Demand Slows For H1B Visas

Vipul Sharma, a software engineer and U.S. patent holder, works at the leading edge of computer system innovation. He's also subject to the bureaucratic pitfalls of U.S. immigration law.

Sharma, 30, uses artificial intelligence tools and applies them to Internet user data to try to predict patterns in online behavior. It's a new field called machine learning, one he works at in his job at San Francisco events startup Eventbrite.

Yet despite his qualifications as an engineer and scientist, the University of Houston graduate was almost shut out of the U.S. job market.

Several years ago, while in his native India for a relative's wedding, he was informed by an immigration attorney that the U.S. had changed its rules for Indians holding a certain type of guest work visa known as an H1B.

Vipul, who was working at another startup at the time, was advised to travel to a third country before attempting to get back into the U.S., to avoid a lengthy delay that could have cost him his job. At the same time, his friends and fellow engineers urged him to stay and work in India.

"I thought about going back, about staying back," Sharma said.

But he believed the chance to work in the U.S. was worth the hassle.

"What we're doing today is at least a year ahead of what they're doing in India," he said. "The business culture here promotes the most innovation."

Whether the U.S. can maintain its status as the mecca for foreign innovators, however, is growing more uncertain.

The Talent Gap

Many high-level engineering jobs here go unfilled for months as companies seek out workers with rare skill sets, many of whom are not American. Meanwhile, a growing number of people -- foreigners qualified to do those very jobs -- are choosing to return to their native country and work rather than subject themselves to U.S. immigration rules, according to those who represent, advocate for and try to hire H1B visa holders. That's true even for those who have been educated at U.S. universities.

"That's the shame of it, that we train them here and then make it extremely difficult to work here," said Peter Cleveland, vice president for legal and corporate affairs at chip giant Intel Corp., who lobbies for immigration reform.

Intel, Cisco Systems Inc. and other large technology companies have been lobbying Washington hard for years to raise the annual quota limits for workers applying for H1B visas.

Approximately 6% of Intel's U.S. work force, or about 2,900 employees, either hold H1B work visas or are former H1B holders who have since earned a green card, Cleveland said.

But that represents just a fraction of the number of foreign engineers that the company could hire if the process to bring them to the U.S. wasn't so "archaic and onerous," Cleveland said.

The Process

The minimum wait time for H1B visas -- which have to be renewed after three, for a maximum term of six years in total -- is three to five months, and is often much longer. Acquiring a green card can take anywhere from five to 10 years.

"We want to hire U.S. workers first, but we need to hire the best workers" to remain competitive, he said. Yet the U.S. is "discouraging them from coming here."

H1B visa application trends suggest that could be true.

The maximum number of new workers who can enter the U.S. in any given year under the H1B program is currently capped at 65,000.

Twenty thousand of those are set aside for workers who have earned a master's degree or higher from a U.S. university. Those who work in higher eduction, for non-profit organizations and in government research are exempt from such restrictions, according to Charles Small, an immigration attorney in San Francisco who specializes in H1B application processing.

Employers who want to hire such skilled foreign workers typically apply to sponsor one on April 1, six months before the beginning of the government's fiscal year, Small said. Newly approved H1B holders usually can't start work until Oct. 1.

Is the U.S. Losing Its Edge?

For years, the annual quota would be reached soon after potential employers began submitting their applications to the appropriate U.S. agencies, most importantly the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service.

In 2006, for example, the so-called "cap" was reached in July, 2006, Small said. In 2007 and 2008, the quota was hit within one day and eight days of April 1, respectively.

"Anyone who didn't have their application in order and filed on April 1 had no chance" of getting into the U.S. that fiscal year, he said.

Yet in 2009, the quota wasn't filled until December. For this year, the quota has yet to be reached. The U.S. Customs and Immigration service had received 42,800 H1B petitions as of Oct. 15, according to Small, who has access to the U.S. data on behalf of his clients.

Some of that is due to the U.S. economic slowdown, Small said. Yet he, Vipul Sharma and Peter Cleveland say there's more going on.

"The process is frustrating and demoralizing to foreign workers," Intel's Cleveland said. "Eventually, it will become untenable," he said.

The fact that the cap has not been reached until well into the government's fiscal year has taken some of the steam out of the arguments that Cleveland and others have made to lawmakers.

Immigration Reform

It's unlikely that H1B visa reform will happen except within the framework of comprehensive U.S. immigration reform, something which in turn is unlikely until after the mid-term elections.

"Immigration is a difficult, emotional issue," Cleveland said. Until something changes, Intel "won't be deterred by the system" from hiring the people it needs. "If we have to place people overseas, under the Intel umbrella, we will do that."

