nearly maxed. Does that matter?
  • I am not a citizen of the United States.
    What is a H-1B worker?
  • My company has an office in the UK, and I see this too - it's friggin unbeleivable how you folks can get by. Gasoline is like 5 times what it costs in the states. Food, like double. Rent avg about the Bay area. Own a home? not bloody likely. And the pay is generally less.

    Then when we were talking about stock options, the brits were saying, "screw stock options, just give us a raise now".
    Personally, I've done VERY well with my stock options, and if I could trade my options for a 10% pay raise four years ago, I would NOT do it, even though, as a non-programmer, I don't make all that much.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • In the Bay Area, $60k is not quite enough to live on, let alone raise a family.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • is THIS a common slashdot view????
  • Yes I agree. That company of which you speak will hire you for a Canadian branch office, pay you $38000 per year (Cdn and that's the low end of the IT pay spectrum in Canada). They then "loan" you to their American branch offices (Detroit, Denver, Boston etc) for and unlimited amount of time and still pay you your Canadian wages, as if you were living in Toronto!(BTW that comes out to $25080 USD per year as of this morning). Their lawyers will get you a TN-1 or BN-1 (for "training") which you will work under. They also try to say if you quit before 2 years you owe them the cost of your training (between $4000 and $9000 USD, depending on how long you were in training). Now, maybe I'm out of line, but doesn't that sound like wage slavery or indebtured servitude to you? Isn't this the same way Asian sex slaves are brought into North America?
    They do this to Canadian citizens and others all the time.
    Also, I'd like to remind many of you who have been posting why most HB-1 workers are coming to the US - because they are needed. There are thousands of unfilled IT positions out there, in both the US and Canada. HB-1 workers aren't taking your jobs, they are filling jobs that would otherwise go vacant. American companies have more IT positions than there are qualified people to fill them. Without HB-1 workers, the US economy would suffer.
    Given that, whay should these needed people be exploited? I thought the US was the land of the Free? "Give me your tired, huddled masses yearning to be free"?!?.
    Most HB-1 folks are very highly skilled professionals who will do good work. Unfortunately, in such a market, unscrupulous "Agencies" will recruit anyone under the HB-1, pay them crap or deliver inferior workers just to pocket the finders fee. These agencies always get their money but workers get screwed by the bad rep the HB-1 gets and companies loose out because they don't get the workers the so desparately need.

    Remember, its the companies who want an increase in the HB-1 quotas, no the workers...

  • Maybe they still earn much, much more than they did in their home country?

    On the other hand, they'd have to pay at least twice of what I earn here in Europe to make me move to the US. Kind of like an extra for hazardous duty...
  • Amen to that. I don't earn an awful lot here in the UK, but you'd have to pay me a hell of a lot just to consider going to the US to work. FBI taking your fingerprints when you join a company? No thank you.
  • Since you've given such a detailed response... now that I go over your original post again, I can see what your actual point is. (The "technical schlong" reference threw me.)

    There are indeed plenty of organizations that do not ascribe to the principles that you've elaborated on. There are even more that do follow them for most of the development process, but run things differently at their most basic levels. (The very place where Brooks developed the OS/360 architecture is one of them.) In these places it's widely thought that the only necessary communication is I/O. Once the required input and the desired output are communicated across, a function is written by the programmer to do the work. The programmers in such places have no view into the overall project they are working on, and may not even know what the project is. The functions may be simple or elaborate, varied or homogeneous... to these organizations it does not matter as long as they are done. Such basics as code optimization and reliability are occasionally (some would argue more frequently) thrown out the window in favor of assembling a product fast enough to beat competitors to market.

    An assembly line mentality it may be, but unfortunately (this is in my experience) that's how things are currently done in many large US companies. In such an environment, cheap(er) labor is preferred over communications skills, or even more skillful programming in some instances.

    Of course, I still think 115K is a high enough ceiling, for this day and age, if one is going to be set. The arguments for or against having a ceiling at all are varied and I'm certain there are many good, reasonable places to stand on both sides of the issue. I currently haven't read enough (or been interested enough) to make a concrete decision about it. *shrug*

  • It depends where you live. In Boston's Back Bay, you will find that rent alone can cost somewhere around $1500/month for a cramped one-bedroom apartment. Then there's parking. Expenses can quickly add up. Of course, rent gets cheaper the further away from the city you are, but I am caught in an interesting catch-22: to move out of the city so that I can pay less rent I need a car, but I can't afford a car unless I move out of the city.

    Though I am making significantly more than what I was being paid in Montreal, I am finding that the cost of living in Boston is so much higher that I am hardly saving any money.

    The H-1B is a _work_permit_ not a _visa_. I was _corrected_ by a border inspector on a trip back to Canada when I made this mistake. Like the TN-1, it permits you to legally work in the US. It lasts for three years but you can only renew it once. Unlike the TN-1, you can apply for a green card while holding an H-1B. People usually follow these steps when moving to the US permenantly from Canada:

    TN-1 -> H-1B -> Green Card -> Citizenship
  • I worked for a major company in the valley (which was listed yesterday in the benifits article). Most of the people in my group were Indian or from Pakistan. Several people in my group were working on their green cards. Those who got them left the company. I feel sorry for the one who had to stay at the company after 95% of the group was layed off. He now must work like a slave until he gets that green card (where I expect him to tell the company where to shove the job).

    About half of the group were consultants from Wipro, an Indian contracting firm. Those who got the chance jumped ship to other companies who could sponsor them for a green card (i.e. Cisco, 3Com, etc.).

    At my current company we had 3 Indian consultants who recently quit because of problems with the consulting company. Due to our contract with the contracting firm we could not hire them full-time. They were excellent engineers and were treated like full-time engineers. From what I have been told, a significant portion of an H-1 engineer's salary goes to the contracting house, which is associated with the Indian government. It is often just as expensive, or even more expensive, to hire an H-1 engineer than a full-time employee. Sometimes there's no choice. It depends on the company as to how the contractors are treated. Some are treated very well, others are not. As for the pay, it is negotiated between the company and the contracting house, and the contractor often has very little say.

    Right now we are looking for full-time engineers with networking experience. Most of the candidates I have interviewed have been major disappointments. Most do not have basic C programming skills which are necessary in an embedded environment.

    The Indians I have worked with have proven to be highly talented and very hard working (both those with H-1's and those who've gained their citizenship). I think part of the problem is that there ARE NOT enough American born engineers with the right skills. Large companies like Cisco seem to suck up a huge percentage of networking engineers, and our colleges are not spitting out enough qualified computer engineer/science graduates. I've interviewed some of the recent grads. Some don't know big-O notation or the difference between a linked list and a binary tree, which is pathetic.
  • H1-B is a visa which allows a foreign citizen to work / conduct business in the US and get paid for it. Here's the description from the US Embassy site in Hong Kong.

    H-1B classification applies to persons in a specialty occupation which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. This classification requires a labor attestation issued by the Secretary of Labor (65,000). This classification also applies to Government-to-Government research and development, or coproduction projects administered by the Department of Defense (100);


  • I am US Citizen computer engineer, and feel this has hampered my gameful employment.

    Maybe it's all because we, foreigners, can write the word "gainful" in your language without some weird and ironic misspelling?

