Pressure to Downsize H-1B Visa
Working in the US requires a visa of course, and some Americans think it's too easy for overseas tech workers to get one. So now they're taking their case to Congress. Joining me for more is CNN's James Hattori, who's been following this story. James, thanks for joining us on E-Biz.
Hi Christina, welcome to California. You know, factor in the boom, companies here couldn't get enough of them. We're talking about foreign workers, largely from Asia, on the so-called H-1B visa program. Now of course, things have changed dramatically, as we all know. And now that the economy is downsized, there's growing pressure to downsize the H-1B visa program as well. Hese days, computer programmer Pete Bennett is building boats for his kids instead of software.
PETE BENNETT, PROGRAMMER
Well, I was a cabinetmaker for 15 years.
But after more than a decade of high-tech, this year Bennett has worked on just one software project so far. A victim of the economic slowdown, and he says an immigration program that's making the job market even worst.
American citizens are getting hurt, the H-1B workers are getting hurt. And something needs to be done to straighten this thing out and quick.
Benning believes that federal H-1B visa program, which allows nearly 200,000 skilled workers a year into the US, is unnecessary and being abused. Bottom line, are H-1B visa holders taking jobs that American citizens could be filling?
That's the general consensus amongst my peers and myself.
He's not alone. An organization representing nearly 250,000 high-tech professionals has written to Congress. They want to know why Americans are getting laid off, while workers from abroad continue to work. The H-1B program was supposed to give skilled overseas workers jobs when qualified Americans cannot be found. The visas were initially capped at 65,000 in 1998, but Congress upped it to 195,000 last year. In fact, perhaps because of the US economic slump, H-1B applications are down dramatically. 48% fewer so far this year compared to last. But critics say the decline is not keeping pace with layoffs here in the US. Norman Matloff is a professor at the University of California at Davis who has studied hiring practices at high-tech companies.
What Congress ought to do is just cancel the whole H-1B program, and in its place put a very small program with (very small), very strong protections and without the loopholes they have now.
Loopholes that critics say for example let companies hire H-1B visa workers at lesser paying positions than the jobs they actually perform.
There is tailoring the job requirements so that only the foreign national -- you know that's the only person on the whole planet that would qualify because you've deliberately set it up that way.