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How Immigration Uncertainty Threatens America’s Tech Dominance (wsj.com)
220 points by dgolub93 on Feb 2, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 421 comments



The general direction of the Trump plan regarding H-1b is the way to go. The lottery needs to be replaced with a demand system where the highest salaries get slots. A floor of $100,000/yr should exist and adjust for inflation. Next, generously expand the green card fast track, as this category of employee, as an immigrant, is a free agent to move among companies or to start their own business.

To date, as we all know, the H-1b system has primarily been used to arbitrage for lower wage by Indian companies and mostly non-tech big corporates, where they bring in $60k/yr "systems analysts" who are in fact doing $100,000+/yr software engineering roles.


The H1B as it is has many problems, but a big salary floor is not the way to go in my opinion. Remember H1B is not just for tech workers. If you want to hire, say, an interpreter of a specific foreign language to work on a community in rural Alabama temporarily, a $100,000 minimum wage would be absurd.

They instead need to go after the companies that learned to game the system. I'm not sure what the solution is here. A point/demand-based system like other countries have is probably wise, but given the share of mind the US still has in potential emigrants worldwide, and the breadth of different positions available, it'd be a pretty complex (and likely unfair) one.


> If you want to hire, say, an interpreter of a specific foreign language to work on a community in rural Alabama temporarily, a $100,000 minimum wage would be absurd.

Wow, that's a really important point. I'm so in the tech-news bubble that I'd never heard anybody say that before - thanks for pointing that out!


I disagree. If you are not willing to pay 100k then finding someone is not the problem. You just don't want to pay market rates.

The point of H-1B is when salary is not the problem.

PS: Remember, someone on an H-1B can leave your employment. Paying market rates is supposed to keep that from happening, thus the intent is to remove a shortage not lower pay.


What is the market rate of a translator for an uncommon language in Alabama? Where are you getting your data that suggests $100k is not dramatically above market rates for any job where there is a lack of domestic talent and a surplus of foreign talent?

Median personal income in the US is $30k, so I don't think it's fair to assume every job is like tech and has market rates in anywhere near the same place.


Are there people in the US who know the language and are not willing to move to Alabama for 95k? Then the market has spoken.

The entire point of capitalism is not everyone get's what they want and price how that is decided.


Okay, that's fine as long as they are available and willing to move for something like $100,000. Doesn't have to be super close; requiring $100,000 to hire a foreign citizen when the market wage is $75,000 seems pretty reasonable to me.

But you don't appear to have data to back up that particular number for all jobs with no specialization whatsoever, and as far as I can tell the administration doesn't either.


Let's suppose you want someone to just watch a parking lot which takes zero skills and I advertise for minimum wage and don't find anyone. Then you show up and say I need an H-1B, yes it's the night shift, but as unskilled labor that's a minim wage job...

That's the point of around a six figure wage floor. It prevents people from understating the requirements then bringing in a H-1B. I could just Advertise for a secretarial job, then only accept people that happen to speak Farsi.


You're trying to solve a problem that doesn't even exist in the current H1B system. Where are all the H1B parking attendants? Do you really think "parking attendant, needs to speak random language for no discernible reason" is something USCIS can't filter? If it was that easy, Tata would just list all their IT jobs as requiring a Hindi/Bengali/etc. speaker and not need to bother with any of the crony capitalism. Also if the ceiling was specific to groups of jobs, you could enumerate the list of acceptable jobs and not put parking attendants on the list. Then you couldn't sneak one in for even $100k.

Why would the optimum H1B wage floor for every industry that suffers from a lack of local talent just happen to be the one that makes sense for tech? And why would it make sense for it to be the same everywhere when wages and living expenses vary so much with location? You're proposing actively ignoring the market wage, not taking it into account.


I am going to step back for some context:

The H-1B program is a tiny fraction of the overall workforce and if you want it to stick around you need to justify it. Saying industry X needs workers for wage Y, falls on deaf ears. No, it really does not because for the most part it get's by without them as there is just not a lot of H1B workers in any industry.

Having said that, at the societal level we can talk about gaps that a H-1B program can fill in the short term. If there is a sudden demand for people in machine learning then giving the US access to a wider talent pool has value. But, at the social level each industry needs to compete with every other industry or your talking about soviet style planned economies which don't work.

How do you separate companies wanting cheaper workers from gaps society is better off fulfilling? Well wage is by far the strongest indicator. If the oil drilling industry goes though a boom and can pay 200k for people working oil jacks for a few years then they should get most of the H1B pool as they may need it more than every other industry combined.

However, as the demand is met internally wages will fall then some other industry may have a larger demand.

Now the US is a horribly corrupt society with groups with a lot of power use it to get more power. Thus, the actual H1B program looks very different from what I described. But, again I am only saying there is a justification for an H1B program with a very strong salary floor not anything like our current system.

