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Let Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders Work In US, Says White House 566

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Carolyn Lochhead reports in the SF Chronicle that the White House has announced a plan allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States, a coup for Silicon Valley companies that have been calling for more lenient rules for immigrants who come to the United States to work in technology. 'The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,' says Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. 'A concurrent goal is for the United States to maintain competitiveness with other countries that attract skilled foreign workers and offer employment authorization for spouses of skilled workers. American businesses continue to need skilled nonimmigrant and immigrant workers.'

Currently, spouses of H-1B visa holders are not allowed to work unless they obtain their own visa but tech companies have been calling for more H-1B visas, and supporters of the rule change argue that it will bring in more talented workers. Critics say they believe expanding the H-1B visa program will allow lower-paid foreign workers to take American jobs. The plan immediately drew fire from Republicans. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, accused the administration of acting unilaterally to change immigration law and bring in tens of thousands of potential competitors with Americans for jobs. 'Fifty million working-age Americans aren't working,' Sessions said in a statement, adding that as many as 'half of new technology jobs may be going to guest workers. This will help corporations by further flooding a slack labor market, pulling down wages.'"
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Let Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders Work In US, Says White House

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  • by jaymz666 ( 34050 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:24PM (#46944927)

    To getting two H1Bs for the price of one!

    These are already being abused by tech companies to force lower wages on those already legally in the USA, be they citizens or resident aliens, this will make it worse.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:33PM (#46945011)

      I wonder if they'll start "encouraging" their H1Bs to marry other people they want to hire now?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:03PM (#46945221)

        I wouldn't mind marrying a Chinese/Japanese/Korean girl fresh out of college.

      • I wonder if they'll start "encouraging" their H1Bs to marry other people they want to hire now?

        I'm wondering if the SF in SF Chronicle stands for "Science Fiction".

      • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @04:47AM (#46947301)

        Nobody talks about one really important issue. The H1b is such a strain on a married couple that more than half of the marriages end in divorce during the term of the visa. It is absolute killer. Many of the spouses are university educated and have to abandon their career to sit idly by, get bored. They leave all their friends and family behind back in their country of origin. Sometimes having children solves the problem, but often this takes extreme toll. Same on the visa holder, who gets new job in a new country, doesn't know the conditions, has to support family from a single income in place with no extended family support. And every time you come home, there is your bored spouse ready to jump you and do stuff, while you are tired and want to rest from work. It is a huge strain on couples. Giving EAD to H4 holders while the GC is pending is EXACTLY the change H1b program needs to stop being the marriage killer it is now.

        • by Thruen ( 753567 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @07:48AM (#46947865)

          Nobody is forcing them to pack up their family and move here. What you're describing is the same for anyone who needs to relocate for a job, though I admit it's more difficult when relocating to another country. All of the potential consequences need to be factored in if they're going to move, the same as for anyone else who relocates for a job or any other reason. If they're living a good life, one of the two is well employed, and they don't want to pack up and leave, they're not being forced to. As it is, unemployment and underemployment are still serious issues in the US for everyone, and that's killing marriages for citizens as well! While I can see people making the argument it isn't fair to tell the H1B workers' spouses they can't work, the H1B worker has already been granted a special privilege to be able to work here and it's also unfair to grant that same privilege to the spouse just for being married to them.

          There are a lot of problems with our immigration system, and I would never suggest we stop allowing people to come to this country and work toward improving their lives, but the fact is there already isn't enough work to go around and it isn't fair to those of us already here to keep willingly increasing the rate at which we add workers to the pool, not until jobs are added at the same rate. It sounds like you'd have to be a dick to say, "You can't work in the country you live in," but that only looks at half the story. It's still pretty damn generous to say, "If you want, you can take your family and move to this country so you can be employed here, but your spouse won't be able to work while they're here." If that doesn't sound like a sweet deal, simple solution, don't take it. It's up to them to decide what's best for them, it's not up to us to sweeten the deal until it is what's best for them.

    • I guess unemployment in the U.S. is kind of trivial.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        I guess unemployment in the U.S. is kind of trivial.

        This is the Lump of Labor Fallacy []. Both theory and real world evidence show that immigrants, and especially skilled immigrants, expand the economy rather than "stealing jobs".

        • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:39PM (#46945435)

          immigrants, and especially skilled immigrants, expand the economy

          Your grasp of the situation has led you to answer the wrong question. Why should I care what the US GDP is? What matters to me is the US GDP per capita, and the distribution of income from that.

        • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @10:40PM (#46945849) Homepage

          ... due to the law of diminishing returns... []

          H1Bs directly reduce wages of technical employees, plus they also displace local contractors who otherwise get much higher hourly rates than employees generally due to the short term nature of the projects and higher skill levels and so on. Even if there is not a lump of labor, there is such a thing as a fixed budget at any point in time.

          The US created just about zero net new jobs in the last decade while the population and the GDP grew. So, output is increasing in a 21st century economy while labor stays fixed or declines as a percent of the population.

          On top of that, it doesn't matter how much labor is needed if it can be done more cheaply by robots and AIs. And before such replace human workers entirely, they will let a few workers do the work of many, thus increasing unemployment,

          There are many possible "solutions" to this situation being tried, which I catalog here:

          The real future of work is to make it play and pleasant. See Bob Black and EF Schumacher:

          Black: []
          "What I really want to see is work turned into play. A first step is to discard the notions of a "job" and an "occupation." Even activities that already have some ludic content lose most of it by being reduced to jobs which certain people, and only those people, are forced to do to the exclusion of all else. Is it not odd that farm workers toil painfully in the fields while their air-conditioned masters go home every weekend and putter about in their gardens? Under a system of permanent revelry, we will witness the Golden Age of the dilettante which will put the Renaissance to shame. There won't be any more jobs, just things to do and people to do them."

          Schumacher: http://www.centerforneweconomi... []
          "The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure."

          The 1950s short story "The Skills of Xanadu" by Theodore Sturgeon depicts a society powered by mobile computing that has realized both these objectives (especially the first).

          For some comic relief see also the 1950s story "The Midas Plague" where only the very wealthy were allowed to have full-time jobs and work overtime and live in small homes, while everyone else was limited to part-time jobs as best or unemployment and forced consumption of mansions and massive amounts of food and consumer goods at worst..

      • I guess unemployment in the U.S. is kind of trivial.

        . . .in related legislation, the White House has proposed deporting unemployed U.S. citizens, so it will all work out in the end . . .

    • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:27PM (#46946157)

      Since these are such high demand positions that can't be filled by citizens, the salary they are paid must surely reflect that and is enough to sustain a single income household right? This move just confirms that the government knows and supports the use of H1B as a tool to suppress salaries of domestic tech workers.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:31PM (#46944995)

    have a high H1B min-wage / let them work anywhere with them being tied to the job.

    make the min wage say 100-150K + COL with payed OT. and or an H1B tax.

    So if you want h1b you can use them to get cheap workers tied to the job. that can be payed low with forced OT.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:41PM (#46945069)

      This. If you set the minimum H1B wage at 120% of the average wage in that area for that type of work and experience, then we can have confidence that the purpose of H1B is to fill skill shortages. By allowing them to be employed for less than the going rate of a local, employers are just encouraged to find loopholes to enable them to employ lower wage workers. And by not tying them to a specific job, you remove the ability of employers to find other ways to abuse the system (such as paying them 120% of the average wage to work 150% of the average hours) since the employee can always go elsewhere.

      As for spouses working - if someone is good enough to import for their labour skills, at least have the decency to treat them and their family like you would anyone else. If you think this will have an adverse impact on the local labor market, then you probably shouldn't be letting them in in the first place.

      • by SourceFrog ( 627014 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:59PM (#46945191)

        "And by not tying them to a specific job"

        This. By tying H1B's to an employer, they effectively become chattel for the employer for the duration of their H1B work - beholden to the company, they have no real negotiating power and this is what really drives wages down (or more accurately, prevents them rising).

      • set the minimum H1B wage at 120% of the average wage in that area for that type of work and experience

        Set it at 200% if you want. Laws are meaningless unless they're enforced. There are already anti-abuse provisions. When is the last time they were enforced?

        • I've seen plenty of people on /. decrying the fact that H-1B workers are horribly underpaid. Having met quite a lot of them, I've yet to discover one that's actually paid any less than their American (or green-card-holding) counterparts.

          I myself am in the US on an O-1A visa, and my salary is a little under double that of 70% of the people with the same job ('Software Engineer') within the same company.

          On the other hand, I have been told a number of times in my past that though I was good enough for the posi

  • Wow seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:32PM (#46945001) Homepage

    I'm surprised you guys haven't revolted over this entire thing yet. Up here in Canadaland we've had something similar happen with regards to the TFW program, similar to H-1B. Shit hit the fan about 3 months ago and ever since then it's been all over the news and at the rate it's going the entire program will be dead by years end.

    • On April 24, 2014, Jason Kenney , Minister of Employment, announced that the FTWP had been suspended for the Food services industry.

      Wow. When are you folks going to storm the Bastille, or is that only for Quebecers?