  • H1-B visas are a classic trick of employers-- align one group of laborers against another. First, they find a legal (and by legal I mean through the legal system with no connotations of justice) way to reduce the wages of one group of laborers (in this case foreign tech), and replace the higher paid laborers with new cheaper. In the past, the workers have been too caught up with being angry at the new workers to attack the legal system through which this entire process is maintained.

    So, Re: H1-B visas.
    The issue isn't whether foreign workers are qualified to do the work. There are brilliant people everywhere. The only real difference is the language barrier, but everybody else in the world knows which country is taking all the money and therefor which language it would be useful to know (even if it's just cause you're stuck in some dumb tourism job).

    The H1-B visas should be modified to increase the foreign workers fluidity between jobs. Limiting the number if visas is bad b/c it doesn't change the exploitave (sp?) conditions of the visa. Limiting numbers also prevents qualified foreign workers from being employed in their American-dominated field. The best solution is to give those workers as many options as thier American counter-parts.

    And in the long run, we had better wake up. As computers become commodities, geeks will become more and more like every other employee. This means that we will see more and more labor tactics used against us. Remember the other articles about older programmers looking for work in Silicon Valley? It may be a meritocracy, but there is little doubt that employers are not going to stick to just those rules when it comes time to cut costs.

    So wake up. Realize that we have to group together, not just to create a great OS or a great application, but to ensure that we can continue to be employed on our terms, not the employers.

    And while we're at it, let's start looking at ways of helping all employees to be employed on their own terms, not that of the companies which profit off of what we build.

    ...unlike RMS, you can call me a Communist all you want. Not accurate, but not to far from the truth either.

  • When I was on an H1 (no B suffix, I think that's a new variation?), I was paid $26K/year. Not great for a an engineer with 5+ years experience. This was 1986-1989, so adjust for inflation if you wish. And it was in one of the highest cost-of-living parts of the US.

    I also was constantly subjected to "visa blackmail", where my enployer could demand almost ANYTHING, under direct threat of firing me, knowing that I could not legally work in any other job and would be on the next plane out of the country.

    However much some other posters minimize this problem, for me it was VERY real.
  • I just thought I'd point out that the 115,000 mentioned in the article is not a dollar amount; rather it's a number representing the quota for H1B visas issued annually...I don't believe there is a limit on an H1B salary.
  • I am currently working in the US on H1B visa and have been for 4 years with two different companies. When I moved to the valley from abroad my starting salary was probably $25K under what it should have been. Most of this was my own ignorance and what I was willing to accept. Yes, the employer took advantage of me, but it was not something they could expect to last. I was only here a few weeks before I clued in and let my boss know I knew I was being underpaid. I saw 30%+ increases each year until my salary was more market equitable.

    When I applied at my second employer there was no question that I would be paid "going rate". I believe I am now paid the same as a American worker would be paid. Talking to many other H1-B workers I have found that most are paid going rate in their current jobs, though some have had to change jobs to get fair pay.

    I think the whole issue of "cheap foreign labour" in the H1-B debate is a red herring. There really is high demand, employees very quickly after arriving learn what the going rate is for their skills and employers want to retain them -- net result, most H1-B workers are paid market rates.

    The real bottom line is that silicon valley is, in part, successful because it is a concentration of skills and a "brain drain" on the entire world. Should the US government not support this and limit its growth by limiting the number of workers, those people will be working in places other than silicon valley. Eventually silicon valley won't matter as much.

  • I was wondering if fellow TN-holders might oblige my curiosity by posting the number of TN visas you've had, over the number of years. I'll start: 7 visas, 7 years.

    I'm interested in whether TN visas are really being used for temporary purposes or not. I think not, but I also don't believe we're taking jobs away from Americans (c'mon folks, there are *plenty* of jobs out there, I could literally get three offers a week until Hell freezes over, and believe me, I'm not underpaid.)

    Sure glad Slashdot is protecting my anonymity... I think the INS doesn't like us.
  • In the last five years I've hired two foreign nationals via the H-1B process. It was a natural outgrowth of increased internet usage. In 1993 we began usenet advertising to expand our engineer search beyond local papers and universities. We hired from around the US as a result. Soon it became obvious that the top-flight programmers that made themselves known (generally via some type of open-source work) we not always within our borders. Our most recent international hire was an Italian who did an amazing job overhauling the Mac port of a US university's compiler project (in his spare time). Our H-1B employees are paid as well as their US counterparts and see raises commensurate with their increasing value to the company. To do otherwise embitters the employee.

    However, I must agree the potential for abuse is huge. I once interviewed a Chinese Ph.D. that was currently on an H-1B with another company. He was told to lie about his education and claim a BS so they could get away with paying him $35K.
  • Thank you for the advice. I went to a bunch of salary calculators on the web. The kind where you enter your knowledge and experience and it tells you how much you're worth. Almost all said that for NYC I'm slightly underpaid, but I like the people I work with and I'm getting good experience so I'm not worried anymore. It's just that reading about people coming to work in the US with little to no experience and making 60K kind of made me feel like I was getting shafted.
  • In the Bay Area, $60k is not quite enough to live on, let alone raise a family.

    I'm at fault there... that part of my statement was based primarily on where I currently live (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina). I'd still argue that if you can't find a location within a decent commute range where $115k/year can support you and your family, you either have a VERY large family or it's time to look at your spending habits.

  • But if the workers work overseas, then they spend their money overseas, so "the common folk" don't get the benefit of their US employment. Everyone has two hands to work, but one mouth to feed as well, so every new person working in the high-tech field increases the employment of everyone who's already here.
  • You are correct, if we deported all of the foreign workers, the US economy would collapse, not because there is a shortage of skilled workers, but because there is a shortage of CHEAP skilled workers. It's been a major force in keeping US inflation in check, by keeping the average wage down, ignoring the MARKET PRESSURE induced by DEMAND, to raise salaries to attract talent. People would rather be doctors or lawyers than engineers in this country, because you make much more money being a doctor or lawyer. So when the DEMAND for engineers goes up, and the salary doesn't, the supply gets tight, which SHOULD raise the salaries to attract more talent, but not if the company's would rather spend money lobbying congress for higher caps on H1-B visas, so they wouldn't have to pay engineers more, so the engineers could move into those exclusive subdivisions with all the doctors and lawyers, and really start cranking up inflation, which would raise interest rates, which would chill the stock market, which would hurt the corporate holdings. . .

    Ah, NOW I see why!

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • The dollar that gets exported often stays there, as the foreign stable currency of preference, all praise Greenspan.

    If the worker is legal, then you can't "send 'em back to whereeverganistan."

    We still have very high wages. Open immigration would raise our wages, because increased productivity is the only thing that does.
  • Last I checked, Europe was not part of the western hemisphere, though I suppose continental drift might have changed that since then.
  • My experience with the H-1 employees is that their English is better than mine (I am native born). Yes, they have an accent, but one gets used to it.

  • It's a good analogy, but...:

    Most stock-option slaves are out-of-college twentysomethings. Most H-1B slaves are out-of-grad school thirtysomethings, a lot with wifes and kids. Unemployable wifes and kids, either because of language skills or legal limitations, or (often) both.

    Stock-option slaves know the culture, society, the rules of the game. They choose to be in the game and stay in it. H-1Bs may choose to take the chance, but once in it, it's not that easy to leave. You built up credit debts (which are impossible to pay in USD if you move back to say, India, and make 1/10th the amount of money, even for the same level of quality of lige), some countries may look down on you (say, China, Iran, Syria) for migrating to the US in the first place, etc.