In the meantime, people like Sharma will have to deal with the system in place.

He took his attorney's advice to go to a third country, and was able to quickly return to the U.S.

Now, several years later, he is helping to build a fast-growing company that is creating scores of high-paying jobs a year. He's also grateful for his chance to be working here.

"I'm one of the lucky few," he said.

http://it-jobs.fins.com/Articles/SB128769537516749429/Demand-Slows-For-H1B-Visas
 
there is another reason why the immigration is tracking down on indians. You see, the rule of thumb for H1-B is that first you need a job offer before the employer can sponsor you. Many Indians have managed to work around this issue. Many IT consulting companies run by Indians get paid thousands of dollars from Indians from abroad for a 8 week training or what not, and fabricate the resume claiming they have years of work experience. These tech companies then file for H1-B claiming that these Indians have job (since now they are now an employee in their company) and get granted H1-Bs. Once H1-Bs are approved, then these companies actively search for jobs to do contract work for clients. The clients...i.e big banks believe the resume to be correct and hire these Indians after an extensive interview. They are very well versed at what questions are asked in these interviews. Its funny, I have a friend who did exactly that and at age 25 he claimed he had 7 years of quality assurance experience and ended up working for AIG for a year earning 70 k before the collapse. I know all this because I am an Indian and have had Indian companies ask me if I needed sponsorship. After spending 300k on education, I figured I didn't want to take this route... The new route these days is to either get married to an American or become a priest.
 
Rajan,

An Indian colleague of mine was telling me the same scenario as you outlined above.

I wonder though, these people must have been feeling out of their depth when thrown into the deep end with no experience yet a fabricated history of working on complex projects?
 
there is another reason why the immigration is tracking down on indians. You see, the rule of thumb for H1-B is that first you need a job offer before the employer can sponsor you. Many Indians have managed to work around this issue. Many IT consulting companies run by Indians get paid thousands of dollars from Indians from abroad for a 8 week training or what not, and fabricate the resume claiming they have years of work experience. These tech companies then file for H1-B claiming that these Indians have job (since now they are now an employee in their company) and get granted H1-Bs. Once H1-Bs are approved, then these companies actively search for jobs to do contract work for clients. The clients...i.e big banks believe the resume to be correct and hire these Indians after an extensive interview. They are very well versed at what questions are asked in these interviews. Its funny, I have a friend who did exactly that and at age 25 he claimed he had 7 years of quality assurance experience and ended up working for AIG for a year earning 70 k before the collapse. I know all this because I am an Indian and have had Indian companies ask me if I needed sponsorship. After spending 300k on education, I figured I didn't want to take this route... The new route these days is to either get married to an American or become a priest.

I believe everything you've written except the part I've underlined. Maybe it was true fifteen years ago but today Americans and American companies know that Indians are fabricating their resumes. If the interview really is searching then the fibs will be exposed (despite the interview preparation).
 
I believe everything you've written except the part I've underlined. Maybe it was true fifteen years ago but today Americans and American companies know that Indians are fabricating their resumes. If the interview really is searching then the fibs will be exposed (despite the interview preparation).
It is what it is. The kind of jobs they get are software quality assurance testing i.e web-based testing to ensure that websites run properly for companies. You don't need a college degree to do this. But the pay scale is around 50-70k based on experience. There isn't a magic formula on how to get the jobs. What the Indian companies do is for the first job, they fabricate the resume. But for each additional projects that employees work on, the resume changes by adding the actual jobs that they have done and deleting the fabricated jobs that they were supposed to have done. Its a work in process. After working 5 different jobs, then your resume ends up depicting actual jobs done rather than fake jobs. Also, when you claim you have worked in different companies, employers cant check that. Because technically, you are not an employee of their company. For example, if i worked at citigroup on a project, i am not an employee of citigroup. Citigroup pays the Indian consulting company and they take a cut from the paycheck and give me the difference. I am an employee of the Indian consulting company. Down the line, if employers wanted to check my background, their only point of contact is the Indian consulting company. Its a pretty bad. I am not lying at all. Like this, there are about 50 such Indian companies. They apply about 2000 visas and get granted around 500. So 500*50 = 25000 less visas in the pipeline. I am kind of embarrassed that this happens, but this is the reality. I heard Uncle Sam was tracking down. I hope it works. Honestly, the first preference of visas should be given to those who have studied in the U.S rather than giving to foreigners (i.e Indians) who have never spent a penny in this country. Thats my take on it after spending over 300 k on education. I mean I studied here since 6th grade. I guess you can say 'if i scratch your back, you scratch my back' is the type of mentality I have at the moment.
 