PS: Anyway, understating the requirements and advertising a job that's below market rates is one the main problems with the H1B system that's most often gamed. I have seen more than one advertisement for a junior job title with 5 years of experience and a masters degree. Lying on a form is easy, lying with money is harder.


>The entire point of capitalism is not everyone get's what they want and price how that is decided.

You mean protected capitalism - protected by artificial minimum wages put in place by government?


Remove minimum wage and people are not going to work for 1cent per hour. Further, this is a finite world, with finite resources and finite people. Not every business is viable even without an enforced minimum wage.


The thing is that this is a problem caused by government regulations interfering with supply and demand. If there is a business that's willing to pay for a worker and worker willing to take the job then it should be good for the economy for that match to happen. However, in this case immigration regulations sometimes make the supply lower than the demand. Sure, that makes the price go up and that's good for workers but if there aren't enough workers to go around that's bad for American business.


You are assuming that immigration has no externalized costs; I think it's pretty clear that it does. While I will certainly agree that the actual design of our immigration system is far from optimal in dealing with them, the idea that unregulated immigration so long as employer and employee find mutual benefit is desirable as that mutual benefit internal to the transaction implies total net benefit to society is, IMO, deeply flawed.


Companies are free to higher Canadian workers in Canida etc.

You can even get an Indian worker in Mexico and import the results free of charge. But, limiting immigration is one of the fundamental functions of government, and it's not going away any time soon.

PS: I also somehow doubt you would be OK with al qaeda corp setting up shop an then importing large number of people.


So the US wasn't a government until 1875 when the first immigration law was passed?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_Act_of_1875


American Indians where removed from US soil long before 1875. See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Wars further these go back to 1540.


  You can even get an Indian worker in Mexico
Have you actually researched Mexican immigration law?


Who gives a damn about what is good for business? Businesses are (very) important only up to a certain point, until their interests start to go against the interests of the people.


This. I don't understand why some people think companies are entitled to get people for whatever wage they seem fit. If you can't afford it, tough luck. Let market forces decide what people are to be paid.


So you're argument is that it's impossible for their to be an actual shortage of US workers unless the salary exceed $100K?


Yes, in the same way as there is no shortage of Bugatti Veyron for 100k. They simply cost more than that.

We live in a capitalist society where price is how you communicate demand. Now, if you are willing to pay X times median wage in the US and still can't find people then perhaps there is an argument. But, saying you can't find people when you are not willing to go that far suggests you are not willing to pay market wages.

PS: And yes I chose an undefined X, because there is no clear point when that happens. However, a reasonable lower bound for that X is probably ~3-5.


The upper bound isn't limited by the number of dollars in circulation. The upper bound is limited by what's economically feasible. The outcome of the theoretical Alabama community college language teacher is that the language program just gets cut. The fees for a niche program wouldn't support a highly-paid faculty member.


> the language program just gets cut.

And then what? Yes, an Alabama community collage can't pay for a language teacher, that's a fairly normal problem for community collages. It does not suggest there is somehow a market failure.

PS: I think you miss understood my upper bound. I doubt people want an immigration policy based on filling any jobs that pays more than ~30k/year.


So why is this a better outcome than letting them hire one on an H1B? No American loses their job, and a community college program remains, giving people access to education.

I don't see what "market failure" has to do with the H1B at all. Just because the market worked correctly doesn't imply that the outcome was desirable.


It's a market not just one collage.

Some distant collage may chose to pay for such a teacher and then gain students from the community collage who want that instruction. So, in that context your community collage bringing in the H-1B may end up costing an American a job. It could also depress wages for teaching that language discouraging other students from learning it thus extending the shortage over time. Alternatively, the demand may simply not be there for the language at which point the collage is better off paying for a different type of instruction that more students want.

In the end your H-1B is clearly a boon for that collage. However, if may end up hurting the country overall.


The way it's supposed to work is people who already have those job skills enjoy a temporary boom in compensation, and then other people think "I could do that. I will learn that skill and get paid the big bucks."

The H-1B system short circuits that mechanism. The salary doesn't rise, and young people are savvy enough to realize once an industry starts using foreign workers it never will.

Voila! Permanent shortage of Americans willing to do that job.


> So why is this a better outcome

It might be a better outcome for native translators who see higher demand increase their salaries. The market has to be fair for all participants. Salary will never increase with demand, if increases in demand are always undermined by bringing in H1B workers.


Okay, but then why do you refuse to accept multiplying X by the actual market wage for the job instead of picking a fixed number (in which I see no X)?


Because supply is influenced by price.

The supply of gold is huge if I am willing to pay above market rates. If I want a conductive metal I am going to chose something other than gold in the vast majority of cases because of price. In the case of gold the price is based on both demand and resource extraction costs.