    Stock-option slaves have rights; they can leave and return to the US at will. Not so with H-1Bs. You need a Multiple Reentry permit, which in itself isnt too hard to get, but it costs time and money.

    Stock-option slaves pay Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and can expect to get coverage. Not so for H-1Bs, unless you invest the 5-10 yrs to get a Green Card and claim that coverage. Yet, the fees are still deducted from pay...

    Finally, I though /.ers for one would realize that foreign tech workers increase the damn salaries, not decrease them. The fact that there are people willing to come to this country and work, even for 40-50% of the national average salary of their peers, keeps the industry in the US.

    Get your heads out of your cubes people: look at the automotive industry, consumer electronics, clothing, agriculture... If the US makes it harder for people to come here, they will stay at home. In the age of the Internet it doesnt matter much anyways... Can your SF-lifestyle-paying company compete with an outfit out of say the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Russia, India? These guys can charge $1,000 for a site license, kill the US-based competition and still live a life of luxury at home... Yeah, that's the way to keep your salaries, close the doors... And this from Open Sourcers...

  • It depends on what you do, how good you are, and if you switch jobs.

    At least in SV you'd probably start at a minimum of 50K/year.

    I started at 38K/year 5 years ago. My salary rose very fast after I demonstrated that I had the skills. If all you do is hack together web sites you'll make one salary. If your skills are more valuable (i.e. know how to write computer networking code, embedded, device drivers, etc.) you will make a lot more.
  • You'll get conflicting advice on this. The doctrine of dual intent currently doesn't preclude going from TN to green card, but it doesn't actively endorse it. Check out [] for lots of good info.
  • Right on the nose man. I'm one semester from getting my degree in Computer Science, and I know for a fact that we are underpayed. If the congress gets its way, then I don't expect to do much better. I mean what good is it to start out at 50,000 a year if it takes every penny just to scrape by.
  • Your getting screwed big time. I go to a small university in New Mexico. My friend just graduated with a 2.8 GPA in Computer Science and Sears just hired her for 52k to start with a 7500 dollar sign on bonus. With your kickass background and experience you should be making at least 70k or more especially living in that area of the country. (Costs more to live)
  • $60,000/year is a very mediocre salary. During the 1960s, my dad made $17,000/year, and he bought a brand new 4 bedroom house that was less than his annual salary for $14,000! (And he was under 30 years old too!) Just imagine if you got paid $450,000/year salary today; so that you could buy a new house with 4 bedrooms for $400,000 in a safe neighborhood! That is the average cost of a home in most major cities and high-tech regions today. And that's for an 30 year old house that is a far cry from being anywhere near 3,000 sq. ft. This just shows us how much the standard of living has declined! ...and don't forget, during the 60s most people bought a new car every 2 years...usually paying "cash" for the vehicle! Where's THAT OPPPORTUNITY TODAY!
  • I'm an American citizen, but I work for a Silicon Valley company where a significant portion of the workforce is on H1-B's. I've been in the position of having to hire in this company, and I can tell you that it is very difficult to find resumes from Americans here. At least 80% of the resumes that you get from going to a hiring fair like Westech are from recent immigrants. I can tell you that there is no discrimination or salary-gouging in the process when hiring at this company.

    On the other hand, I also have friends who have come over to this country through contracting houses who basically seem to indenture the people they bring over. These companies seem to try to keep their employees in the dark about immigration laws to make them afraid of switching jobs all the while skimming a significant portion of their employees wages. The companies I know about are run by "entrepreneurs" (con artists?) from the countries from which they draw their workforce.

    The fact is that given the shortage of skilled workers here, many American companies are willing to go through the H1-B visa transfer hassle and hire immigrants directly. If more of the people working for the "slave traders" knew this, I suspect they would find that they could relatively quickly (2-3 months) spring themselves free from their exploitative employment.
  • Simple, if demand is high, and supply is short, pay more.

    Overbid Cisco, or 3com or whatever.

    Pay them, and they will come, they will stay.

    If you can't handle the bidding war, then you don't deserve the quality candidates. If your company can't afford it, then maybe you need to hire an accountant to spell it out for you. Or maybe your marketroids could stand a pay cut or two, or four.

    That's the whole point of the capitalist system. People who are in demand expect higher pay.

    Is this such a hard concept for you corporate slogs to understand?

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • You havn't done much interviewing lately have you? I work in SV at a networking company. Finding qualified people with the right skills is almost impossible. We have to compete with companies like Cisco, 3COM, Bay, Lucent, and so on for programmers with embedded or networking experience.

    If you drop by and have the skills, you're hired. End of story. If you don't have the skills, turn around and walk back out that door.

    I am quite disappointed that most of the candidates I interview can't pass a fairly simple programming test (which I borrowed from Cisco).

    At my company, for example, an MFC programmer won't do since they probably don't have the necessary embedded and/or networking skills.

    My company is hiring and we're having a hell of a time finding qualified candidates.

  • i was born in canada so english is my first language. but i learned (forced) french in school. so french is my 2nd language. and because i learned it in school, my grammar and structure is much better in french than in english.

    see, i pick up all the slang and colloquisms in english because i talk to most ppl in english and so i pick up and learn their incorrect grammer. but since the only french i'm exposed to is in the classroom, the only type of french i know is proper french (not quebecois, international french).

    so, in general, ppl's second language is usually better than their first language. i think the only thing difficult about understanding foreigner's english may be the accent.


  • Why not just suggest "we have successfully reintroduced slavery". Just instead of importing lower quality"not quite people" from africa and asia you now import "lower quality" H1, J1 and other
  • I am a H1-B worker and I want to clarify a few facts for those that don't know anything about it and those that seem to be confused (which includes our Indian Anonymous Coward).

    An H1-B is a visa that your employer gets for you. The employee has nothing to do - except get the stamp from the ambassy, which is pretty much guaranteed since INS approved the H1-B. The employer can get you a visa that last 1 to 3 years at a time, and it can be renewed until you reach a maximum of 6 years. (in other words, you can get 2 three year visa in your life time, or 6 one year visa, or 3 two year visa, etc.). The visa is fairly easy to get as long as you are qualified for the job AND - as a requirement for the Labor Certification (from the Labor Department) - you are paid at least 95% of what they think you should be paid for what you do in your area. Assuming that there are visas available, it only takes a couple of months - if that.

    SO - not only does the law prevents you from being grossly underpaid (you can't get the visa to begin with if you are), but from my experience, I am most definetely not underpaid considering that I make a little less that $70,000 and I graduated from college about 1 year ago. Also I live in the Pennsylvania, so it's not like housing is sky high like in NYC or Silicon Valley - just to put my salary in perspective.

    I am very happy with my job so I have not tried, but switching companies is not a big deal. Well, everything is relative I suppose - your new employer does have to file another petition with INS but considering the pretty short processing time (at least at the Vermont service center) it is not the end of the world, and you won't "waste" any of the 6 year limit. Yuo can also have 2 jobs at the same time I believe, but once again I am busy enough with one - I didn't look into that :)

    Why do I want or need an H1-B? Like myself, a lot of foreign students get one year of "Practical Training" at the end of their studies. If you get an internship and they like you enough to keep you, they may get you an H1-B which will buy them time to get you a Green Card. The H1-B is fairly easy to get (although companies will still use immigration lawyers to get them - just to be safe) while the Green Card is a little bit more complicated but also takes A LOT more time. In my case, I am on the "fast track" for the Green Card and that will still take a little less than 3 years :) The H1-B gives me the opportunity to work while the application is processed, as opposed to wait home or something.