    • by Frohboy ( 78614 )

      I'm surprised by how many Canadians misunderstand the temporary foreign worker program, despite the fact that it's been in the news so much for the past few months.

      The TFW program is used for jobs that fail to entice existing Canadians, like agricultural work or fast-food service.

      By comparison, it's quite common for tech companies to sponsor immigrants to Canada based on a lack of local skilled candidates (see []). In that case, my understanding is that the criteria are like a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:35PM (#46945023)

    How about no? Wages are already suppressed far enough as it is without doubling the number of foreigners these companies can bring in.

    We don't have a workforce problem. We have a wage problem. Companies will do anything they can to pay people less. Just look how they've already latched on to this H1B BS.

    I say end it. Revoke them and send folks home. We have plenty of workers available, just not at rates employers want to pay.

    Pardon my single tear for them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by goruka ( 1721094 )
      Typical american short-sightedness. You believe that if there were no more foreigners, companies would hire Americans and pay them more because there would be less competition. You are completely wrong because in reality:

      1) Large sized American companies open offices overseas and hire foreigners there, which are cheaper than H1-B workers. They also hide their headcount info very well by many different methods. Travel a bit around the world and see the size of IBM, Oracle, Ford, etc offices there.
      2) Medi
  • work is survival (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:41PM (#46945067)

    I'm extremely liberal and want the best for everyone in the world. But here in the US, we have horrible social welfare. Work is survival for us. If you don't have a job, you fall fast and hard, and it's hard to get back up. Hell, it's hard to get a place to live without guarantors and evidence of an income, and having a place to sleep and eat safely is fundamental to being a biological being. So I call shenanigans on the government allowing more people in to take jobs. Until we've got a robust safety net in place so everyone has a safe place to sleep and can be confident of their next meal regardless of whether they have a job, our focus should be on getting jobs for all citizens that pay what is needed to have those things.

    • Re:work is survival (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:06PM (#46945237)

      you are hitting home with me.

      I'm living in the bay area, been here over 20 yrs and I'm a software (and sometimes hardware) engineer. I rent and my lease is up in a few months from now. I lost my job several months back (large layoff at work) and I've not found a job, yet. I have savings to last me a while, but the big fear for me right now: how the hell am I going to find a new place to live (I have to leave where I'm at right now, when the lease is over) if I don't have a job at the time? and enough income shown via 'paystubs' to make a landlord want to pick me for a renter?

      in the bay area, things really can suck if you end up unemployed at the time that you choose (or are forced) to move. even with good savings and a great past history, landlords will simply pass you by! its absurd, but they all demand to see 3mos of income (at least) or they won't consider you.

      you can be good - and just a bit unlucky for a short while - and end up nearly homeless or actually homeless. its frightening. as of right now, I don't have a job and while I'm trying my best, I don't know what's going to happen when the lease time is up.

      I've lived in the US all my life and I've contributed (well, I think) to the companies I've worked for. but the past 10 years or so, I've found that its extremely hard to find jobs and everyone I'm being interviewed by is from another country. there are not a lot of americans being hired and working in the bay area and its not something that I'm imagining, either. its real. and its affecting me and my ability to keep a roof over my head; quite literally, in this case.

      we owe more to our own people - ones that were born and raised here - than we do for others. I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel. every other country has a 'take care of our own, first' ethic. I don't know why we don't also prefer to take care of our own, first.

      • by jopsen ( 885607 )

        landlords will simply pass you by! its absurd, but they all demand to see 3mos of income (at least) or they won't consider you.

        I moved to SF in October (yes, H1B), and got an apartment without showing any statements. I had to put down 6k in deposit, and finding an apartment in SF is hard. But far from impossible, even without proof of income.

        we owe more to our own people - ones that were born and raised here - than we do for others. I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel.

        Fair enough. I'm not sure I fully agree... I have mixed feeling about this kind of thing... I'm from a country with LOTS of social benefits, that surely wouldn't be feasible if we just let anybody in. So I understand the pragmatic side of this. However, H1Bs aren't taking up social services.

      • by deego ( 587575 )

        > [Bay Area... hard to rent without proof of income]

        How about we ask for some laws to address this problem? Seems like a good idea, right? Let's make more laws to try to solve a problem that was caused in the first place by... wait for it, previous bad laws!

        Do you know why things are that way in the Bay Area? It's because do-gooders made it very hard to evict a deadbeat tenant, and a host of related bad laws..

        Interfere with the free market, and the consequences will come back and bite us all. Of coures,

  • Simple corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @08:42PM (#46945071) Homepage Journal

    Americans like to talk smugly about how corrupt China and Mexico are. Well guess what, great U S of A is pretty goddamn corrupt.

