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Are those H-1B visas everywhere you want to be?

Techie tolerance
and the international colleague

H-1B visa tech controversy

By Porter Anderson
CNN Career

(CNN) -- "American workers are being forced out of their jobs," says one survey respondent. "It's just a matter of time before the immigrants, H-1Bs and foreign outsourcing will take over the industry."

"Sixty-five years ago, my father came to America with a one-day visa to start a new, better life," says another. "Why should we deny others this same opportunity?"

The controversy in the IT (information technology) career sector over the H-1B visa has again come into stark relief, as releases a new survey of more than 1,100 tech professionals. The site is a leading hub of IT industry issues. "And the tech workers we surveyed," says techies vice president Cynthia Morgan, "think it can affect their job security and pay scales."

graphic Do you feel the tech industry needs H-1B visa workers?

Yes. They fill an important gap in our domestic work force.
I'm not sure what to believe yet, I get conflicting info.
No. There's no shortage of workers, the H-1B program is wrong.
View Results


In October, the U.S. Congress passed an immigration law making it easier for international high-tech workers to find employment in the United States. The mechanism is the H-1B visa, a six-year visa dependent on continual work on American shores. If a job is terminated, the holder of an H-1B has just 10 days to find new work or leave the country.

The survey asked a series of questions designed to look into the feelings American IT workers have about international colleagues in the industry. And, as the techies staff phrases it, the over-arching result of the survey indicates that many tech workers feel the H-1B visa program is "just dandy ... when it's not being abuse."

"U.S. workers," the survey's summation reads, "say the government, employers and techies alike are clearly mishandling the use of the H-1B visas, and that they are all for imposing limits; especially when program abuse affects job security and pay scales."

More than half the survey's respondents told that international workers should not be allowed into the States unless a company sponsors them.

The least tolerance for H-1B visa workers was shown by respondents with less-secure positions; those in regions with comparatively lower tech jobs; entry-level respondents; and those working in relatively saturated parts of the market, including help-desk support positions.

"U.S. tech workers," says Morgan, "are increasingly nervous about employers' use of temporary non-U.S. citizens in tech jobs. The most anxiety comes from the most vulnerable."

One of the questions that asked its survey respondents is which issue weighs most heavily in concerns about H-1B visa tech workers in the United States.
Click here to see the responses.


'1930s presumption'

"Women, surprisingly enough," Morgan says, "said they were less likely to welcome non-citizen tech employees than their male counterparts.

"Overall, the survey pretty much discounts prejudice as a problem for the non-citizen ... until you asked non-citizens. The guys who actually live the H-1B visa experience were far more likely to cite bias against skin color or religion as the reason for problems. And, not surprisingly, they also strongly believed they have just as much right to U.S. jobs as U.S. citizens."

A Monday statement from the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group in Washington, said that since 1994, the number of non-U.S. college graduates in the country's overall work force has increased 43.8 percent, to 4.6 million. This, however, is less than half the all-inclusive growth of 10 million workers, 5.4 million being U.S.-born employees.

And the EPF research results note the rise in H-1B visa workers in the country, but goes on to say, "even that program falls short of being able to fulfill the demand for workers who will emerge in the coming years as labor force aging combines with growing demand for education and skills to tighten the American labor market. Fundamental to all of these programs is the presumption that foreign-born labor is a threat to the job security and incomes of native-born workers. This 1930s presumption does not fit the economic realities of the 21st century."

Nevertheless, the survey exposes the kind of nervousness some tech workers have around the international workers.

Another survey question asked by was about comparisons of U.S. tech workers and non-U.S. workers.
Click here for the survey results.


For example, almost 70 percent of respondents told techies they'd be comfortable or very comfortable working with or supervising an H-1B-sponsored employee. But only 55 percent said they'd be comfortable working for one. And this response was true of non-U.S. respondents as well as American respondents.

As far as talent and worth ethics go, the responding workers appear to have little against the international workers, themselves. Just 15 percent said non-U.S. workers are less talented or productive than American workers. Many respondents, said Morgan, told techies that a non-U.S. citizen has to be exceptionally good in order to be considered for work in the States at all.

The American dollar

"We also saw a lot of differences according to pay levels," Morgan said. "In general, workers making $100,000 annually wanted government to keep out of the temporary non-U.S. worker situation."

And the techies staff saw what Morgan calls the "grass is greener" effect in many responses. For instance, 76 percent of non-U.S. respondents -- 81 percent of those living outside the States -- said they believe there's a shortage of technology workers in the U.S. But only 33 percent of the American respondents working in this country said they think there are more tech jobs than workers.

The survey results indicate that people from India have the easiest time finding sponsorship in the United States by an employer. African workers, the results suggest, have the hardest time.

But the bottom-line question about U.S.-born workers vs. non-U.S. workers can be defined in some of the techies material best by comments appended to the survey by respondents.

"The best jobs should go to the best people," said one respondent, a non-U.S. programmer and analyst seeking an H-1B visa sponsorship. "That builds strength."

"I think the U.S. should focus on more domestic training and recruitment of IT workers," said U.S.-born help-desk analyst. "If we don't keep our population educated and trained in the new economy, then we're doing ourselves a disservice that will eventually lead to economic collapse."

"The tech workers we surveyed," says Morgan, "said they don't want to see H-1B stopped -- yet. But they're all for imposing limits. More than half said workers should not be allowed into the U.S. unless a company sponsors them.


• Employment Policy Foundation

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