    If I quit my job would my company cancel me green card application? Probably. In fact I am pretty sure, so yes I suppose if I want that Green Card badly enough I am tied to the company I am with for 3 years. But that's not to say that another company wouldn't willing to apply for the Green Card either... Besides, since I work for a consultant firm I can work pretty much for anyone and STILL be technically employed by the same person, so who care!

  • Are you sure it wasn't a FOAF?

    A good friend of mine from the Netherlands told me his mother was worried about him coming to the States. She thought it would be similar to "Mad Max" or something.

    My mother is from Jamaica. When she came to the U.S. in the 1960's to go to college she was amazed that there was actually wide open spaces with farms and cows. She was expecting to see something like Manhattan. Hehhehehehe.

    The moral of the story is that the U.S. is pretty much like everywhere else. I wonder if you've lived anywhere else? I have - The Netherlands, Sweden, as well as good ol' U-S-of-A. There are nice places everywhere you go.

  • I'm an H1-B worker. Yes, I'm underpaid. Yes, the world is not fair. Didn't you know that?

    You came here from miserable undeveloper countries. You are lucky that you have high education and necessary skills to come to US. You have no future at home. You still are better off in US. Stop whining. These 2-3-4 years will pass, you get your green card and then you kiss your slavemaster goodbye and get your high salary.

    It's that simple. If you whine and stir the pot they (US Government) will close this hole too. Now it's next to impossible to immigrate to US as it is, you got your chance - don't spoil it for others.

  • Big-O (order) notation is a way of representing the speed of an algorithm. For example O(n) says that the speed of execution is directly proportional to the amount of data (n) being processed. O(n^2) says that it's proportional to the square of the amount of data, so that if you double the data, you're actually quadrupling the processing time. The first thing to do when evaluating any algorithm is to evalaute the order. If it's O(n^2) or worse, dump the algorithm. O(n log n) is nice, O(n) is nicer, and O(log n) is nicest.
  • ...OH! I get it! People from Denmark aren't the problem because people from Denmark are White/European! The "problem" are all those mud-coloured people companies bring in (since you can look around and "see" the problem). Forget about the fact that places like India (or China), despite being 3rd world economically, have educational systems on par with Canada/Britain and the US, have English as a second language and thus can create workers who are just as technically educated and savy as those born in North America. Too bad they are so dark and smell like curry and talk funny. I guess guys from Denmark would talk funny too, but they are of a more desireable hue and texture.

    Now that the sarcasm is over my little klansmen, I think people like YOU are "the problem".

    Obviously, you find something wrong with foreign workers. They can't speak English that well? True, but next time you get pissed at that, ask your self how you would feel if the person having trouble speaking or understanding English were a tall blond, guy from Denmark, or Germany or France instead of being from India, China, Thailand etc.

    I'm willing to bet you wouldn't feel the same...

    How can a Country which produced Martin Luther King, Jr. produce morons like you two?
  • When I arrived in California I was fairly desparate for work and would have taken pretty much any job. Thankfully I got an offer from an employer who actually did more for me than I asked for.

    My salary did go up substantially when they got me a green card after a couple of years. But I'd say that was more down to my girlfriend who taught me how to negotiate American style.

    I'm still with the same employer in Silicon Valley after 4 years, and that should say something.

  • Frankly, I'd rather have immigrants coming to the U.S. who can get and hold well paying technology jobs than immigrants who cannot. I'd also rather have technology companies bring workers to America than send the work overseas to someplace like Bangalore which has a lot of acumen and people who are willing to work for even less money than in the U.S.

    If an immigrant comes here and stays here, they contribute to the economy in work productivity as well as trickle down to the grocery store where they shop, the apartment they rent and the telephone calls they make back to Mom and Dad where ever they might be. Plus, the U.S. can collect tax revenues which are hardly insignificant.

    As for taking work from Americans, it isn't exactly like there's a job shortage for skilled technology workers with any number of skills.
  • I suspect that most H1B holders like myself got their degrees in the US, so your company is probably the exception rather than the rule. Either way as the first reply to your post was: it seems like your company needs to review its policies regarding its overseas division :)
  • Do you have like really really bad B.O. or something?

    Damn, when my company was closed two years ago, I was getting calls from recruiters two days before I even found out. Over a weekend, I got over 50 voice mail messages on my machine.

    I'm an art school dropout, and at the time I had a CNE, and 5 years of TECH SUPPORT experience, and I was making $45k, moderate travel.

    Don't tell me you know how to code and can't find a job because that's just plain bullshit, unless you smell like rotting flesh at 100yds.

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • I said it before and I'll say it again.

    If you and your industry want to attract talent, then pay your existing workers MORE, and offer prospective employees more.

    I think your statement about "at any price" is complete bullshit. What is the highest amount you've offered someone? Maybe you need to go higher still.

    Supply and Demand.

    Now, after this "investment", in 5-10 years, it will pay off, because people going into college NOW will see how lucrative it is in the computer industry, and go into CS. Skill shortage problem solved.

    If you can't afford it, then maybe:
    A: Lower your marketing budget.
    B: Cut your CEO's salary in half (aw, poor baby has to get FACTORY sound on his Lexus)
    C: Stop wasting money on immigration lawyers
    D: Raise your product prices

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • You should NOT be happy with your job and your salary.

    Your skills are in high demand, you deserve to be paid more, and everyone else in this industry deserves YOU to be paid more.

    Can't you people understand that this is hurting EVERYONE in the high tech industry - over the long run?

    "The number of suckers born each minute doubles every 18 months."
    -jafac's law
  • Good Idea. Not that simple.
    My sister has worked in the US as a nurse for over 5 years. She has been married to an American citizen for 2 1/2 years and the have a 2 year-old boy (Don't ask). Now, this is not a marriage of convenience - they are genuinely in love with each other and in fact are pregnant with baby #2. But my sister has been waiting 2 years to get a green card so she doesn't have to keep coming to Canada to renew her visa (she doesn't want to become a citizen). She is especially worried with all the INS horror stories she has heard. She's afraid to come back for a visit before her GC is issued in case they don't let her back in (entirely possible, despite being married to a US citizen having one of his children and bearing the other). Therefore I have never met my nephew and my parents have never seen their grandchild.

    My sister is still waiting with no end in sight.

    Doesn't seem so easy now, does it?

    Aren't we supposed to be your fiends and biggest trading partner? Doesn't that "world longest unguarded border" we share mean anything?

    Maybe my sister should become a mexican serial killer...they seem to have no problems at the border.
    (I know, I know. I keep bring this up , but its just so damned ironic).

  • Surely this is a parody.

  • *ROTFL*
    Oh please, please stop!
    Oh have mercy!
  • It's funny, as an American I've always felt the same way about Europe. I worked for a bit in London last year (4 months) and was stunned by European prices. I don't understand how you folks can afford to live there. Especially England. And the salaries seemed crap. 20-25k pounds per year isn't all that good when studios in London cost around 600 pounds (at least compared to Portland, OR - which rules by the way).
    Although if I can find some nice consulting company to pay me $150-$200 an hour I'd be more than happy to work there again. Excellent beer, fun people and lots of k-rad stuff to be done.