Moving to the workforce, students pick jobs in part because of what they will pay. Over time this feedback loop combines with demand and other factors to set a clearing price for the industry. If a job pays less than 100k that's a very big sign that people are choosing to do something else because of pay not the jobs inherent difficulties.

Now what happens if you try and subsidize an industry with H1B's. Let's say you add 50% as many H1B as people working in the field for a huge effect. Well in the short term wages fall and people either find something else, but more importantly students study something else. Fast forward 20 years, the market price is a little lower but not by that much even though lots of H1B's are now doing that job' you still need to entice a lot of US workers. Meanwhile close to 1:1 with those H1B's, US students have moved into other fields.

Thus, unless you are going to have most people in an industry be H1B's trying to help out an industry shortfall with some H1B quota is not that useful and simply subsidizes an industry for minimal benefit.

PS: Even defining things based on job is tricky. I need a Doctor what's the price for that, type: surgeon, type of surgeon: cosmetic. Now a hospital that can fill out generalist one level up can get a discount. Even industry gets tricky as a school may need a doctor for example.


I think the problem here (with this conversation) is what I call "All roads lead to GMF[1]".

You can't explain things based on an entire economy without taking into account the entire economy, and all it's parts and interactions; much like, say, blood-sugar levels in the body involve multiple organs.

If you focus on one area of the economy, you must avoid those 'non-local' attributes, unless you are willing to do this. If you analyse the attributes of any local economic part enough, you will eventually hit upon a non-local attribute; Hence, any analysis eventually hits this roadblock.

Back to context, the specific effect of H1B visas, on national salary is complicated, because salary not only is non-local, but involves the silent interactions of supply vs demand across and outside the nation. You'll hit all sorts of GM-like fallacies if your analysis is too shallow.

This is why it is necessary to take it, almost as 'faith', in the mechanics of the market; A true analysis of market principles is a complex process indeed, most people can only take them on faith at some level. Even mathematicians accept some (personally) unchecked axioms.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window


I think the right justification for H1B visas, rather than a set minimum should be "How will this affect the salaries of existing workers". If there is any reduction, you are not working in the interests of those workers, hence the visas are not fair.

If, on the other hand there is no difference, then the visa is justified.


> suggests you are not willing to pay market wages.

Uh, or you know, you can't afford it?


That's not exclusive. I am not willing to pay for a penthouse in Manhattan, because I can't afford it. I am also not willing to pay for a live in chef, and 10,009 other things because I can't afford them. That is not a failing of society it's how capitalism allocates finite resources.


I don't get your point.


I am not the GP, and I do not agree with the statement. However, I have seen it being made numerous times: any shortage of US workers just means the companies are not paying enough (their argument being, try to pay $1mil and you will certainly fill your positions, this is just very minor exaggeration)


I see the thought process, but it's not universally true since you have to account for value the employee brings as well. Consider a company with only 1 employee. That employee can create 1 widget per year which sells for $100,000. The market for widgets is very elastic and at price points above $100,000, the demand is zero. Overhead and cost of goods is $50,000. In that case, the person's salary can't exceed $50,000 or else the company operates at a loss. Even if there is an extreme shortage of skilled workers who can do the job.


Suppose you could higher a doctor and at the end of the year get 50k in value. Is that still a viable business? Why or why not?

IMO, that's the crux of the issue. Yes, the clearing price for some jobs mean people are expensive; making some business nonviable. But, that does not inherently mean there is a shortage.


That implies that the society does not put much value in that product. Maybe there is an alternative that is better, who knows...


So then maybe it would be cheaper for the company to hire a low-skilled American worker and actually gasps train them?

The CEO of the theoretical company is always welcome to put in an extra 30 hours a week and reap the extra economic value.


Not sure what your example is trying to demonstrate; yes, there's no viable business producing a $100k widget that costs $100k in labor and $50k in goods to create (unless maybe you're VC funded).


It seems in that case market rate is a lot lower for that role. Just not a lot of Americans to fill it.



Wow. I knew the H1B category was biased towards large companies, but I didn't realize it was so bad.

The first cultural, linguistic, or otherwise geographically-constrained job in the list is #84, "Foreign Language And Literature Teachers." "Interpreters and Translators" is down at #131, with a grand total of 268 applicants - practically a rounding error after 300,000 tech applicants. Whatever_dude's example seems so appropriate, that it's shocking to see it so far down the list.


It's like anything, there's a whole ecosystem involved - which includes having a lot of money to pay the right lawyers that know how to navigate the system properly. I've seen companies hire the wrong lawyers and, after promising the individual that everything would come through, end up having to tell the person that the application was denied.


> Wow. I knew the H1B category was biased towards large companies, but I didn't realize it was so bad.

Where does that page say anything about large companies?


sounds like each job class needs it's own minimum.


