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United States Government IT

H1-B Administrators Are Challenging An Unusually Large Number of Applications (bloomberg.com) 304

Long-time Slashdot reader decaffeinated quotes Bloomberg: Starting this summer, employers began noticing that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was challenging an unusually large number of H-1B applications. Cases that would have sailed through the approval process in earlier years ground to a halt under requests for new paperwork. The number of challenges -- officially known as "requests for evidence" or RFEs -- are up 44 percent compared to last year, according to statistics from USCIS...

"We're entering a new era," said Emily Neumann, an immigration lawyer in Houston who has been practicing for 12 years. "There's a lot more questioning, it's very burdensome." She said in past years she's counted on 90 percent of her petitions being approved by Oct. 1 in years past. This year, only 20 percent of the applications have been processed. Neumann predicts she'll still have many unresolved cases by the time next year's lottery happens in April 2018.

H1-B Administrators Are Challenging An Unusually Large Number of Applications

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2017 @02:40PM (#55531845)

    The H1B visa program is used intentionally as cheap labor to replace the American worker under the guise of 'we just can't find anyone skilled local'.

    It's more about finding a worker who will work for 1/3rd the salary.

    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @04:35PM (#55532307) Homepage Journal

      Sadly, that is true. TFA is just people crying that they are actually being held to the stated intent and requirements of the H1-B program for the first time in well over a decade. Enforcement has been so lax that the people quoted in the story seem to have actually forgotten that being unable to find someone with the needed skills in the U.S. is a hard requirement for hiring an H1-B.

      If the full quota isn't being handed out, perhaps it's because there is no actual shortage and so there aren't that many qualifying applications out there. Perhaps they should take a second look at the applicants who were over 40 years old or otherwise seemed like they might insist on only working the hours they were paid for that they threw in the round file. They could try actually offering pay on par with the industry. Perhaps they could offer a better work environment, easier hours, or telecommute if they can't afford higher pay. They could offer training or scholorship programs, co-op, etc. They could even consider (God forbid) not insisting on having their offices in the most expensive places in the country.

  • Boo farking hoo (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2017 @02:41PM (#55531847)

    Oh no, they'll have to pay higher wages instead of using foreign labor! Won't somebody think of the corporate profits?

    There are valid situations where there's nobody with that skill available in the US. That is not the case for 90% of H1-B visas.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Oh no, they'll have to pay higher wages instead of using foreign labor!

      That is one solution. Another is to hire the whole team overseas. If you can't move the workers to the jobs, then you move the jobs to the workers.

      Restrictions on immigration have a poor track record for creating jobs and economic growth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2017 @02:44PM (#55531863)

    H-1B visa abuse is pretty commonplace. Even B-1 visa abuse is commonplace where people from offshore wind up working here in the US for 90-180 days, then get rotated out, and another batch of people from Kerala or Bangalore moved in. The fines for that are so cheap that it is written off as a cost of doing business.

    The problem is that there are many tax incentives to abuse the visa system. For example, I can pay the payroll tax for 20 FTEs, or I can pay some contracting firm that hauls in people fresh off the boat, and don't have to pay a dime. As an added bonus, I can tell them to punt someone I don't like because I feel like it, and the contracting place removes them. No separation, no work on my side other than locking some accounts. Plus, I don't have to worry about HR and interviews.

    So, until the system is fixed that encourages outsourcing to H-1B abusing contract firms, we will see this shit continuing. The H-1B program needs to be tossed, or modified where for every dollar paid for an H-1B, another dollar gets paid to the US government earmarked for education, with a minimum salary of five times the median income.

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:23PM (#55532033)

      As an added bonus, I can tell them to punt someone I don't like because I feel like it, and the contracting place removes them. No separation, no work on my side other than locking some accounts. Plus, I don't have to worry about HR and interviews.

      In this Weinsteinian era, it starts to make me wonder how much sexual harassment gets swept under the rug in this system.

      Pressure some woman for sex and when she doesn't deliver, tell the body shop she's not working out and you want her replaced. Given the generally low ethics associated with body shops, I can totally see them playing into serial offenders and sending them easy prey.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I have seen this play out in a small manufacturing firm in the midwest US. Nearly all of the 80 line workers were "permanent temps". Everyone is hired through temp agencies, and technically work for the temp agency on site. This practice is so the company can get away with not following many worker protections. If a manager does not like an employee, a phone call to the temp agency and the worker is "unplaced", not fired, at no cost or risk to the manufacturer.