  • Let me quote what I consider to be a brilliant passage from Fred Brooks:

    "Software entities are more complex for their size than perhaps any other human construct, because no two parts are alike ... In this respect software systems differ profoundly from computers, buildings, or automobiles, where repeated elements abound.

    ... scaling-up of a software entity is not merely a repetition of the same elements in larger size; it is necessarily an increase in the number of different elements. In most cases, the elements interact with each other in some nonlinear fashion, and the complexity of the whole increases much more than linearly."

    Well, the quote above seems to be terribly outdated. Ever heard of reusability? Ever heard of design patterns? Ever heard of the fractal design?

    In the essence, you want to keep the simplicity (or complexity, for that matter) level about the same at any given level of abstraction, and the result is a perfectly understandable arbitrarily complex project design and implementation.

    Yes, this is a communication problem between us and them, but it's not exactly clear what is primary - the thinking skills or the English skills.

    I heard a good joke recently: "never excuse for your poor English, make others feel handicapped because all they know is just one language"...

    On the other hand, you have a perfectly valid point - yes, the communication _is_ vital, and I personally know some people who don't even care to fix their pronunciation after being here in US for 10 years and more. I take this attitude as a direct offense (and English is not my first language either, in case you haven't noticed).

  • I'm always on the lookout to beef up my crew -- therez always more work than we can deal with -- and the word in the singles-barz-of-the-techjob-scene iz definitely that the H1B guyz are cheaper and willing and able to do the coding sweat shop scene. Yessir, this ain't no myth.

    Now the exact causez/rationalez/reasonz/theoriez for WHY thatz true are not self-evident. No doubt each such hypothesis bringz its own element of truth and relevance.

    The problem with these guyz from my perspective is that, on an elite dev team, communication between team memberz is vital vital vital. Did I say vital?? And lotz of these guyz, their Eengleesh, eetz not zo gud.

    Devt vets know that on bigger projects, inter-team relationz r just as important as raw size of ur technical schlong. Just look at the data from DeMarco, McConnell, Constantine, DeGrace, Pressman, etc etc etc for those who know how 2 read.

    So thatz why I've held off bringing any on board here, although I've interviewed a couple of them.

    While I'm on the subject, this may be naughtynaughty and feel free to spank my ass if so, but let me just say that there are always slotz open on my elite core team for web devheads that rocknroll. And I mean u dream in SQL or whatever. (Remind me to tell u about the nightmare I had a few dayz ago about triple indirected pointers ... and no it wasn't MY design ...)

    >>Waxon dudes
  • I'll ignore the generalizations right now, but the reason people are complaining about the foreigners being underpaid is because it's cheaper for companies to hire "underpaid" foreign labor than "overpaid" domestic labor. The solution for people who feel threatened by skilled foreign labor is to advocate comparable wages.
  • I agree, foreigners are bad news. We also had some foreigners working with us for a while and they were useless. Of course, in my case, the foreigners were Americans.
  • Sheesh. Do your homework.

    And as someone who's a dual citizen, you have no idea how restrictive the Canadian government is about US workers. Or used to be, I hope.

  • Listen, you stupid little tyrant: If your government hadn't spent fifty years fucking up its economy by trying to follow the soviet example, there wouldn't be any *need* for Indian engineers to seek work elsewhere.

    If any employer of mine went off on a tear about "loyalty", and how changing jobs was "treason", I'd tell him that we ended slavery in this country in the 1860's.

    If you want to keep an engineer in your country, or in your company, then pay what you have to pay, motherfucker. It's the free market: Deal with it.

  • Nobody has mentioned a good (well, also potentially bad) reason not to hire someone on these visas...namely, espionage by a hostile government (or even a "friendly" country). Wouldn't an American citizen be more likely to pass a background check? (OTOH, almost anyone can be compromised)...

  • Don't forget about the firearm that you're required to have before you're allowed to enter the country. After all an armed society is a polite society.
  • by Axe ( 11122 )
    ..I would guess that's true only for the part WEST of the Greenwich meridian (large part of England, Spain and Portugal).
    Brush up your geography, mercan..
  • Yez d00d, goodz communicationz izz vitalzz.

  • I can understand that you find it hard to recruit when you write like that...
    /El Niño
  • Wow! You sound like an entirely different person. Are you sure you're the same 'd00dz' that wrote the previous post?

    Anyway, I agree a bit with your opinion that communication is the most vital in a project. We've had our fair share of problems caused by miscommunication with the Japanese Engineers we work with here.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm 30 years old. Apparently I got my CS degree at the wrong time (right in the middle of the recession). I agree that recent grads are severely lacking in the skills/knowledge department, BUT...

    You wrote "I've interviewed some of the recent grads", well maybe you could consider interviewing slightly OLDER people? No offense guy, but you seem to be exhibiting age discrimination. Whether you realize it or not. And this attitude is pretty common.

    I'm certainly a hell of a lot more qualified than those recent grads, but software employers won't give me the time of day. Because I'm "old" at age 30, and my degree is from the dawn of history, back when we didn't have computers, we had to compute by striking rocks together (1991).

    Look for inexperienced people, and that's what you'll get.

    I'm currently earning less than $50,000 per year in a not-very-challenging 'programming' job in the middle of nowhere (i.e. no job market), and looking for a change of scene. If you think you can handle someone who's ten times more qualified than a wet-behind-the-ears CS grad, just send a note to
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I work in Philadlephia, where there are more jobs than qualified candidates (and if you knew some of the people in "tech" jobs here, you would be amazed...). I work for a medium sized consulting firm that has an overseas recruiting division. Now, some of the employees we've gotten from overseas are truly excellent coders, but they are by far the minority. There are a huge number of them who were brought over to work, apparently with nobody checking to see if they had ANY knowledge at all, let alone English language skills. So, there's a bunch of them, on the bench, for the most part unemployable because they can't code and they don't know enough English to be able to learn. So, we wait for their visa's to expire and give them a ride to the airport, paying them all the while...

    Bottom line: if people hired under H1B's have the knowledge, skill, experience, and mastery of the English language that they need to do the job, great. Otherwise, don't let them in the country. Maybe there should be a basic test (along the lines of the test required to become a naturalized citizen) that visa applicants must pass before the visa is granted?
  • I'm on my second H1B. I'm sure there are these Indian sweat shops around, but far from all H1B holders live under those conditions. I know I get paid as well as any other engineer. And the only problem with getting a new job is that it takes 2-3 months to switch instead of 2 weeks. That is a handicap when looking for a job, but not a real major one. The lawyer fees are $2-3k, which is peanuts in technical recruiting.

    The real problem for people may well be that they are inexperienced and from an alien culture. For a senior engineer like me who understands the US system fairly well, things work pretty OK.

    Now the INS may well be the worst working organization in the civilized world. But that's an other vent...
  • Out of curiosity, how does the United States' immigration policy compare to other country's? Is it relatively restrictive or wide open? If I wanted to go work in the UK, France (well maybe not France), Australia, or India or wherever, is it more or less difficult to get the equivalent of the H1-B?

  • This brave Coward has hit the real heart of the matter. We have (arguably un-constitutionally) created a complex system of protectionism that is not sustainable.

    Remember the inscription on the Statue of Liberty? It doesn't apply any more. We have to close our borders because we can't afford (un-constitutional) social programs for immigrants. This causes all kinds of weird "tests" that must be passed to join our elite club. It's a horrendous mess, and this is just one of the injustices that can never be remedied within our current system which is based on fear and bigotry.