Which is what the current rule - the one based on prevailing wages - tries to address. Minor tweaks to it - for e.g. using the mean of the top 1/3rd of the salaries surveyed - will accomplish what you ask for, IMO.


wonder if that shouldn't be by city since salaries very so much by geography.


The current rules determine prevailing wage per geography.


Yeah, or what about those of us in the NGO and non-profit sector who need people with specific regional skills/knowledge/experience and/or folks (including tech people) who prefer to take a slightly lower salary because they want to work with us on important stuff? We've had to sort visas on a number of occasions for people. $100,000 would be like one of the highest ever non-profit salaries!


The salary floor is when the business does not have to prove they did not first search for openings in the US. If you want to hire someone with extremely specialized skills for under 60k(or $130k as proposed by the new bill) a year you have to at least try to recruit in the US first.


Sounds like each job class needs it's own salary minimum.


If an interpreter is so rare that one can't be found in the US and they need to be hired internationally, then maybe it's worth it to pay $100,000?


Obviously we can't know what the organisation doing the hiring is like in this fictional scenario, but $100k would be a huge, huge amount for non-senior staff in rural Alabama no matter what.

The problem with a hard salary floor is that it doesn't account for differences in cost of living at all. It would very quickly become the visa of coastal cities and little else.


Then they can't afford to run. I'd also love to bring say professional 3D modellers and animators from Eastern Europe or Brazil and pay then 20k CAD/year, but thats not how reality works. All of these programs (hb1/etc...) are basically wage arbitrage schemes and have little to do with presence/absence of talent.


There is no universal H1B salary. Translators do not earn as much as developers, in general. People living in Alabama do not earn as much as those working in Silicon Valley, in general. H1B applications go through a "labor condition application" for this exact reason - the government approves the salary, based on industry and location. Therefore, you can't bring 3D developers to Silicon Valley and pay them $20k. But you might be able to bring a translator to rural Alabama.

If the aim of the H1B program was to bring in the highest possible paid workers, you'd be correct. But it isn't. These programs are designed in such a way that all states can benefit from them, and a variety of professions.


Ok, what is the aim of the H1B program? You appear to have raised that question, and then shied away from that phrasing in your answer.


> Ok, what is the aim of the H1B program?

It is to make it possible for foreigners to provide work to US organizations when no local person is available.

I have hired many many people on H1s. It was always a hire of last resort: when we could not find someone local. It always cost us a lot more than a local person: in both legal fees and procedural fees (you need to verify that the salary you are paying is not lower than the prevailing wage, which is totally fair) not to mention that it takes a while to get the person so while you're messing about you have nobody to fill the job. Some people are unusually distinguished (perhaps expert in a particular machine or language) but lack the appropriate degree, and they are even harder to bring in.

I have a hard time complaining about that (and I'm an immigrant myself). I think it's totally fair that the system should be biased towards locals. But the system does need an escape mechanism when nobody local can do the work.

There are problems. The big outsourcing companies (not just Indian ones but IBM) flood the lottery early. Also somehow they apparently/allegedly pay below market rate, which I don't understand. As usual it's the startups that get screwed.

Note this H-1 is to bring someone here. If I could outsource I would (to Alabama or Amadebad, it would be all the same to me). When we can get away with a distributed team we hire people where they already are.


>But the system does need an escape mechanism when nobody local can do the work.

I submit that there is no work in the US that can't be done by a US citizen. The problem isn't "finding someone" the problem is "finding someone at the below-market-rate wage we want to pay"


> I submit that there is no work in the US that can't be done by a US citizen.

In another thread to this article I gave an example of a teacher for a German school -- native speaker, experienced in teaching the German state curriculum. A few such people have moved here and indeed we hired them, but mostly they had to come in on H-1.

There are certainly medical specialties for which there is a shortage of available doctors or nurses, in particular outside the cities.

And you really believe that there is a US citizen expert in every possible discipline in every possible location?

> The problem isn't "finding someone" the problem is "finding someone at the below-market-rate wage we want to pay"

In the very comment to which you were replying I just said we pay more for H-1 workers, in both time and money (and salary -- the labor conditions verification makes sure that's the case. Why do you assume they come in at below market wages? Have you ever hired one? In my experience it's impossible to do, at least for a startup.


I would agree that US experts in obscure foreign culture might be hard or impossible to find. Otherwise I do think that there are experts in the US on nearly every topic - and if the labor market is demanding a particular topic with high wages people in the US will pick it up.

I don't have a problem with hiring foreigners as long as they pay a fair sum to the taxpayers for thier diminishment of citizen's welfare. This is because immigrant is a potential drain on the welfare state and also uses resources that otherwise would be enjoyed by citizens.

Also I do believe most h1bs are paid below market rate because they are hired by large IT contractors like Infosys. They have the people and presence in India to make hiring in H1b cheap- they contract to US firms and pocket the difference.