        There were allegations of sexual misconduct by

    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @04:00PM (#55532177)

      The problem is that there are many tax incentives to abuse the visa system.

      There is another problem you failed to mention: continuing H-1B status is often used by employers to coerce the visa holders to work for lower-than-normal wages.

      That is a big part of the reason the tech industry has for years been lobbying to expand the program.

      A number of recent studies have shown that there simply is no shortage of tech-field college and university graduates in the U.S.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @02:46PM (#55531881)

    In British Colonial times, the British traveled to India to set up companies there and exploit the most talented natives.

    In US Colonial times, the most talented come voluntarily to the US to be exploited.

    Strange times, eh?

    H1-B is total crap and needs to be eliminated ASAP. Oh, but that lobbyist money from Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

    Your Congress Critter cannot argue with that money!

    • by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:23PM (#55532031) Homepage

      "In US Colonial times, the most talented come voluntarily to the US to be exploited."

      Actually, a lot of cheap labor during the colonial era was obtained in the form of indentured servitude. Commit a crime, get sentenced and shipped off to America. The people who arrived in this way weren't exactly volunteering to be exploited; it was just better than alternatives like prison or execution. Also, these people were not necessarily the most talented.

      • I believe the point being made is that the current-day US is an empire engaging in colonialism by brain-drain and nothing to do with indentured servitude during pre-revolutionary times

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          That's a funny way to define "empire": a place less hellish than most of the world that attracts immigration from the most ambitious people from the rest of the planet.

      • Actually, a lot of cheap labor during the colonial era was obtained in the form of indentured servitude.

        Next you're going to suggest that some were even... white!

    • by Afty0r ( 263037 )

      H1-B is total crap and needs to be eliminated ASAP. Oh, but that lobbyist money from Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

      Only ONE of those companies makes the top 10 H1B sponsors... and that is in TENTH place... the other 9 only have one "tech" company in them. The rest are "consultancies".

      https://www.myvisajobs.com/Rep... [myvisajobs.com]

      The companies you mentioned don't really care, and probably want Visa reform too.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If they get rid of H1B companies will just move their operations to India. That's not the solution you are looking for.

      You should concentrate on making high quality labor valued. Look at Germany, massive manufacturing base and competing with China on export value, because people value German quality and locality.

      Basically you need to offer something that India can't.

      • ...companies will just move their operations to India.

        Sure they will; superior infrastructure and all that. (I'm actually fairly amused that you're dumb enough to try and play that card...)

        • Do you think India doesn't have electricity or communications or industry? If the workers can't work in America, they'll have to work in India instead.

  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @02:56PM (#55531925)
    There is plenty of available skilled labor here in America. We should not be importing labor.
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      One of the few things that orange dude has done right. I've seen H1-B bullshit in many orgs.

    • Re:Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:44PM (#55532123) Homepage Journal
      It is probably not that we are importing less labor, it is that we are importing less skilled labor. The number of H2B visas that the US is allowing has increased 45%, or 15,000 more visas. This has allowed Mar-a-Lago, for instance, to hire 70 foreign workers to do job that any local resident could do. Local resources to help people get jobs have reportedly stated that they were not asked to help locals get the jobs that pay over $10 an hour, and the ads placed in local newspapers were the smallest possible.

      Of course this is a small number compared to the 60 to 90,000 H1B visas, about a quarter for higher degrees, but one can imagine that for a federal government that wants to cut down on immigration, prioritizing the help at the country club over the technical needs for innovative companies might seem like a reasonable choice.

    • What's the unemployment rate of CS grads in the US for you to make such a statement?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:01PM (#55531961) Journal
    I am nursing two H1B applications through the process. Both were easy cases that would have sailed through in the past. (MS Comp Sci, U Washington, massively parallel computing, MS Mech E, Cal Tech, finite element methods and mesh generation). With published papers in reputed journals.

    Both were hit with RFE. Guidance from the lawyers were:

    • Show that the job duties require the qualifications demanded in the job listing
    • Show that the candidate had the qualifications when hired.
    • Show that the job will continue to need all those qualifications for the entire duaration of the application for H1B (three years).

    They seem to be cracking down on the practice of finding unusual combinations of qualifications in the candidates (like BS in accounting, fluency in Kannada language and truck driving license), putting them all as necessary qualifications making it impossible for anyone else to apply.

    We only hire people with Masters or PhDs from top American schools. We were at a very heave disadvantage in the earlier loose era. TCS, Wipro and the assorted Indian body shoppers would grab the H1Bs and our candidates had to live through lottery. But now, we can easily meet the law, in spirit as well as the letter. Personally I welcome such strict scrutiny. It should have been like this from day 1.

