[FoRK] Government Report: Evidence of H-1B Visa Fraud

Simon Wistow simon at thegestalt.org
Tue Oct 14 11:08:38 PDT 2008

This is a matter quite close to my own heart since I'm one of those 
filthy foreigners over here in ur country takin ur jobs. Oh nooooess.

A lot of countries have some variation on a Highly Skilled Migrant 
program which more or less says "Here's a questionaire - fill in these 
boxes, tick where appropriate and tot up your score at the end and if 
you're over a certain threshold then you're in" 

The US instead has a morass of visas - the most important (for the 
sake of this discussion) being (and do forgive me if I'm wrong on some 
of the details).

* The H1B visa (the technical immigrant visa) 

This is currently a lottery - a quota of visas are released on April the 
1st and everyone puts their application in and succesful applicants 
informed several months later. They are then allowed to move the 
following October.

Once in the US you are not tied to a particularly company but your 
spouse, if you have one, may not work.

This is also used by models. Apparently NY fashion week have been having 
problems getting sufficent models because of this restriction.

* The L1B (the inter-company transfer) 

Having worked for a foreign office of a company with an American office 
for a year you can transfer to the American office. You can't change 
companies but bizarrely your spouse can work. At any company.

* O1 (Alien of Extraordinary Ability visa - best. name. evar) 

This is for

- Actors
- People in the film industry (working in visual effects makes this 
                               fairly easy to get)
- Nobel prize winners or equivalent
- Other notable specialists in a field

It takes a ton of evidence. You're tied to the company who sponsored you 
but it's possible to change jobs by getting your new company to reapply 
for an O1 and basically say "Our evidence that they're good enough is 
that they already have an O1"

* E3 (Australian visa)

As a way of saying thanks for helping with the war on terror Australian 
nationals may apply for an E3 visa. It's kind of like the H1B in that 
there's a quota of 10,500 but like the H1B of days of yore it's not run 
out yet.

Once you get it (and it's a much simpler process than the H1B) you can 
move immediately. Your spouse may work. You're tied to your company.

Anyway, so having gone through the visa process it's long, stressful, 
confusing, expensive and it's seeminly arbitary and non-deterministic - 
the USCIS can reject your application "just because". My case even got 
used as evidence in a series of emergency meetings between the 
Association of US immigration lawyers and USCIS.

Now that I'm here in SF it's just as frustrating - we can't hire enoguh 
really good people (you know the kind I'm talking about, the right hand 
side of the curve needed for start ups) and even though there's specific 
people elsewhere in the world we'd like to bring in - it's just too damn 
difficult (a 6 month lead time till them starting?).

In someways I think there's almost two worlds of H1Bs (which seem to be 
the divisive visas) - small companies trying to bring one off people and 
the anecdotal stories of giant outsourcing companies trying to move 
people over here. 

I have to admit, I've never seen much of the second but I tend to work 
in smaller places so maybe that's just me but it leads to a lot fo the 
arguments you see on Slashdot against the H1 not really making sense.

The major one seems to be wage depression. Well, a few things - 
with an H1B you can change jobs which mean the "They work for lower 
wages because they're virtually slaves" (actual quote I've heard) kind 
of crap. Also, that's the free market but it's also better to have lower 
waged jobs over rather than no jobs here and everything outsourced. 
Moreover most of the people I know eher with visas are better payed than 
a lot of the people I know. Even when I was at Yahoo! Europeans bought 
over probably had a higher average wage than the Americans. Again, I 
possibly have a quite skewed view on things so I may be wrong. Finally - 
it costs *a lot* of money to bring someone over on a visa - in the $30k+ 
range on top of the usual hiring costs (I actually think it's probably 
closer to $40k+ but I'm rounding down) which, again means that the 
"Importing cheap overseas labour" argument doesn't quite hold water.

Now I'll agree that the system as it stands is quite broken and I don't 
think upping the number of H1Bs is necessarily the solution but I don't 
think cutting them is the answer either.

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