    Facebook and Microsoft want cheaper workers, they lobby the gov't (i.e. grease palms with money) for more H1B. Disney wants to milk more money out of Mickey Mouse, it lobbies the gov't until copyright laws extend for centuries. And please explain how this benefits the public (as opposed to benefitting Microsoft/Disney).

  • H-1B visa holders will be gay married for immigration purposes, so their employers will only have to use one H-1B slot.

  • Does the administration sincerely believe that bringing these people to America will make us stronger? I tend to agree. Give them green cards, so they can stay. H1B visas with little hope for a green card are indentured servitude.

    • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @10:04AM (#46948707) Journal

      You are operating under a false assumption. You believe the goal of government is to "make America stronger." It is not. The purpose of the government is to serve the interests of wealthy corporations and individuals. Corporations and stockholders, the owning class, want indentured servants (they'd prefer slaves, but there's that pesky 14th amendment). The H1B visa program is just one method by which they acquire these servants.

  • Let. Them. Change. Companies.

    If a foreign worker is important enough to the country that we'll give him or her a shortcut through our (admittedly ridiculous) immigration system, then it shouldn't matter WHICH company they're working for, as long as they're working for one of ours.

    Locking them into one company only encourages the formation of sweatshops, and we're supposed to be better than that.

  • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:05PM (#46945233) Journal

    We might be granting too many H1Bs, I don't know. I haven't seen reliable, relevant numbers. That's a separate discussion.

        However, IF you're going to allow a couple to come into the country and IF you're going to allow one of them to work, it makes sense to allow the other to work legally. If you don't , they'll probably work illegally, but having them here and not working isn't helpful. As long as they are here, the best thing for America is that they are being productive. It's best that they be doing something useful and then paying taxes like other workers. The other options are that they aren't doing anything productive, in which case they are just an extra incremental load on the infrastructure, or they are working unlawfully and probably not paying their fair share of taxes.

  • Critics say they believe expanding the H-1B visa program will allow lower-paid foreign workers to take American jobs. The plan immediately drew fire from Republicans. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, accused the administration of acting unilaterally to change immigration law and bring in tens of thousands of potential competitors with Americans for jobs.

    I thought Republicans were supposed to support free markets. What could be less free market than limiting the number of immigrants to artificially keep the price of American labor high? Furthermore, I would have assumed some big companies that need H1B visas would have bribed all the politicians by now... What gives?

  • I mean, please, let them do what reasonable people should be expected to do to make a life for themselves!

    If you see the conditions some of the families of H1-B visa holders live in, through no fault of their own, you would agree to let spouses work if they can and are willing.

    This is a question of decency, and dignity.

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @09:59PM (#46945531)

    Sadly I think it's offshoring. If you don't let companies bring workers to the United States they are going to set up shop where the workers live. This has much more negative effects - lower tax base, lower economic activity in the US etc. than letting these workers come here.

    Yes it depresses US wages and makes the job market tighter for US citizens. But at least the company still has operations and employees in the US that are paying taxes.

    Ideally there would be US citizens working in the US taking these jobs. But non-US citizens working in the US on these jobs is better than non-US citizens working in Bangalore some other non-US location doing these jobs.

    If you want to cut down on this, it is absolutely necessary to improve the US education system. What we have now truly sucks, as this OECD report describes: []

  • by atari2600 ( 545988 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @11:42PM (#46946245)

    Look up the lump of labor fallacy. In fact, allow me: [] Labor isn't a zero sum game. More immigrants creates more jobs in the system.

    Does the H1-B system need reform? Yes
    Does the immigration system need reform? Yes
    Does the L1 system need to be scrapped? Quite probably
    Does slashdot circle jerk without getting the idea? Yep

    Am I missing nothing? Yep.

  • by ( 981475 ) <> on Thursday May 08, 2014 @09:37AM (#46948473)
    As was already stated this is just a ploy for tech companies to abuse the already over abused H1B visa market, and drive wages down even further, because the Chinese will work for peanuts. We had a visiting engineer from China at my job the other day, and in casual conversation he unknowingly gave me enough information to figure out how much he makes a year. His salary comes out to basically McDonald's wages if he were living here in the USA. We were having a conversation about his iPad vs my Galaxy tab, and the engineer told me that " My brother keeps bugging me to buy him an iPad because he only makes 25 Yuan an hour which is half of what I make." So, he basically told me he makes 50 Yuan and hour. So, do the Math at the current rate of 6.23 Yuan to 1 dollar the Engineer makes 8.02/hr. Those are just stupidly poor wages for someone with a computer science degree Chinese or not!

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.