Transcript

H-1B Visa Debate

S. Mitra Kalita
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 31, 2006; 1:00 PM

While the country and Congress debate the future of illegal workers in America, a quieter fight involving immigration is being battled. This week, both the House and Senate heard arguments on whether to extend the H-1B visa program which has been used to lure highly-skilled workers to the United States.

Washington Post Staff Writer S. Mitra Kalita was online Friday, March 31 to discuss her story, Most See Visa Program as Severely Flawed .

A transcript follows .

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S. Mitra Kalita: Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining me today to talk about the H-1B visa program. While I know many of you have questions about overall immigration reforms, I'm going to try to keep us focused on visas and green cards for highly skilled workers. Also, I see a lot of questions from H1-B holders themselves or people waiting for green cards. I will answer what I can but please please please seek the advice of your immigration lawyer. Finally, stay in touch with your ideas, feedback and stories at kalitam at washpost.com. Here we go...

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Rochester, N.Y.: Why do you think the Indian government is so anxious to have Congress raise the H-1B cap? They have lobbied for this through the WTO GATS Doha talks. If you read the Indian newspapers and the major offshore outsourcing firms' statements, the H-1B program is critical to increasing off shoring. In other words by increasing the H-1B cap the US is accelerating the transfer of work overseas. Why would the Senate support that?

S. Mitra Kalita: Can you please clarify? Most of the proponents of the H-1B program, such as software companies, say the program actually helps them avoid outsourcing jobs overseas. They also cite the economic effect that these H-1B visa holders have on the U.S. economy, such as buying houses, cars, clothes, lunch at the corner deli... Now some of these companies also have India operations but they say those workers help leverage the U.S. staff perform work at a higher value, increased salary, responsibility, etc.

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Middleburg, Va.: That H1-B holders lowered the wages is difficult to admit. Most are here with their spouses, whom are not allowed to work, so effectively, the household total income is much lower than others. Why then accept a lower wage? I believe the studies done are incomplete.

Esteban

S. Mitra Kalita: This is an important point - and I see a few questions on the dependents of H-1B holders, known in visa parlance as H-4s. Advocates of letting in more H-1B workers would agree with you. On the other side, though, is a point of view that they are still going to earn more than they might in, say, China or India, and that they still earn enough to live comfortably ($55,000 is one average I reported in today's story and that beats the U.S. median household income of about $45,000). Someone out there correct me on that last figure if I am way off as it's based on memory.

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Sacramento, Calif.: Do you believe that Indian firms, such as Razorlight that was cited in your article, should be allowed to hire H-1Bs even if there are qualified Americans available to fill the jobs? Might Indian firms prefer to hire from their own nationality, perhaps due to contacts back in India that would like to work in America?

S. Mitra Kalita: I should have stated in my preface that I am precluded from telling you what I believe or think on most issues. I will however say that I have been writing about H-1B issues for more than five years, and I honestly remain ambivalent and undecided about the program (a good thing, perhaps). In response to your question, I have found that many employers, who happen to be Indian, do hire people based on connections to other people, who also happen to be Indian. There have been a few cases of fraud found in relation to the H-1B program, as well.

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Ithaca, N.Y.: Thanks for taking this question! Is there a job list associated with H-1B visa? Is H-1B only limited to certain professionals?

S. Mitra Kalita: H-1Bs are limited to people in "specialty" occupations and must have at least a college degree. Here are some commonly asked questions about the program from the immigrationagency overseeing them.

http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/h1b.htm

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Boston, Mass.: My comment is:

The U.S. has the capacity to stop all lawful and unlawful immigration if it wishes. It can boot out all illegals, but this is all a game of brinkmanship between the congress and those in corporate America. Guys like Pat Buchanan make a living writing books on the matter, and then go to Imus in the morning and says the most hideous things about immigrants. If they were Irish newcomers, they would be OK in Pat's eyes. Stop the H-1B Visas, those guys in India and China don't need to come here and every one will live happily ever after.