    US high school grads with 1 or 2 year training is enough to do most jobs done by the Indian Body shop imports. They should not even be considered for H1B. Simple coding is all they do, and they were gaming the system. They should restrict H1Bs for Graduate degrees from US universities. That will curb the rampant resume inflation and outright lies in the resumes.

    • It's sad really we have tons of laws on the books that are ignored and if they had been actually administering the H1B program the way it was written it wouldn't be rife with abuse. Another is the anticompetitive medical industry pricing practices that are indistinguishable from racketeering... laws are there just nobody had balls to enforce them.
    • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @04:24PM (#55532259)
      H1B shouldn't be a lottery. It should be an auction. Then you'd just bid a salary without the the red tape you may not mind but that still costs taxpayer money. If someone wants to outbid you on a half-literate code monkey, that's their prerogative and their loss. Abuse goes away. Artificial wage depression goes away. A fixed number of slots that you can bid on makes the thing merit-based on its own and keeps the loonies quiet about letting in too many people who don't come from our culture.
      • I think auction is not a bad idea. Also the bid should be for the salary, not a price to buy a slot in H1B. The salary being offered to any H1B should be part of public record. That will help a little in wage transparency for all.
        • Exactly. I'd even go so far as to say that it should be placed in trust by a third party to be disbursed to the employee to prevent shenannigans with people who may not be familiar with our legal system and notion of employee rights.
        • I think that the big should be salary. If the employee you need has to have skills that are really rare (everybody with those skills in the USA are already employed), then you will be ready to pay him a lot.

          Or maybe you will find a US citizen willing to work for less than what is needed to get the foreigner in.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        All that week so is make it extremely hard for new/smaller companies to get the talent they genuinely need.

      • An auction actually solves all of the problems.

        Each hopeful employer selects an amount, puts it in escrow. Escrow company notifies the immigration office, immigration office puts the bid in their list. Each month, the top 10 or 25 bids are selected. Office notifies the escrow company. Escrow company notifies the employer and the employee. Escrow company then pays one thirty-sixth of the escrow amount to employee as salary and benefits each month, starting on the day they enter the country and ending wh

    • They seem to be cracking down on the practice of finding unusual combinations of qualifications in the candidates (like BS in accounting, fluency in Kannada language and truck driving license), putting them all as necessary qualifications making it impossible for anyone else to apply.

      So the employers sculpt job requirements around specific qualifications of foreigners, then whine that no "qualified" Americans exist? Disgraceful.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:10PM (#55531985)

    Even if it wasn’t the author’s intent. From TFA:

    ”For Centro, a company in Chicago that makes technology for ad agencies, the problems started this summer. Centro had applied for visas for three young employees who already had the legal right to work for a limited time after graduating from college. One of the applications had been chosen in the H-1B lottery. Emilie Clark, the company’s director of human resources, happily called the employee to tell him his immigration status was settled for the next three years. ”

    H1-B is supposed to be used for special cases where there simply aren’t enough Americans available with a particular hard-to-find skill set. There’s just about zero chance that some young recent graduate has such a background. But just for the sake of argument, what were the skills in this case? Again, from TFA:

    ”... which consisted of writing algorithms and required knowledge of multiple programming languages as well as a solid understanding of relational data storage systems ...”

    Seriously? The company needed an H1-B for that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      they had an amazing, unreplicable skill set of the above and the ability to work on 15k per year.

    • You made a very good point, using only evidence in the article to highlight the hypocrisy in the visa system. Obviously we don't need to import job seekers who cannot have qualifications beyond what every American computer science graduate has.

      For positions which are not entry-level, one way that companies are getting their cheap H1B labor is by exaggerating the 'particular hard-to-find skill set', creating a combination that no one in the industry would actually have. But miraculously, the "consulting"

    • There’s just about zero chance that some young recent graduate has such a background.

      That's a funny thing to say in an industry where drop-outs create world-changing companies. What exactly are you hoping to achieve by deporting skilled, educated workers?