For small business in the US I would agree that h1b is expensive.


> US citizen expert in every possible discipline in every possible location?

discipline, yes, but location is the same as wage - people can move if offered enough incentive.


Luckily for me, you, and the internet at large, Google lets you look up information on large government programs. Not sure what is "bizarre" about me "shying away" from duplicating publicly available information.

"The H-1B program applies to employers seeking to hire nonimmigrant aliens as workers in specialty occupations or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. A specialty occupation is one that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The intent of the H-1B provisions is to help employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce by authorizing the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the United States."

https://www.dol.gov/whd/immigration/h1b.htm

You will note that the word "salary" does not appear in that description.


It says, "or fashion models," amusingly. I guess not only is there a tech shortage, but we're too unattractive to find our own fashion models, too.

Unless fashion model is a legal euphemism for someone at the top tier of new tech or skills? edit: Like, some sexy new JavaScript framework or some ancient functional language.

I think they're referring to real fashion models, though, amazingly.


If you factor in cost of living, the consulting agencies that currently abuse the system will just open up offices in cheap areas.


Not really, because quality software development generally requires teams to be in close proximity. As has been discovered by many firms, moving operations overseas is "penny wise and pound foolish"

For example, Disney of Florida replaced 250 American IT workers in US using immigrants with H1-B Visas. They in theory could have saved more money by sending that operation overseas but they chose not too.

Computer operations today are way too mission critical to most organizations to risk problems by moving tech overseas at least in operational settings.


> using immigrants with H1-B Visas

I think that's the problem here - those on H1-B visas aren't immigrants.

It is a dual intent visa and most outsourcing firms keep it strictly in the non-immigrant category.

Until they get a DoL clearance & get into an I-140 approval process, they're "temporary workers" who can be dispensed with any day.


The H1B already factors in cost of living (via the proxy of what local salaries are) and we don't see that happening all that much.


Which would in my opinion even be a good consequence.


> The problem with a hard salary floor is that it doesn't account for differences in cost of living at all. It would very quickly become the visa of coastal cities and little else.

Perhaps that's Trump's plan.


"It's worth it" only applies if a company is directly going to make a ton of money out of that person.

Not every company operates like that. I know it's hard to believe, or even comprehend, in the tech world.


> If you want to hire, say, an interpreter of a specific foreign language to work on a community in rural Alabama temporarily, a $100,000 minimum wage would be absurd.

Thats the POINT. Today it would be absurd, but a successful multipronged plan to bring both manufacturing as well as constricting supply of people with specialized skills, would raise the salary demands of the whole US population.

The H1B salary part of the system hasn't been modified since 1989. $60,000 in 1989 is equivalent to $120,000 in today's dollars. Does that influence your opinion at all?

Congress created a rationale back then, the industry merely used the tools available since then. Congress' rationale did not change, they are both adjusting for inflation as well as responding to the direction the industry actually went. The industry's adaptation is incongruent with the will of Congress.

In 1989 salary increases were still keeping up with the cost of housing. Or were still expecting to. For example. And a protectionist America really could do that again.


Why would that be absurd? A highly specialized skill in an area that we can infer is generally less desirable to live should command a higher than average wage. Much higher if the situation is so desperate that a foreign worker has to be sought.

Also: the majority (by far) of H1-B visas are for technology work. It may not technically be "tech only" but in practice it may as well be.


I think one of the Dem senators had proposed a plan that had the floor relative to the location and the job, so in this case you'd have to offer 150-200% of what an Ethiopian translator in Alabama would recieve, before you'd be allowed to hire someone via a Visa. That general principal seems reasonable to me, and less Silicon Valley centric than just a flat floor at whatever they think is reasonable for a software dev.

Though obviously a single number is less work.


No doubt that would open the door to all manner of skullduggery. Infosys then opens a new operation in West Armpit, Alabama and their employees now make 150% of the going rate for Java developers there in West Armpit. It is just a weird quirk that said employees wind up doing lots of travel...


All of a sudden TechInfoSys opens up a new branch in West Armpit to support the operations of their San Francisco main office and West Armpit is where all of the new developer/analysts are to be employed...


There's a few fixes to that too. Make the pay scaling regional or put in provisions that increase the floor based on percentage travel or where the visa job would work.


This is how laws get really complicated. Wouldn't a more complex solution end up costing more (to the companies you are trying to help) than a simple solution?


It depends on what you're trying to do. Outwardly H1-Bs are supposed to be about bringing in talent that can't be filled with a US worker which should fetch a premium. To that end having just a blanket floor doesn't really make sense because a premium wage in Small Town, USA is a rounding error to large corporations in Big Tech Hub, USA. But you can't make the sliding scale too location sensitive because then you just open a new way to game the system with having big contractor sweat boxes all operating out of the middle of North Dakota or somewhere with market so tiny prices. I don't think a simple law could ever really run H1-B if the goal is 'bring in premium talent' for hard to fill positions especially in tech positions where location is becoming less and less critical.