S. Mitra Kalita: A comment.

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VA: Madam Mitra Kalita,

Good afternoon!

My comments: An employer has to go through two lengthy procedures set by DOL, before actually it files H-1B application for an alien with CIS. This recruitment and labor certification process intended to protect U.S. workers interest and U.S. labor market. But number of U.S. employers wishing to hire foreign workers, every year, far more outnumbers 65,000 H-1B visa allocated by Congress. We observe the same trend for this year and have to wait to file these applications until April 1, 2006, when 2007 H-1B visas become available. There is in place some kind of protective measure for U.S. job market and the existing process, yet very long, still helps to match a US employer wanted to hire a professional and the needed, qualified foreign worker. You do not to go to far, it is very plain proof that the US needs these qualified professionals and the Congress is right intending to increase the number up to 115, 000.

Question: Do the people opposing the increase of H-1B visa, think ever about this simple fact?

S. Mitra Kalita: Another comment I am passing along. I do think the other side thinks about it. Their response to me has been that the costs for fees, lawyers and the time invested still outweigh what these companies would pay U.S. citizens or green card holders.

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Dallas, Texas: With clear evidence supporting the contention that Microsoft spent millions of dollars via their lobbyist Jack Abramoff to expand the controversial H-1B visa program in 1998 and 2000, what recourse do U.S. citizens, who were badly harmed as their careers were destroyed, have against Microsoft's corruption?

As we speak, Microsoft is "lobbying" again to increase H-1B limits. They want to eliminate any H-1B limits.

In post - Watergate Washington, DC, the soft rustle of lobbying dollars trumps any reasoned arguments for ending the H-1B visa program.

Dr. Gene A. Nelson

website: http://www.AnAmericanScam.com

S. Mitra Kalita: I do not have an answer for this but wanted others to see it. I can't vouch for the validity of your claims necessarily except to say the tech lobby has been growing in Washington.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi Mitra...I like your column and read all the articles that you wrote about H-1B workers and their families, who came to US with a dream of good life but got stuck with one employer and might not be able make much progress.

My question to you is what is the best recourse to H-1B worker spouse and their family besides baby sitting at home and drain all the education and skills they have. They would want to work, improve their expertise and contribute to the U.S. economy as well but being dependent status on their visa wouldn't allow them to be on payroll.

S. Mitra Kalita: Another question about spouses. This scenario, immigration advocates, argue, is forcing families to look to other countries that more loosely hand out work permits. I am going to post a story I did on this last fall. Hang on.

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washingtonpost.com: Immigrant Wives' Visa Status Keeps Them Out of Workplace , Oct. 3, 2005

S. Mitra Kalita: Here is the story I just mentioned.

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Memphis, Tenn.: I am 60 years old and have been in the Information Technology field for approximately 38 years, as a computer programmer, systems analyst, IT manager, and Database Advisor for 3 major corporations. The H-1B Visa program has destroyed the marketplace for American citizens who want to pursue this type of career. My son (23 years old) graduates in May from the University of Tennessee with a major in Economics. I discouraged him from going into any type of technology field (computer science, engineering, etc.) because the jobs will not be as available to American citizens and certainly not in the pay scale that they should be. Look around. I have associates with other companies that report the same situation in their American companies. The influx of Indian and Asian technicians has basically eliminated many upper-middle-class job opportunities for American citizens to pursue through formal education. There will come a day (and soon) that this country will experience first-hand what France did during the French Revolution. The gap between the rich and poor gets wider and the middle class gets smaller. Mark my words.

S. Mitra Kalita: Posting another comment. Thank you for it and good luck to you and your son. As an aside, groups such as the one I quoted today, IEEE-USA, say they do try to encourage U.S. workers to stay globally competitive and keep getting training in the latest technologies and innovations.