    It makes ESR's Libertarianism sound pretty good.
  • hehe, couldn't help but snigger at this one ;)
  • And yet another in Halifax!
  • Quite a lot of the so called foreigners speek better english than the human material you dig up from some "english speaking" suburbs.

    And they definitely do not have the habit to spell guyz with Z and for you as "4 U" ;-)
  • Buy an album by Lenard Cohen called "The Future". There is a very good song the called "Democracy". Listen to it and reconsider your statement.

    If you are too lazy or do not want to waste a couple of bucks ask yourself the following question:

    Since when did the SLAVES have any f... rights?
  • While the cap of 115,000 workers being reached in June maybe be shocking most of those are bad claims. 55% of all H1-Bs can not be verified and 21% are fraudulent.

    The high tech industry claims there is a shortage, but there really isn't one. Several companies which have been barred from using H1-Bs and other visa applicants have been able to hire enough people to meet their needs. The problem is that everyone wants to maximize profits and are willing to sacrifice U.S. employees to do it.

    Interesting not the H1-B program was introduced in 1990, shortly after that thousands of employees found themselves without jobs and the economy went into a recission. History has been know to repeat itself.
  • So far, most of the comments on this thread have been from younger workers. One effect of bringing in foreign workers to solve a "shortage" is that programmers and systems people over 40 are let go. Part of it is that older American workers often have families and responsibilities outside the workplace. Part of it is that if an older worker has been at the same company, he (or she) may have a higher salary than a foreign (and younger) worker would demand.

    I'm 56 years old and grew up with computers and electronics; I have every license and endorsement the FCC can issue. I passed the commercial FCC test at age 17 when applicants had to draw schematics in front of the Regional Engineer. My first operating system was RT-11 and I migrated to Unix early. I've worked with boxes that had to be hand-programmed. I've adminned BSD, Solaris, Linux and NT machines. I was an electronics engineer for a company that made discrete control systems, worked in the field installing and reparing them, and wrote the technical manuals for them. I can even spell without a spell-checker and write reasonably coherant paragraphs.

    Yet I am not employable! No company wants anyone they consider "over the hill"

    Thanks to some lucky investments back in the 80's, I could move to a rural area of the USA where I rent our land to local farmers to make my home self-supporting. I started the first ISP in my area and sold it 2 years later. I designed the network for the local school district and I keep my hand in by doing their more exacting 'puter jobs (routers, etc).

    Nevertheless... no company would hire me. When we lived in the Seattle area I bombarded the companies there (including MS) with resumes when I knew they had openings that fit me exactly. I never even got one interview!

    Think of what this means to you as a young systems engineer or programmer. Not only do *you* face exactly the same problem (you can escape it only if you die young), but you also are denied the opportunity to work with people who lived through the history of your industry. People who can explain why certain things were done in certain ways and give you a breadth of knowledge not available from other sources.

    American firms are displacing their older workers, workers who are reliable and knowledgable, with cheap foreign workers. It's as though General Motors built a compound and imported cheap labor from third-world countries in order to fire all their American workers. If this happened, there would be an uproar. But they do it to us under the guise of a "technical shortage".

    I don't blame the foreign workers. They are only taking advantage of a situation that can help them grow. And certainly their contributions to US culture are worthwhile. But look around your company... how many people over 50 are there? Or over 40? My guess is that maybe 1 out of 5 at best; simple demographics say that there should be more than this.

    I think you guys are all great... don't get me wrong. But there should be room for those of us who built the foundations you are helping to expand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 1999 @03:25AM (#1768715)
    Basically, what a H1-B means is that you're indentured to your employer for about five years. The usual procedure (and the way it worked for me and my friends) is that you get here through a contracting firm. The contracting firm makes heaps of money using you as a hired gun (taking about %25 of your salary, in most cases). You, on the other hand, want to get a job with a big company (not a startup, because if it goes belly up where will you be), where you can stay for a while, and which will apply for a green card for you. This is what happened in my case, I joined a major firm here in the valley. (BTW, you usually get less than your white counterparts because Indians, and most Asian cultures, are not initially used to hard-nosed negotiating/confrontation).

    You pretty much as bonded to the employer after this. In my case, I hate my current job, and my current boss. But what can I do? I had better shut up and play the game if I want to get the green card in a few years, so I'll play the game.
    Otherwise my H1-B will run out after three years, and I have to go back to India, and wait for some time before I can get another H1-B. And I recently got married, so I'm not about to make waves.

    This formula is varied in a few cases (you can get your green card quicker if you're a Ph.D, etc.), but basically, I'll agree with the premise that we're (Indians, Chinese, etc.) are making far less and are bonded to our employers until we get our green cards. In my specific case, my boss, who is Indian (and who has his green card), has made an explicit threat in many cases to Indian workers who are working under him that he will slow down their green card process, etc, if they don't meet his expectations. Management knows of this, but why should they care? If he's caught on this, they can just say they didn't know.

    In fact, the more I think about it, the more the situation is screwed up. My boss, for instance, only hires H1-B workers on his team (4/5 people are H1-Bs). There's supposed to be some requirement that he is supposed to search for American workers, but what he does is find an Indian, find some experience that the Indian has that is uncommon, and make that a requirement of the hiring process. That way, he can make a cursory search of the job listings, and say that there isn't a qualifed American worker.

    And this works for him. We're all running scared, we'll do whatever he wants, and work like dogs. If someone finds a better job (which happened to a colleague of mine), all my boss has to do is fire him immediately. That way, that person has to get his H1-B transferred to his new company, and with the time the INS takes to do that, the visa might have expired, and you might have to go back. In fact, this is what happened to my colleague, he is in Delhi right now, and my boss uses him as an example to us all the time.
    So, OK, it'll be three years for my green card, and then I can get away from this.

    So, to conclude my post, I agree that America is getting cheapers, more compliant workers as H1-Bs. And, in all honesty, we are taking jobs from American workers here. But look on the other side. None of my American colleagues work 80 hour weeks - they don't have the reason to. And I know whatever success my company has had is due to a great amount to people like me - so when I see people complaining about H1-Bs on one hand, and crowing about their stock gains on the other, I think it's hypocritical.

    And a final note to all the xenophones here - judge me on skills as a technologist, not my country of origin or my skin color. Slashdot (and Americans as a whole), are tolerent, wonderful people, but it's the bigots who stand out. Before you tell me to "Go back to my own country", ask yourself this - why do you think I came to yours? True, I came here to support my family, and myself, but I also truly came here searching for a better way of life. I truly believe that I have something to contribute to America - and remember, and one time or another, your parents or grandparents came here with the same belief! So give us a chance............goodbye...
  • I'm in the US on an H1B visa from Canada. From what I've seen I'm not underpayed. It's fairly easy to figure out during performance reviews what your position in the grand scheme of pay scales is. It's pointed to you on a bar graph. I also live in the midwest, not the left coast or the right coast. With the existing salary cap I would and have refused to work in California.

    I'm sure there are unscrupulous companies or managers who do lure foreigners (ok, I'm not really a foreigner, I had a pretty good clue as to what prevailing wages were) with promises of peace, prosperity and good old American apple pie if you only indenture yourself to us for say five years.