You realise H1B's are location specific right? All these "fixes" everyone keeps bringing up are actually a part of the law as it stands.


Floor relative to the location and the job--is very easy to abuse. You can abuse both location and job via indirection: indirection through layers of contracting companies. Similar strategy is used now to abuse: Some Mega corp contacts out to TCS, which further contracts out to some mom and pop consulting co, and so on.


> Why would that be absurd?

There's more about specialization than just the area. To stay with the example, there may be many reasons why someone would want to hire an interpreter for a given language, and for someone to be willing to do the job, without it ever making sense to pay twice what a good average living wage is on the area. The "pay higher if it's high demand" excuse is cutthroat capitalism, IMO, and ignores the fact that the employer might not actually be trying to exploit someone but actually bring something that their customer base/community needs, something they wouldn't get otherwise. It's not about being "desperate enough" to hire a foreigner - in many cases, as in certain niche skills, a foreigner might be the best option.

Also remember the H1B is supposed to be a temporary. It's classified as a non-immigrant visa. Temporary need for a foreigner also exists.

> Also: the majority (by far) of H1-B visas are for technology work. It may not technically be "tech only" but in practice it may as well be.

That's exactly my point, and it's one of the many problems with H1B. Tech workers flood the request and suddenly everyone is just thinking about a salary floor cap because tech has higher salaries than other roles. But there are other roles and businesses that could actually benefit from foreign workers, but they're all crushed by how large tech is instead.


> Also remember the H1B is supposed to be a temporary. It's classified as a non-immigrant visa

Technically, it is a "dual-intent" visa.


It's both.

> Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few temporary visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain the green card) while still a holder of the H-1B visa

It means you can apply for immigrant status while holding an H1B. Differently from most other visas, which means you lose them automatically as soon as you apply for residency.


Have you been through rural Alabama? I suspect the point is less that it's undesirable to live there, than that a high salary for an interpreter simply isn't going to fit in the budget.

Why should Facebook's ad tech needs trump the needs of a poor refugee community? Budget size should not be the only virtue signal.


Why should refugee community's desire for a cheap interpreter trump the needs of an engineer who could make 250k at Facebook?


>an area that we can infer is generally less desirable to live

Lower cost of living does not mean the area is undesirable to live. Building adequate housing supply (I know, unheard of in the Bay, but some cities do it) can cause cost of living to stay low.

A major weakness of this policy is that it doesn't scale by regional median salary. Under exigency a company in SF could easily pay $130k to bring in a foreign worker with a needed rare skill. A company in Alabama could not.


Then require some multiple (> 1) of the average or median salary in the region.


What is a reasonable higher than average salary completely depends on the market. But you really, really need to step out of the tech bubble before thinking about wages... tech people are reeeally out of touch when it comes to what money the rest of the country has to live off of.


Many nations have special visa categories for native speakers of foreign languages working as teachers. If that's really a problem then having something like that would probably make more sense.

Usually when I here someone critique the salary floor it's in reference to poorly paid scientists or biologists, as if it's a law of nature that these people should be poorly paid.


It's not a salary floor - $130,000 would be a salary that exempts the application from from "non displacement and recruitment attestation requirements"[1].

For your example the employer could easily show a US worker was not being displaced and could not be recruited. Your example may also be exempt from the H1B numerical cap if the role is with a institution of higher education, a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization.

[1] https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/FactSheet62/whdfs62Q...


If the supply of those interpreters is so limited that you have to go outside of the U.S. to find them, then doesn't supply/demand indicate that they should have a high salary?


No. Supply has a geographic component. They may be very rare in the US, but very common overseas. For example, there may not be many people currently in the United States who are fluent in Northern Kurdish, but there are millions of capable applicants available in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Supply will have an impact on the salary, of course. But in the absence of regulation, it will only be what the native Kurdish speaker would typically earn in their home country plus a some amount for the travel requirement.

Edit: This is how H1Bs should operate according to their stated purpose. edge17's link to http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2017-H1B-Visa-Category.asp... shows that it's not being used in this way at all.


High as compared to what? Supply curves don't operate in a vacuum.


High as compared to other jobs. If the demand for programmers is "1,000" and there are "100" programmers available - how is that different from demand of "100" interpreters but supply is "10"?


If people want twice as many cars as there are, and they want twice as much toilet paper as there are rolls, do you expect rolls of toilet paper to cost as much as a car?

Supply and demand curves are (a) curves, not two points on a line (b) curves as a function of price. You can use them to pick a price, but not to come up with one from amounts of X ex nihilo. Even if we're sticking with the most primitive micro-economic theory here, you've discarded a whole dimension.