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Washington, D.C.: Thank you for your informative article on a topic that needs more attention.

I'm trying to get an sense of the scope of the problem from the perspective of an H-1B visa holder. Just how long does it typically take professionals from India and China/Taiwan to get a green card through their employer these days? What disinsentives are there for employers, other than the risk that the green card may not be approved and their employee will have to return to their home country?

S. Mitra Kalita: Absent from much of this debate are the voices of H-1B holders themselves and I thank you for your question. I talked to someone who wouldn't allow himself to be quoted by name (so I did not use him in today's story) but this particular individual's story is one I hear often: He has been here for nine years, first on a student visa, then an H-1B. His employer applied for his green card in 2002 and he has been waiting four years because it is tied up in the backlog for labor certification. He said he is giving it six more months and if it doesn't come through, he's heading back to India. This stage is the one that a lot of observers agree where a worker risks being exploited. They are beholden to the employer because of the green card sponsorship (an H-1B visa can travel with a worker from one company to another, however) and cannot get promoted because that is technically a change in job classification -- and would require a new application. On the other hand, a lot of companies say that they know once someone gets a green card, they are out the door because suddenly they can start a company, go work for someone else, get promoted... Anyway, I could go on and on with background on this but instead I will post a story I did last summer on the green card backlog. Hang on.

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washingtonpost.com: For Green Card Applicants, Waiting Is the Hardest Part , July 23, 2005

S. Mitra Kalita: Here it is. Perhaps this will provide some answers on the green card process.

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Mclean, Va.: I am amazed that people are so misinformed about the job market - my company, a fortune 50 one - has had tremendous trouble filling up its vacancies - AND this is with a H-1B ban! Over and over the VP in the company fret about all the unfilled postions they have - around 250 positions !

How do you explain this disparity - the public perception that Americans are loosing jobs and the fact that a great company is having trouble filling up its positions with a H1b ban in place ? Something does not add up here ...

S. Mitra Kalita: Herein is the perspective of companies that say they desperately need the cap to be raised because they just cannot find qualified U.S. workers -- and they need the relief now in order to stay competitive or grow. Retrain, the opponents might say. Well Java and C++ might not be that easy to learn (at least for me!). Just laying out some of the arguments...

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Anonymous: As a HR Professional, I'm also conflicted about the H-1B program. I've seen it both succeed and fail. It can succeed when there is a very specific job (say a database architect) that requires an advanced degree and many years of experience in a specialized technology. However, I think more times than not it fails. I've seen too many companies hire H-1B "body shops" for basic computer jobs like QA (that may require a bachelor's degree, but truly aren't that difficult) and hold the H-1B holders hostage for a sub-market wage. I don't think Congress gets the subliety of the difference between these two situations and don't know how you could legislate it without getting into every job description in America. Your thoughts?

S. Mitra Kalita: I think you summarized a lot of the challenges I laid out in the story today. I can't offer an opinion but I can say this: if immigration is going to be overhauled, shouldn't the shortcomings of this program be dealt with? And what is the best way to lure international talent to the United States in a global economy? And if we don't need these workers, then where and how will the tech sector get them? And is it incumbent on the H-1Bs themselves to police wages and their treatment a little bit more? I pose the questions to the rest of you. Thoughts?

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Northern Virginia: Is the visa/greencard process so convoluted that one must have an immigration lawyer these days? How difficult is it for an intelligent, university-educated H-1B holder to figure out the system on his/her own? If, by definition, one would be lost without an immigration lawyer, doesn't that alone speak to the depth of the problem?

S. Mitra Kalita: I have heard numerous stories about immigration lawyers giving bad advice that resulted in delays or even deportation, from nannies to my dearest friends. On the other hand, a good lawyer can make all the difference in navigating a very complicated process. So yes, they are needed, both by the company and the employers. Some workers offer to pay the fees for them if they really want the company to give them a job but they don't have work authorization to work in the United States or are coming off of a student visa.