Rajan,

An Indian colleague of mine was telling me the same scenario as you outlined above.

I wonder though, these people must have been feeling out of their depth when thrown into the deep end with no experience yet a fabricated history of working on complex projects?
the job is not really that complicated. A friend of mine graduated as a chef and ended up getting this job.
 
I believe everything you've written except the part I've underlined. Maybe it was true fifteen years ago but today Americans and American companies know that Indians are fabricating their resumes. If the interview really is searching then the fibs will be exposed (despite the interview preparation).
You are right. Its not all big banks. But it works on other companies as well that are not in the banking business. I believe to get sponsorship for H1B you need at least a 50k salary.
 
the job is not really that complicated. A friend of mine graduated as a chef and ended up getting this job.

You are right. First of all, even a truly experienced person is expected to take a little time familiarising himself with the ropes. Secondly, the Indian consulting agency has one or more people who are available for advice around the clock. So if an Indian is placed in a company and doesn't know how to do something he can phone or email these people in the agency. This is common practice.
 
You are right. First of all, even a truly experienced person is expected to take a little time familiarising himself with the ropes. Secondly, the Indian consulting agency has one or more people who are available for advice around the clock. So if an Indian is placed in a company and doesn't know how to do something he can phone or email these people in the agency. This is common practice.
yep you are correct. How do you know this? haha
 
the job is not really that complicated. A friend of mine graduated as a chef and ended up getting this job.

Well even within QA roles (at least at the firms I have worked at) the testers were familiar with bash scripting, sillenium smoke tests etc.
I guess if it is bog standard QA, link clicking etc. well then yeah I could see how you can blag that.

Also bigbadwolf

You are right. First of all, even a truly experienced person is expected to take a little time familiarising himself with the ropes. Secondly, the Indian consulting agency has one or more people who are available for advice around the clock. So if an Indian is placed in a company and doesn't know how to do something he can phone or email these people in the agency. This is common practice.

I experienced the above first hand. The guy spent half the time on the phone, emailing etc. We eventually ended his contract as it was obvious he was way out of his depth.
 
I suppose so. If it is a consulting firm and an Indian is involved and if it is an IT company. It's also bad for the economy. Lots of foreigners who come here on visas repatriate their savings to the host country.
 
Did I jus open a can of worm unknowingly?
Should I look for more taletell signs in applicants now?

The telltale signs tend to come out more in an interview than the resume. Of course it seldom happens that there's perfect congruence between what the job needs and what an applicant can bring to bear but a little bit of tactful questioning usually reveals the overall strength of a coder. Even jobs like software testing have become more complex over the years -- more tools are being used, and there's a tighter integration with the development process itself (e.g., TDD). So even faking it has become a more complex business.

To move away a bit from the topic, the problem as I see it -- and others can probably wax eloquent on this -- is that there aren't many (any?) training facilities for coders. If you want to be a .NET specialist -- coding, say, in C#, ASP.NET, and SQL Server -- where are you to get the training from? Universities don't teach it. And employers are reluctant to invest time and money in someone who might be poached. It's the old Catch-22 of not being able to get a job because you have no experience and not being able to get experience because you don't have a job. Hence there's a chasm between what employers want of coders and what is truly available out there. Into this chasm enters the fabricated resume.
 
Certainly the problem we have found is when it comes to hiring somebody for a position that nobody in house has a lot of knowledge in.
So for example hypothetical project A comes along. A portion of that project is in technology B. Our in house guys only have a basic knowledge of the technologies that underpin technology B, which means interviewing somebody for the contracting role can be difficult.
That's when you get fed a line of BS and only really discover what's going on when you've got a little more knowledge of the tech and realize your boss has hired a lemon.
 
US H1B or Immigrant system is widely abused by those so called Indian Consulting Company (ICC). They sponsor H1B and provide free training, then use their network to send out false resumes and provide false references to get a contract position
in big banks (in return, one must work at least 1 year for them at the fixed salary which of course is much lower than what banks actually paid).......

You can not believe, only TWO Indian ICC companies used nearly 2/3 of total H1B quota of 160000 of one year ....... terrible and made us very angry
 

atreides

Graduate Student
@smile , you are correct on both counts. Back in the day (just a few years ago) when H1B visas ran out in one day, these Indian "body shops" accounted for more than 50% of the volume YOY. You would think some smart people in Washington would figure this out and stop these nefarious activites by a few companies without bashing the entire H1B progam.

I've heard my fair share of horror stories from folks that worked for these body shops.
 
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