  • Plenty of abuse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lfp98 ( 740073 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @03:24PM (#55532037)
    Probably the paperwork requirements are just BS, but simply putting obstacles in the path and making it more of a hassle to get these visas actually makes sense. In principle, you have to try to recruit US citizens first, but there are ways around that requirement. For example, you advertise an entry-level job with a low salary, reject applicants for not having some very specific job experience or skills, then hire a highly experienced overqualified foreigner at the same low salary. I'd be very surprised if it weren't true the in a majority of cases, H1-B holders were sought because they're younger and cheaper, not because they have special skills. What the government really ought to do is have an auction for these visas instead of a lottery, If Google, Microsoft et al. really need these people, they shouldn't mind paying $100,000 or more bounty to get them. Use the money to fund scholarships for US students in fields where there are supposedly such dire shortages, instead of saddling them with $100,000 of student debt.
    • Or, the company should specify what salary it is going to pay the employee. Then the limited number of visas issued to those who are willing to pay the highest salaries.

      At some point it will become cheaper to hire a local or even pay a local to learn the skill and then hire him. If the skills required are truly rare, then it is only fair that the employee should get a huge salary.

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @04:17PM (#55532229)
    I've worked with a number of these so-called "highly skilled" H-1B's and they should have been more heavily scrutinized to begin with. Many of them are misrepresenting their abilities. I've worked with enough of them to have real, factual evidence from direct experience to back up this claim. In all the instances that I've observed, they were all H-1B's from India. That's not to say that all H-1B's from India that I've worked misrepresented themselves but it's definitely the overwhelming majority. There is a Technical Scrum Master at my work that is exceptional. It is valid to question why we see many H-1B's that are quite frankly worse than college interns to get to the bottom of it. I think it's great that the US Government is doing that. If we're going to hire H-1B's we need to make sure that the ones we're hiring are truly the best of the best. That's what the program was designed to do.
  • should have always been burdensome...
  • or favoritism unless they're actually reducing the number of H1-B visas granted. There's so much demand for these visas among employers that they could challenge 90% of them and still hit their caps.
  • Many if not most H1-B's I've worked with are not "highly specialized experts". I'm not putting them down, they are nice people who want to make a living. But it's nonsense to suggest a local could not be found to do what they are doing.
  • by truckaxle ( 883149 ) on Saturday November 11, 2017 @07:22PM (#55532889) Homepage

    In typical hypocritical fashion, Trump expanded the H2B by 15000 this year and even hired 70 workers at Mar-a-lago

    Every job in that H2B category depresses wages for American workers. If these were immigrants, at least they would be engaging in the economy buying houses, cars, etc. The guest worker hunkers down, saves money and takes it out of our country.

    How does he get away with this?

    • There's nothing to "get away with" -- Congress explicitly authorized the increase in the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act [congress.gov]:

      SEC. 543. Notwithstanding the numerical limitation set forth
      in section 214(g)(1)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8
      U.S.C. 1184(g)(1)(B)), the Secretary of Homeland Security, after
      consultation with the Secretary of Labor, and upon the determina-
      tion that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied
      in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing,
      qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor,
      may increase the total number of aliens who may receive a visa
      under section 101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b) of such Act (8 U.S.C.
      1101(a)(15)(H)(ii)(b)) in such fiscal year above such limitation by
      not more than the highest number of H–2B nonimmigrants who
      participated in the H–2B returning worker program in any fiscal
      year in which returning workers were exempt from such numerical
      limitation.

    • He gets away with it because his supporters will keep supporting him as long as he keeps sending out offensive tweets that they can post on facebook/reddit/4chan and say 'lol liberals BTFO'.

  • The H1-B visa system is completely broken, a pizza cook can be granted for working at a Papa John's location. A H1-B visa holder falso used the immigration to get his back pay, the entire time the US government did not even question whether a pizza cook should even have a H1-B visa at all. Took some digging around but SRV Pizza is just a holding company for Papa Johns franchise.. https://cis.org/North/Governme... [cis.org] http://www.all-pizza.com/phila... [all-pizza.com]
  • by nomadic ( 141991 )

    Just about everybody gets the current state of H-1B workers wrong. There are two pools of H-1Bs, who are here under the same visa but in totally different situations.

    The first are people who are actually filling jobs they couldn't find Americans to fill. These are often STEM professions that not enough Americans want to go into in the areas that need them -- like civil or mechanical engineering in unsexy areas (like wastewater treatment), or physicians in underserved areas. Americans with talent and interes

  • The scrutiny of immigrants to the US is probably going to set in a the new normal. So immigration lawyers gravy train as the gatekeepers of all the non-traditional immigration to the US is probably coming to an end. Their best bet is probably to requalify as labor lawyers. The relationships between employers and employees is very rapidly changing. So there should be more work in negotiating new norms in that arena than there is in filling out the paperwork for new waves of highly-qualified indentured s

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