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Dallas, Texas: One of the reasons given for excluding poor uneducated workers from Mexico is that they take jobs away from citizens and depress wages, e.g., in construction. Why isn't this also touted as a reason for excluding highly skilled workers who certainly take jobs away from citizens and labor for less than their American counterparts.

S. Mitra Kalita: This is mentioned in today's story.

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Washington DC: Dear Mitra-

Thanks for this much needed discussion! In the discussion about illegal immigration, the fact that it is very very hard to immigrate legally (the green card backlog is a great example for that) has been lost. Do you think Congress will act on that? Backlog reduction is included in the Senate bill, but I am wondering if it will ever happen. Waiting 5-6 years on top of your labor certificate is way too long!

Thanks!

S. Mitra Kalita: To be honest, the backlog does not seem like a high priority in this immigration overhaul. Someone out there correct me if I am wrong. But that dismays a lot of people on H-1s who have been waiting for years and years for green cards as Congress talks about possibly giving amnesty to workers who migrated illegally. The H-1Bs are saying, "Hey, wait a second, what about me?"

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Burke, Va.: I am hearing and reading lot of immigration news and "to happen" regulations. What I really don't understand is why is the H-1B visa given only for an extended period of six years? If the goal of H-1B visa is hiring skilled labor to meet special skilled jobs than why can't the US government give green cards to these skilled workers based upon their academic and working skills? I know our northern neighboring country, Canada offers Green cards based upon qualifications!

As being an alien, I understand, it probably is a good thing to give a guest worker program to all the illegal in the U.S. so all can have an opportunity to do something. But what about the temporary legal (Quasi-legal) working H-1B aliens, who would like to make U.S. their home?

S. Mitra Kalita: This was expressed in today's story by Stuart Anderson, and even the folks at IEEE-USA, who were very clear to say they do support immigration but not the H-1B program. Also I spoke to (but didn't quote in today's story) a representatative of NAFSA, the group for international educators, who said he doesn't understand why the United States would want to educate so many foreign students in fields such as engineering, computer science, math and physics -- only to make this investment and then send them home. He was a big advocate of the provision in the Specter bill that would allow foreign students to immediately gain green card sponsorships from employers. And in regards to your point about Canada, I have heard from some immigrants that they are choosing to work in Canada, Australia, parts of Europe because the process of permanent residency is easier -- and their spouses can work.

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Memphis, Tenn.: Folks -

You just don't seem to get it. t's all about money. Profit ! American companies can contract 2 H1B-Visa technicians for every 1 American citizen. I know. I've seen it first-hand. Plus there's no retirement plan to worry with, no health insurance to pay for, no workman's comp issues, etc. etc. The companies that I am aware of only work through contract organizations who only hire Indian and Asian contractors. Simple facts. Don't get hung up in all of the other baloney. It's about money.

S. Mitra Kalita: Passing along the comment. Although I do feel compelled to correct that employers both on the H-1B and the H-2B (that's the low-skilled guest workers program, landscapers, busboys, cleaners, etc.) tend to pay Social Security, Medicare and income taxes. I have never met an H-1B worker without health insurance, and most of the H-2B jobs require worker's compensation because of the nature of the jobs. But thank you for the feedback.

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Washington, D.C.: I think at some point the perception that all immigrants are equal has go away - H-1B visa holders, especially ones that have a degree from the US have to be treated differently from the Mexicans - part of the reaon being that they tend to assimilate much better and becuase there can be no question that an well educated tax paying individual contributes to the community as a whole.

For the gentleman who suggest a version of the French Revolution, I would point out that its the H-1B's who get exploited more consistently , especially by the "body shops" ...

S. Mitra Kalita: Another comment. Although certainly the assimilation point is debatable, no? Some tech associations in Silicon Valley hold meetings in Mandarin!