Agreed. The world is bigger than just tech. Take a look at all the other backgrounds that often get H1Bs. A big one is scientists.

If you made the floor $100K, say goodbye to non-PhD (and some PhD) scientists! And since the demand for PhDs isn't that high (you often have 2-3 non-PhDs reporting to a PhD), say goodbye to a lot of scientists using the H1B.


H1Bs are overwhelmingly used for tech: http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2017-H1B-Visa-Category.asp...

That said I do agree that there should be some kind of exception for highly skilled individuals in STEM fields (I believe Japan does something like this).


We'll then PhD demand would increase for h1b applicants. You would have to argue that there's a shortage of Bio, Chem,..etc graduates in the US, which there isn't. Any foreigner who posses a high level of skill in their field, shouldn't have a problem getting a PhD either.


Just line up the incentives.

For example require the company bringing the worker in to post a bond, make it trivial for the imported worker to switch companies, and make the original company to pay the difference between what the worker's salary winds up being and what their new salary is after 2 years if they can't hold on to said worker.

If you're a company that really needs that skill, really can't hire it, and is paying above market wages, then this will not slow your hiring. But if you're trying to hire below market, it would backfire badly on you.


> They instead need to go after the companies that learned to game the system.

I'm not sure if there's a way to prevent global labor arbitrage. Multinational corporations will shift labor to countries with the lowest wages.

Perhaps they should put a multiplying factor on payroll taxes that's proportional to the total non-US labor wages paid (directly or indirectly) for producing a product. All expenses should be default considered as foreign labor-based unless proven otherwise. It would introduce a ton of paperwork initially, but then everyone will be incentivized to produce documentation showing US labor-produced products to prevent the increase in taxes.


There absolutely is: free movement of labor. Unfortunately that's the solution capitalists absolutely will not countenance, and they will happily stoke xenophobia and buy off the most reactionary elements of government in order to keep it from becoming a reality.


There should be more specific classification of the h1b job function. Example: look at the h1b data at any of the big 4 accounting firms

ex: PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS LLP

TAX ASSOCIATE - 200 Records, Median Salary $56,181

ASSOCIATE - 243 Records, Median Salary $53,000

ASSURANCE ASSOCIATE - 700 Records, Median Salary $59,000

What exactly do these associates do?


With technology today, do we need interpreters in-situ (e-mail, voice, video, etc.)? Also, as we have Americans volunteer abroad for different missions, we too can look for overseas volunteers who could contribute to help in edge-case causes like this.


It's a bigger problem that can be hardly solved by online/video interpreters.

There are many immigrant/refugee communities in the US that are in dire needs of certain services. No matter how well intended the members of that communities are, they run into many a lot of problems during integration. One I've heard about from a friend (who's a teacher) is that once their children starts going to school, because of the language difficulty and even some cultural differences, they usually fall behind and are treated as "special needs" because teachers don't want to deal with them. This creates a vicious cycle.

They wanted to hire a teacher with knowledge of the community and the language, to serve as much as a liaison as to make the community more comfortable. They can't immediately hire anyone from the community because of the requirements for the job - they'd need a degree and about 2 years training. Now, he knows for a fact there's capable people in the country the community came from willing to reallocate to help with integration. But they can't hire them, even as a part of any special program; the uncertainties about the visa process, its cost, and its duration make it impossible. Everybody loses.


Hear hear, it was a nightmare getting teachers for my kid's German school in SV: so much H1 uncertainty and they usually all vanished at the wrong time (i.e. all taken before the time when teachers change jobs).


I think that's an edge case that is < .01% of what the H1-B visa is used for. The problem is that 99% of H1-B is being used as most people have described, which is undercutting the market value of engineers.


I think a minimum wage of 100K for all H1-Bs may not work for all roles, it should be a certain percentage above the prevailing market wage specific to that role.


Maybe some sort of waiver would solve that within the context of the H1B? Exceptions based on regional needs or organizational focus?


I used to agree with hungrygs' response. It appears right in many ways until I put TN and E3 visa in perspective. They tuk-tuk-tur is apt.


The previous H-1B minimum wage of $60,000, which was established in 1989, is the equivalent of $117,000 in today's dollars.


What about the idea of having an auction for the H1B slots?


Maybe allow for waivers, capped at xxx a year, for these essential but not high paying jobs?


Where I work, they're filling roles of what would have been called an engineering clerk, back in the old days. Jobs for which a BS is an over-qualification. The visa holders are vastly underpaid for their education level, while people who would be a better fit can't get their foot in the door, and get a huge boost to their income, because they don't have a degree.

I think the "as we all know" is that big corporations use the visa program to create, in essence, indentured servitude. People who work for far less than the market-clearing wage for the position, because are beholden to their corporate sponsor. I find it reprehensible, and particularly galling that it's all done in the name of "diversity."

