Saturday, May 06, 2006

Balancing High-Skilled Immigration: a Recipe for Success

Balancing High-Skilled Immigration: a Recipe for Success
By Roy Lawson
May, 2006

As a long-time opponent of corporations using non-immigrant visas as a source of cheap labor, there is a need to raise the stakes in the H-1b debate. There are problems with H-1b and L1 visas that harm immigrant workers, American workers, and in some cases all workers. These problems are often a result of a few bad companies not complying with labor or immigration laws.

This article won't discuss problems relating to the H-1b in detail, but one must acknowledge that problems do exist. Instead, this article will explore the question of "how much is too much?"when it comes to non-immigrant labor in the software labor market. It is not enough to simply identify problems as those seeking reforms should offer viable solutions. ....

The remainder of this article can be viewed here:

A pdf version is available here:


At 4:51 AM, Blogger Prasanth said...


I agree with you that something has to be done to stop the abuse of H1 Visa's. During the Y2k and the dot com boom times, I have seen people leaving to US from here (India) with absolutely zero qualifications. There was a time when a body shopper used to be stationed just outside my office like a street vendor selling cheap goodies giving out his business card asking us whether we are interested to go to US.

However, one thing I have noticed in recent times is that the ardour to "go to US" at any cost, has come down drastically.

The body shoppers have disappeared and the employers offering people to sponsor their H1's are offering better pay scales. My employer for example, sends some one to US only if it is absolutely essential and offer a pay scale of 70 to 80 grand per year which I think is a decent pay (I'm not sure - may be you will be better able to judge).

So, my take on the whole issue is - Was/Is H1 Visa route abused? Yes, definitely. Should something done about it? Yes, most certainly. We should also consider as to how to facilitate genuine movement of people between countries and at the same time stop abuse of the current Visa regulations..



At 5:57 PM, Blogger R. Lawson said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Managers can move around on the L1 program, however companies are using that as a way around the H-1b laws.

I think we can find fair solutions for foreign workers, American workers, and corporations.

Currently only corporations get any real consideration when the laws are written.

Unfortunately there is infighting amongst Americans and foreign workers. I wish we could work towards common goals. That is difficult when there are Americans who want to deport everyone and foreign workers who want no limits. Very tough to find middle ground.

I think the "decider" should be based upon economic measures as opposed to politics and hyperbole. If we can decide what is fundementally fair for everyone, perhaps we can create a solution.

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Prasanth said...


Here are my suggestions:

1. Do not allow any one on an H1 Visa till the company applying for it can prove that they cannot get similar skill sets in US. The application should be scrutinised a body specially constituted (see below) for the same.

2. If a company wants to bring in people to US on an H1, then they should pay the person coming in 25 to 50 % more than the average pay in US for a person with similar skills. The average pay scale should be decided by a newly constituted body which will have representation from the industry and employee associations. The government should scrutinise tax returns by the H1 employee to ensure that the person is paid much above the average salary.

3. For every H1 employee that a company has, the company has to recruit a US citizen and train that person so that the US citizen can take over the H1 employee's job when the H1 visa period is over.

4. Strictly adhere to the validity of the H1 visa. Do not allow job hopping by not allowing another company to file for H1 for a person already working in US on an H1 visa.

I do not entirely agree with you on the outsourcing issue though. As far as I'm concerned, outsourcing and H1 visa abuse are two entirely different issues and should not be clubbed together.

For far too long, we in India lived in a shackled socialist economy and only in the recent years have we opened up. It is our right to grab whatever opportunities that come our way and capitalise on it. After all, that is the essence of free trade and capitalism.

Please note that unlike China, India is not an export led economy. In fact, India's trade deficit like that of the US is reaching frightening proportions.

I'm entirely aware that companies came to India to exploit the labour arbitrage. That was the prime mover but things are slowly changing. More and more cutting edge work is being done in India - not just support and maintenance. I would say that initially if 100% of the work was of the low end variety, now the mix is more like 70% low end and 30 % high end.

I'm also aware as the salaries rise in India (they are rising very fast - for example, I have got a minimum of 20 % raise for the last 7 years - and this cannot last) work will start shifting to places were wages are still lower - Vietnam for example. This cannot be stopped and no one can stop it. The only way this can be reduced is to make sure that you become the innovator and let others do the routine stuff.



At 9:32 PM, Blogger R. Lawson said...

You have provided interesting feedback. I revised the paper to account for the unemployed so the numbers changed slightly. Essentially I am limited the scope to just arriving at a cap - other studies I have produced detail ways to fix the program. Personally, if we got the numbers down to sustainable levels I would support greencards instead.

As far as the two issues relating, the only relationship is when workers come here to facilitate offshore work. I am not talking about the L1 visa - it was designed for global trade and is OK as long as it is used as intended (senior management and executives). By OK I am only talking numbers - there are abuse problems and those who don't use the L1 as intended.

You are very well spoken on this issue and your English is fantastic. Thanks for your comments - there are definately some points of agreement.

It is hard to get traction politically on this issue. The anti-immigrants want no immigration. The corporations want no limits. What we wind up with is an arbitrary number based entirely on politics, not economic realites.

I think if like-minded Americans and foreign guest workers can arrive at some points of agreement we could get traction politcally. Politicians (rightly) dismiss the fanatics who are hijacking my cause - which is to protect American jobs while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of foreign workers. Of course I am biased in favor of American workers, but I am willing to find a fair compromise position.

Thanks again.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Weaver said...

It's great to see cooperation.

Labor arbitrage would be impossible if the entire IT industry would create a code of ethics and strive to work together.

The The Prisoners' Dilemma is an interesting study in cooperation where the effects of opression can be mitigated when the "prisoners" work together.

If every action, has an opposite and equal reaction, wouldn't the "free movement of human capital" cause undo stresses on the housing market(s) of each country?

In other words, inflated salary requirements, due to high housing costs, result in the country that allows excessive immigration.

Conversely, emigration causes a artifically depressed housing market, investment drought, hyper-competitiveness and lower salaries.

How will the two economies cope with these opposing inequities?

Could the working class promote sourcing of specialty work to the organizations that promote domestic prosperity and create an global understanding of disdain for arbitrage vendors?


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