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Alexandria, Va.: It's a shame because almost all the great advances in science, math, and computing have been and continue to be due to Europeans and Americans, despite the academic success of Asians.

But Americans will not enter a field where the wages are depressed to an unknowable degree by future immigration policy and where they are denigrated as "not world class".

Hence we will lose our lead in technology and, in fact, likely the whole world will suffer from the absence of our creativity. Not to mention the threat to our security from not having any of our intelligent nationals capable in these fields. They will all be lawyers or entrepreneurs.

S. Mitra Kalita: Another comment.

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Orange County, Calif.: Hi Mitra,

I have had a M.S. in Computer Science for over 10 years, and have seen how before and after the dot com bubble popped, that H-1B people are exploited and how US employees are exploited by companies taking advantage of a larger low cost labor pool.

First of all, the labor market is not tight. My last employer closed down the local office here, and it took me 11 months to find a new job in the same field. A friend of mine with a M.S. from Stanford took 8 months in Northern California.

In the past, and just recently during my raise review, we as a group were told to expect low 2% raises. During my private review, my manager told me the market is highly competitive with viable employees here and in other countries, and that is why the company does not feel significant raises are necessary at this time.

I know people with H-1B visas, they are very nice. It was surprising to hear how they are unhappy to be tied to a specific employer and how they know they are being undercut in their salary. They say they put up with it in hopes of becoming a US citizen, and then escaping their current employer for more greener pastures.

Business are the only ones interested in H-1B visas so they can reduce costs. I understand how they are in the business to make money, but I wish they were as honest in public as they are in private. That way everyone would understand who these people really are.

Thanks for bringing up this important topic in the WP.

S. Mitra Kalita: Another comment.

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Falls Church, Va.: Understand, some opponents are against the Congress's indented increase of H-1B visa numbers; but there is a problem, so what is their suggested solution of this issue?

S. Mitra Kalita: I have heard few solutions except for the provisions to allow foreign students in CERTAIN fields to go directly to the green card process. There was some proposal out there to increase overall green card-based immigration (I believe it is currently 140,000 annually with each country given the same number of spots) but have not heard much else. Has anyone else?

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Rochester, N.Y.: Clarification on earlier question about Indian Government stance on H-1Bs and offshoring.

You Said:

S. Mitra Kalita: Can you please clarify? Most of the proponents of the H-1B program, such as software companies, say the program actually helps them avoid outsourcing jobs overseas.

So, I'll ask once again why the Indian government and every major offshore outsourcing firm (represented most prominently by NASSCOM) has been itching for the cap to increase? The answer is pretty simple: offshore outsourcing firms such as Cognizant, Tata Consultancy, Infosys, etc. use the H-1B to bring in foreign workers to facilitate the transfer of software development to India. They don't hire US workers.

The H-1B program is used in two ways now. One as a "Brain Capture" program but also as a method to transfer work overseas.

Just read the risk sections in the financial statements given to the SEC of the major IT offshore outsourcing. Their business depends on access to H-1Bs and L-1s.

S. Mitra Kalita: Passing along the answer. One point on this: some companies that have opened up "captive" offshore development centers (that means it's their company and brand, not a third-party service provider) are hoping to leverage the talents of H-1B workers who work in their U.S. offices for a few years and then return to India or China to have them work in much-needed middle management positions. That's more of a corporate and workplace strategy though and I don't know that it relates to your comment.

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Boston, Mass.: I would like to add the perspective of an H-1B visa holder: Do Americans realize that every year we pay millions of dollars of social security and medicare taxes for programs that most of us will never benefit from? (Note: this is separate from income taxes which of course we should and do pay as we take advantage of public services here) If we do not get a green card and have to return to our home countries after 6 years of being on an H-1B (the max allowed), we have no recourse to claiming back those taxes. This is always true for Indians and Chinese workers. Europeans can claim the contributions via their own state sponsored social security plans. Where is the justice in this?