    This exists in any business. Most people only see the typical designer clothes sweatshops because 20/20 runs an editorial or expose on them. There are also the equivalent to sweat shops in the technical field, adult entertainment, farming and so on. Raising the maximum amount on the H1B won't stop these sweat shops as they're obviously already shelling out well under the maximum H1B amount. Raising the H1B amount will however allow companies to get more talented people which is really what the country and industry should want.

    I'm not sure how to fight sweat shops unless you made it illegal to underpay somebody, but who's to define underpayed? An electrical engineer with a MASc and 8 years of experience shall not be payed less than this: XXX. If that engineer is in California then the amount shall be 2*XXX.

    Eventually you've got to rely on the integrity of companies and the pride of workers unfortunately.

  • Fix the system so that anyone in the country on an H1-B visa has to keep some H1-B-qualifying job, without any new paperwork for transferring from one to another.

    Attach it to the next H1-B ceiling increase. If Silicon Valley businesses don't much care, then they're sincere about needing more tech workers. If they whine, then they've been lying, and all current H1-Bs should be converted to unrestricted long-term visas with an option of citizenship. It's that simple.

  • A lot of companies do targetted recruiting though. Persons working on certain projects at certain companies is offerered incentives to move. I've often wondered how on earth they find out who's on what project (or even what projects are under development), it smacks of corporate espionage.

    I've wondered about that myself. I'd call it a low level espionage.

    The issue of an H1-B worker changing jobs after the perk (and it is a perk) of having the first company deal with getting their H1-B is a real issue, but isn't really different than the situation with other employees. There are always those who will take the signing bonus and the relocation expenses etc, and then promptly go to work for someone else in a few months.

    That will help to ensure that the company lived up to the H1-B requirement that they first seek to hire someone already in the country. Some here have reported companies that cheat on that requirement so they can have extortable employees.

  • Depends on what it is you do. The H1B is a temporary specialty worker visa that's good for up to three years from the application date, and can be extended for another three (while seeking a green card, quite often. There are some hilarious legal concepts involved here for people interested.) The visa costs around $3000-$4000 to get, in my case I had to shell out the money out of my own pocket. It allows you to work for a specified position in a specified company. If you want to change either your job description or company, you have to apply for a new one, resulting in a waiting period from a few months to a year while it's being processed. And of course you get to pay the fee again. (Or your employer, if they're reasonable.)
    As part of the visa process the department of labor has to approve a labor condition application, which essentially has to prove that the foreigner isn't getting paid less, being treated worse, or otherwise degrades the working conditions of Americans. This usually includes a salary survey that proves that the foreigner is getting paid a reasonable market wage for the position. Ie, the alleged wage disparity isn't really supposed to exist unless someone's cheating. The labor condition application also has to be posted to the local unions or, in case of their nonexistance, posted publically at the place of residence for two weeks prior to the application process, so any nay sayers can say nay to us foreigners :-)
  • Whoa. I obviously failed to make my point. My bad.

    It's the BIG projects that DO require efficient, accurate communication. And, as I think more about my experience in this particular area, the more I believe that there is really a communication problem with foreign workers.

    Software is not assembly line work, regardless of how many clueless managers out there treat it as such. You can't show some Chinese or Indian person "here's how you assemble this widget, watch me" then turn him/her loose to crank em out by the bushel.

    Let me quote what I consider to be a brilliant passage from Fred Brooks:
    "Software entities are more complex for their size than perhaps any other human construct, because no two parts are alike ... In this respect software systems differ profoundly from computers, buildings, or automobiles, where repeated elements abound.
    ... scaling-up of a software entity is not merely a repetition of the same elements in larger size; it is necessarily an increase in the number of different elements. In most cases, the elements interact with each other in some nonlinear fashion, and the complexity of the whole increases much more than linearly."

    When you say "churning out function after function" you're describing a state of development antithetical to Brooks' depiction. Which is not to say there aren't plenty of clueless shops out there doing exactly that, producing seriously gnarly software.

    In order to AVOID the assembly line mentality, we need good communication between team members. Good communication does not reside purely in language skills either, like I suggested in my original post. A plethora of subtle, non-verbal communication cues are continuously being exchanged during conversation, and cultural context has enormous impact on the transmission and reception of these cues. Let me quote from Negroponte "Spoken words carry a vast amount of information beyond the words themselves. While talking, one can convey passion, carcasm, exasperation, equivocation, subservience, and exhaustion--all with the exact same words."

    I'm thinking of a specific instance from experience where I had major trouble communicating with one of my contractors (we'll give him the fictitious name Alvin.) Alvin was literally FOB -- fresh off the boat. Now, from a certain standpoint you could say that Alvin was reasonably fluent in English, in the sense that he understood the factual content and literal meaning of most of my speech. But the real problem was that *I* could never tell if he was really following what I was saying because Alvin continuously transmitted confusing non-verbal body cues to me. He would bobble his head a certain way, he would make weird hand gestures, etc. which were completely alien to me, and as it turns out, my non-verbal cues were probably alien to him as well.

    Now in our biz where we have ENOUGH trouble already making sure that everybody understands (to his or her technical limits) what's going on, where we're going, and how we're going to get there, this type of relationship was TOTALLY FRUSTRATING for me, and ultimately a complete failure because Alvin never accomplished much. Whether the fault was his or mine (probably both culpable), the fact of the matter was that we were NOT good at communicating with each other.

    So let's tie this diatribe back into the main point: are these guys UNDERPAID? Well the whole concept of whether someone is underpaid or overpaid derives directly from the value the individual contributes to the organization.

    The empirical evidence that I've seen suggests that foreign workers make LESS. But I think that's partly a function of the fact that integrating such a worker into an existing team is a tougher proposition.


    P.S. The "linguistic style" of my earlier post seems to have provoked quite a response LOLOL. It was probably a result of having been on some Quake/HL boards immediately prior to writing it, so I waz in dat gamez mode, u know, d00d? :o) Whatever.
  • For me anyway, the problem isn't the competition. The problem is that the foreign tech worker is over a barrel the moment he/she gets to the US. Since that can (and does) force them to accept lower wages, it also puts citizens and perminant residents over a barrel.

    All that is necessary to see that is to look at reactions of those lobbying for raising the cap on H1-B. They do not seem to want the H1-B to turn into a sort of temporary green card (become portable to any employment). If they REALLY just wanted to fill a shortage of tech workers, they would be quite happy to dispense with some of the bureaucracy involved. Since they seem to want to keep the I must conclude that it serves a purpose for them. The only purpose I can think of (since bureaucracy is never entertaining and doesn't carry a tax break) is that it allows them to pay less.

  • There's nothing "free market" about closed borders and the somewhat arbitrary criteria on who can cross them.
  • by mike750x2 ( 56472 ) on Tuesday August 03, 1999 @04:26AM (#1768777) Homepage
    But, for a company to get an H-1B in the first place they must prove that the position being filled and the salary offered falls within 5% of the locally paid salary for that position.

    So, if the job is in CA or NY city you can expect to be paid more than in wisconsin for example.

    But, the proof is only when the H-1B is obtained, so 6 years later (the max it can be extended for) you may be earning far less than the norm.

    Of course, there are many other different categories of work permit (O-1, L-1, J-1 etc.) that have other requirements.

    Work Permit (Status) / Visa Difference:
    The INS uses the term Status to define whether you have a right to work in the US. You first enter Status when you get your first work permit. You can stay in status by extending or changing you work permit. If at any time you fall out of status (h-1b expires, you get fired) you are meant to leave the country.