S. Mitra Kalita: Thanks for your comment.

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Albany N.Y.: Not all H-1B holders are engineers from India. They can be biomedical researchers from Europe. IMHO H-1B is essential for the development of basic research in the U.S.

Another thing. What's the reasoning behind not letting spouses work? It did not affect me since both of us were H-1Bs but I see it around as such a negative effect. Good hard working people with good academic backgrounds are prevented from entering the US economy. It doesnt make sense! Also does it have a bit of gender discrimination in it? since the majority of spouses are wives?

S. Mitra Kalita: See the story I just posted above on the spouses and gender discrimination; you also might want to look into Congress' Violence Against Women Act and its effect on immigrant spouses. And thank you thank you thank you for the reminder. I've got India and China on the mind since those are the foreigner so many reference but there are Latinos on H-1Bs, Europeans, even Canadians, so let's not forget it is a diverse group. It's just that *most* go to India and then China.

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Irvine, Calif.: The most important reform required for the H1-B program is to reform the green card processing system. The very fact that an H1-B employee cannot switch companies after starting the green card processing brings about slave labor working conditions for the employee.

The green card processing should be delinked from the employer based processing and should probably follow the permanent immigration system based in Canada. That way, an H-1B employee DOES not have to stick with the company which is processing his green card and can move to any company that is willing to employ him. This way, the wages will remain competitive as the companies now do not have that bargaining chip of green card processing.

This reform is very much required and is one of the ways the wages can be kept at a high level.

S. Mitra Kalita: A possible solution? Thank you for writing in.

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Alexandria, Va.: EVery H-1B visa debate deals with skilled workers in the IT or Engineering field. But I wanted to ask Ms. Kalita if there were H-1Bs sought for other professions that are non-technical in nature. For example, I just graduated from a U.S. Institution with a bachelor's in Journalism. Are my prospects of getting a work visa sponsored slim?

S. Mitra Kalita: I know of a few H-1B holders in journalism. However, some companies flat-out refuse to sponsor them because they have a great number of native-born Americans or green card holders applying for these jobs and don't want to go through the hassle of lawyers, fees, etc. Remember, in order to get to the stage of sponsoring an employee's green card, a company must show that it tried and could not get a U.S. worker for the job (post classified ads, show the Department of Labor who applied and why they were turned down, etc). In fields like journalism, that might be a little harder to show than tech? Just speculating here. That being said, I know of a few journalists who succeeded in getting green cards... Perhaps you can use your year of practical training (which holders of the student visa get) to find an internship or job and then take it from there...

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Anonymous: The problem with the program is that it's easily abused. I'd say 30% of H1 hires from India or China are not only poorly educated in general, but severely lacking in their specialized field as well. That's possible due to the fact that in IT 80% hiring managers or those who screen candidates are Indian or Chinese as well. Members of the diaspora have a natural advantage, besides, say, an Indian manager can hire practically anyone straight from India... Bribery is definitely a factor. So here you have it: Mexican peasants have to sneak across the border whereas Indian ones enter in a dignified manner and straight into corporate offices.

S. Mitra Kalita: Another comment. Trying to put as many out as possible as we're down to the last few minutes here...

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Anonymous: Thank you for this much needed discussion. I think one point which needs to be made is the difficulty in returning to one's own country. In total, I have spent more than 10 years in the U.S. pursuing 2 degrees, 2 OPTs, and now the H-1B. Returning to one's own native home can result in unbearable culture shock. Now many of us are stuck between waiting for a future that may never be, or returning to a country that does not seem to understand us anymore.

S. Mitra Kalita: I think this is a fair point and I am going to send out the story I just did on the culture shock Indians returning to India face... Just to show you the other side, the H-1B visa is technically considered a 'nonimmigrant' visa and most holders tell me a story of being asked at the American Embassy whether they will return home--and they always say 'yes' but knowing that's unlikely. By the same token, the Labor Department really has been tasked with making sure that no American can do the job your company says you can do... Still, I wish you luck and thank you for writing.