    The Visa is the stamp in your passport that lets you in the country. All the while you stay in the US, this Visa stamp can expire and everything is fine. But if you leave the US on vacation, you need to get the Visa stamp renewed before you can re-enter the US. You can only renew the Visa stamp outside of the US and an American Embassy / Consulate. You need you work permit paperwork to get the Visa stamp.

    The green card gives you the right to reside in the US, with or without a job. The are many different ways to get a green card (i.e. family sponsored, work sponsored, lottery). Each different cateogory has a numberical limit on it, e.g. the family based categories are all taken for several years to come, but the professional work based categories have green card available.

    In the self sponsored categories you have five sub-categories each with different allocations:
    1) Super-human, Ph.D etc. say 30,000
    2) Professional, B.Sc etc, say 25,000
    3) Regular, Lib Arts Degree, say 15,000
    4) High school grad, say 10,000
    5) Everyone else, say 5000

    It is not often known that anyone in the world can apply for a green card, and if acceptable you will be granted one based on availability of the category you applied for. So if you applied for a category 4 green card and got accepted you may be given an allocation numbers of 65,000 - meaning you can come and live in the us, but not for five years.

  • This might work, it'd also open up the opportunity for workers to abuse it to though. I've got my H1-B and am started on my way towards green card nirvana, I can cross the street and make 30K more. See ya!

    Which is fine if thats the fair market value, obviously they were being underpayed. A lot of companies do targetted recruiting though. Persons working on certain projects at certain companies is offerered incentives to move. I've often wondered how on earth they find out who's on what project (or even what projects are under development), it smacks of corporate espionage.

    There's the ever popular offer to work at start ups who are going public 'real soon now' and who are confident that 'your options will be worth millions' as well. The company who went through the legal expense for the H1-B and green card application then loses the employee.

    Again I'm not sure what the answer is if there is one other than for people considering working abroad to make sure they're pretty self educated on where they're going to work.

    Those tax free >$100,000 (with free room and board) offers to work in Saudi Arabia looked very enticing in university until you found some of the devils hiding in the details.
  • Wow... that post really struck a nerve. I've been an H-1B worker here for the past half year. The article is 100% correct and actually has left out a coupla of important factors.

    What usually happens (in my experience at least) is that H1-Bs are usually recruited out of grad school or, less often, over the Net (as I was). Now, most, if not all H-1Bs, either have no experience of life in the US (including cost of living, job market, work ethic) or very little --usually what you get in grad school; but most science and technology grad schools these days have, in the majority, foreigners anyway, meaning there aren't that many Americans around to pass on cultural/social/financial experience to us foreigners (what about a post about the F-1/GRA slaveshops run by most big research schools?)

    Now, another factor that that the article left out: most companies don't want to go through the H-1B sponsorship routine, unless the candidate is a really good fit: immigration lawyers cost real money (and you're gonna need one) and most importantly it takes a long time. In my case it took 4 months after accepting the job offer; for some colleagues it took up to 6.

    This is because what no H-1B article anywhere has mentioned: INS is forced to deal with double or triple the number of H-1Bs with NO increase in personnel or change in regulations. The usual time to get an H-1B (4-6 weeks) has effectively doubled and tripled after the quota changes and INS was NEVER that good in keeping up with the paperwork anyway. Now the delays have become so long that most big companies shy away from H-1Bs, unless, as I said, it's a really good fit.

    Enter, the "slaveshops": contracting or consulting firms that need a lot of good, educated people, and work on slim profit margins anyway. You have all those F-1/J-1 (college students and exchange visitors or researchers for those not-in-the-know) graduates who see the burgeoning economy and most of the time get the door slammed to their faces. With all this opportunity around and the dearth of opportunity back home, sure, why not take a job that pays 30-40% lower than the national average, especially if you don't know that you're worth more? In one company I know there are still US-educated engineering PhDs (from big-name schools no less) on H-1Bs that make less than $45k/yr...

    So, why don't they jump ship and switch jobs? For one thing, the H-1B "transfer" process is long and tricky --again, most companies don't wanna wait 2 months to get someone on board unless it's a good fit. Secondly, and IMHO more importantly, most H-1Bs don't have a grasp of the job market or the practices here in the US. In a lot of cultures, you just don't leave your employer after a few months or a year; most just wait until the first 3 yrs to apply for a Green Card or look for another H-1B (you can only get two 3-yr terms) which really doesn't change the situation.

    I was more lucky than most, I came here as an undergrad, I understand the culture and all that, but I still had to win the damn Green Card Lottery to get out of the H-1B rut... Most people don't win the lottery, and actually most aren't even eligible to apply (e.g. Indians, Chinese, Koreans). And believe me, did my job options change when I put "Permanent Resident" (i.e. Green Card holder) on my resume... I am leaving my position for a job that pays about 50% more than what I am making now and I could probably have done better than that if I didn't want to stay here much longer.

    My proposal for changing the situation: do with the quotas as you (the US Congress, the industry, American people) think you should, but:

    Make the H-1B easier to get for qualified, educated workers (no more that inane "have to look for an American that can do the same job" bullshit --most shops will post an ad that precisely fits their fav candidate, down to "has to speak and write Chinese/Indian/whatever"). It makes a lot more sense to set some standards of education/work experience that can be changed according to the needs of the job market, rather than enslave the visa holder to one employer,

    Make it easier to transfer between employers --if you aren't here because you fit a specific job but because you're good enough, it should be much easier for you to change sponsors,

    Actually have the visa holder pay for the cost of the H-1B process (lawyers and crap) from his salary. Most "sweatshops" use these costs as an excuse for lower salaries anyways, and most big companies shy away from H-1B because of these costs. I, for one, would much rather have $4-5k deducted out of my salary than make $15-30k less than what I am worth.

    And please, consider something else: for most of us, cost of living is actually higher than for Americans: most F-1/J-1/H-1Bs don't know the tricks and shortcuts and workarounds to lower costs (unless they stick with a community from their homecountry), most have spouses that have even a worse time finding a job, most have expenses that even for Americans are luxuries (plane tickets to halfway around the world, phone bills that run in the hundreds of dollars).

    Something must be done... unfortunately, H-1Bs don't have money to spare to form PACs or vote for anyone to give a shit...

    I apologize for the huge post... And thanks that /. is actually shining the light on this phenomenon...

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday August 03, 1999 @04:36AM (#1768793) Homepage Journal

    Most (if not all) of the sweat shops based in the US depend on holding something over the workers. Otherwise, the workers would just go and get a better job. In semi-skilled and unskilled work, they hire illegal aliens. In skilled and tech work, they use H1-B and hold the green card application over their heads (not all companies of course, but plenty apparently do).

    The solution is to remove the extortion. In the tech case, make the H1-B portable to any tech position with little or no paperwork required to change jobs. In the case of unskilled and semi-skilled work, allow anybody (illegal or not) who can show current employment to get a temporary work permit. Then watch as the sweat shop operators swallow their own tongues when the realise that without their extortion, their 'employees' are free to report them to the authorities.

  • Well, they can underpay me in the future but so far that hasn't happened. All my raises and bonuses etc. have been good. If they suddenly get bad I know one of two things has happened: management has changed to embrace the sweat shop mentality or I'm considered to be underperforming. I'd also leave. I've been offered substantially more to work at other jobs but I enjoy this one. It's an engineers market if you realize its an engineers market.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.