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washingtonpost.com: A Reversal of the Tide in India , Feb. 28, 2006

S. Mitra Kalita: Here is the story on returning to India.

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Orlando, Fla.: In regards to this comment:

I would like to add the perspective of an H-1B visa holder: Do Americans realize that every year we pay millions of dollars of social security and medicare taxes for programs that most of us will never benefit from?

Do "guestworkers" realize many Ameicans like myself have NO expection on getting any of these benefits?

But, I'll let my retired father know you are helping pay him his Social Security.

S. Mitra Kalita: Sending along the comment.

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Delhi, India: The U.S. government requires H-1B workers to pay social security, medicare, unemployment insurance. But non-immigrants like H-1Bs are clearly not entitled to receive any benefit from these programs. I worked on H-1B for 5 years and went back to India. Why doesn't the U.S. government want to refund my social security contributions? BTW -why does the U.S. government want to bring in people on restricted rights? There is no shortage of workers -given the right salary anybody will do anything. The only reason H-1B can be cheaper is if it amounts to slavery.

thanks

-kamal

S. Mitra Kalita: The other side of the SS debate.

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Washington D.C.: Re employment based green cards, this is part of the proposed senate bill:

TITLE FIVE

This title was not modified significantly during the Committee process. It includes provisions:

@nding the counting of Immediate Relatives of U.S. citizens against the annual cap on family-based immigrants; redistributing immigrant visas among the various family-based preference categories

@ncreasing the number of employment-based immigrant visas from 140,000 to 290,000 and redistributing the visas among the various employment-based preference categories (including increasing the number of visas available to "essential workers" from 10,000 to 87,000); and no longer counting spouses and children of employment-based immigrants against the visa limits

A%rmitting immigrant visa numbers that go unused because of processing delays to apply to a subsequent fiscal year

Aìightly expanding the per-country limits to help clear out backlogs from countries like Mexico, China, and India

Courtesy of shusterman.com

S. Mitra Kalita: There you go - it looks like it does increase green card-based visas... Thank you, shusterman!

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Washington, D.C.: I'm currently on an H-1B and for the record not in the tech field, not from Asia, and even female to kill all the stereotypes. Now, my salary is not that high. Sure, I'd like to get a raise, but guess what, with a visa that says that the day you lose your current job you have to leave the country, I think twice before being demanding...

S. Mitra Kalita: Another perspective.

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Washington, D.C.: Did you know that only "H-1B dependent" employers are required to try to recruit U.S. workers? Other employers can fire U.S. workers at will and replace them with H-1B's.

It is a fact that there are available U.S. workers to perform any job, if they are paid a wage that hasn't been artificially depressed by the widespread importation of foreign workers or by offshoring. If employers were required to offer U.S. workers a "prevailing" wage that took this into account, more U.S. workers would be available.

The universities actively recruit foreign F-visa students to pump up their tuition receipts. These same aliens then stay on in J visas, getting experience and training at depressed wages to the detriment of U.S. workers. When the time comes to bring in workers at the H-1B level, employers require U.S. workers to have the experience and training the employers themselves gave to the J visaholders.

S. Mitra Kalita: Sending this along. Opponents of the H-1B program say companies also get around the rules by hiring "consultants" on H-1Bs through body shops to do the work.

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Chicago, Ill.: " I have heard from some immigrants that they are choosing to work in Canada, Australia, parts of Europe because the process of permanent residency is easier -- and their spouses can work."

It is very very true - U.S. has lost a lot of ground becuase of this - being on an H-1B is like being stuck - I just returned from India where I had a chance to look at my cousins resume - - 25 years old she has experience from Japan, Australia and UK - in a quasi technical job (not programming).

S. Mitra Kalita: Just so you all know that I am right... :)

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Fairfax, Va.: I oppose increase in H1B limits. Eventhough, I came to this country on H1B visa in early 90s and now I am a Green card holder waiting to become a naturalized US Citizen.

H-1Bs visas are mostly used by staffing companies who exploit them. It took me close to 9 years to become GC holder, mostly because my ex-employer delayed the process to keep me locked at a lower salary.

The IT industry has changed now and there are abundant people to work, but very few IT jobs. American companies are outsourcing a lot of work. In addition many Indian companies are bringing hordes of people on L1 visas, which does not lead to GC and also does not have the H1B portability (to allow them to exploit them even more).

The shortage of jobs has caused lot of Americans to become angry against Indians, GC & non-GC. I was welcomed with open arms, but now we are being sneered at and asked to go back to India.

The Govt should stop immigration temporarily to allow the new legal immigrants to assimilate.

S. Mitra Kalita: From a former H-1B holder... You know what strikes me? The minute an H-1B holder gets his or her green card, they seem to forget (and likely want to forget) those days where they agonized and strategized over how to stay in the country, where in the labor cert process the application was, etc. I wonder if the H-1Bs have any lobbying groups out there for them. If so, can you please e-mail me with your contact info. Years ago, I used to quote a group called the Immigrants Support Network but I have tried to reach out and not heard about it in a long time. Any H-1B support groups out there?

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Memphis, Tenn.: One more comment and I'll let this go. You cannot tell me that if Americans were going to India and the Asian rim and taking jobs that the CITIZENS of those countries wanted and needed and also planned for their children - that the INDIANS and ASIANS would be agreeable to it. Point is : this is my country ... I am an American citizen ... my son is an American citizen ... my country is allowing job opportunites for its citizens to be given away to NON-CITIZENS, sacrificing on the altar of CORPORATE PROFIT. I DO NOT OBJECT to LEGAL IMMIGRATION. I object to my government destroying its own MIDDLE-CLASS. Like the Alexandria, VA comment - I've encouraged my son to become a lawyer or entrepreneur. Maybe he could start a CONTRACT COMPANY contracting H-1B-Visa workers to American companies in the U.S and put his son out of a job opportunity.

S. Mitra Kalita: OK letting your comment in under the wire... I am going to start wrapping up now...

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Rockville, Md.: Though H-1B visa is a Non Immigrant Visa, but one can have an immigrant intent. It's not the same as student's or visitor's visa where you have to show that you will return to the home country. I don't think the embassies ask this question for H-1B visas.

S. Mitra Kalita: Thanks for your comment.

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Clarksburg, W.V.: I've heard that the foreign workers are not allowed to go home for a visit during their six years visa, also that many live in apartments together so that they can send money home. I believe they cause a signifance disadvange for American workers be I recently read that was are not producing enought engineers out of American colleges to go around. Your thoughts please

S. Mitra Kalita: The foreign workers can go home while they are on the H-1B visa. The confusion likely comes in when they are in the renewal period (the visa can be renewed once at the three-year mark for another three years) OR when a person has been sponsored for a green card and they often don't want to risk going overseas in case they can't come back in. There is something else about needing passports stamped in the interim and all that but ask an immigration lawyer to be sure... Finally, on the point about U.S. engineers. Duke University conducted a study where they found that some of the numbers of U.S. engineering graduates versus China's and India's might not be wholly accurate. Check it out at http://memp.pratt.duke.edu/downloads/duke_outsourcing_2005.pdf

Nonetheless, the study does conclude, "Our engineering population is not stagnating, but it certainly could be growing faster."

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S. Mitra Kalita: Folks, I am so sorry but I need to wrap up now. I still have more than 100 questions in the queue and I am sorry I could not get to all of them. I appreciated both your candor and politeness in discussing this controversial issue and hope you stay in touch! If you haven't had enough of me, tune into Washington Post radio at 5:30 tonight. Thanks again for reading and responding. Best, Mitra

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