Most visa holders are young and incredibly vulnerable. Combine this with my particular company's absolutely legendarily capricious hire-and-fire cycle (for 30+ years), and they can really stick it to immigrants working for them via subcontracting.


That's exactly it: indentured servants. I wonder if Canada's immigration policy that Microsoft is holding up is geared toward indentured servanthood, or citizenship?


Canada has a point based system which ties the visa to the employee not the employer. Also there are straightforward paths to citizenship.


Thanks. And I see from the downvote on my comment above that it is offensive to suggest that Canada might have a policy that favors the employee more than the employer.

Mussolini would be proud of these pro-employer watchdogs...


I agree H1s should get Green Cards much faster. The visa employee should also have more flexibility in changing jobs, including when his GC is being processed.

I don't like the "staple a green card" proposals for anyone who gets a STEM masters degree though. Many US Universities have already turned into masters degree mills for people trying to get visas. If Universities were allowed to sell Green Cards the problem would become much much worse.


That sounds like a problem (if it is a problem) that should be addressed by limiting the number of student visas, not by allowing people to get a valuable US education and then telling them to go home.

I've worked with many people on H1Bs and student visas. Every single one of them was a valuable person to work with, and they should be citizens. Maybe universities are becoming green card mills, but in my experience everyone who goes to a US university gets exactly what they bargained for. The law may say otherwise, but in spirit they become Americans.


> I've worked with many people on H1Bs and student visas. Every single one of them was a valuable person to work with, and they should be citizens.

In what industry do you work? As a software engineer, I've worked with a lot of people on H-1Bs. They are normal, nice people like anyone else I'd have no problem with them becoming citizens given the proper process, but I wouldn't say they brought more value than any American programmer.


It seemed to me that the OP did not argue they brought more value than an American programmer but that the US is better off with them than without them.

The question is what the "proper process" is for them becoming citizens, isn't it? It seems logical to me that the process should be different for someone who's graduated from a US university than an imported H1B worker (but then I'm one of the former, so I'm not unbiased.)


I didn't say they are more valuable, I said they are valuable, and that they are American programmers and the law should be corrected to reflect that.


But that's not what H-1B visas are for. They are intended to allow companies to hire for specialized skills that they can't find domestically. The are also objectively not Americans.


Limiting the number of student visas will limit the amount of income for universities, though, so it will be fought at the institutional level.

If someone has spent multiple years - especially their undergrad AND graduate years - in the USA, and they are interested in permanent residence, why would we tell that person to leave?

If that person can select a job just like a US citizen without fear of getting deported, that more or less levels the playing field, correct? They don't have to take sub-industry-standard wages, and can instead hold out for the right job in the right place.


Even if it's not a tech job?


I guess this is a personal opinion, and I definetly do have a skin in the game being an immigrant, but I do sincerely believe that studying in an American university is kind of a life changing experience (it was for me!). Its not like everyone who comes here wants to live here: a lot of my friends went back, mostly because they like to be near their families, like to live amid their own culture. So if someone does decide to stay here, it does mean a certain amount of commitment and sacrifice. Studying and living in the US is kind of like a trial run: some people like it and others don't. So for those who do, who are well educated, willing to contribute to the American economy and society, it feels like a shame to kick them out.


I'm confused; are you saying first-generation immigrants with a green card who are competing with US citizens in non-tech jobs don't have a level playing field?


No, my understanding of the proposal under consideration is a green card for any foreign student graduating from a US university. I was wondering if that was limited to high paying, in demand majors or would apply to history or radio-television-and-film. (I do so love picking on RTF majors.)


If someone has come to the USA for education, and can find a job in that field, I think it's fair. If you've shown you're willing to get good grades throughout four years of college, that's some indication that you have good discipline and would be a net benefit to the economy.

There's no guarantee of that, but if someone wants to stay, they'll be paying taxes (and were throughout their schooling days), driving the housing market, etc. If they can't find a job, they'll likely think about going elsewhere.


Again its astounding how many Americans dont realise how the GC process really works. Only 15% of the greencards are handed out to employment based categories, rest go for family reunification. That 15% additional has country of birth quotas etc.


Picking magic numbers is the antithesis of a free market approach for a free country. Make sure people aren't criminals, and tie certain visa types to being mostly self-supporting, but people don't come to the US for the vast social welfare programs. They come for the opportunities and to work.

http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-optimal-number...


I think it's $130K, which is 2x as much as before. It's senior level salary in IT (and I think for lawyers and MD's it's not starting salary either), in some cases/states Principal level. I would not invite H1B on that position, I would get one from local market for that amount of money. If you follow the line: it simply says do not use H1B more. Plus, what international student will do once he completes the college, and with quarter of million in debts (say Bachelor only) ? As is now, H1B. Will you hire college fresh grad for 130K ? Don't think so. So...who will come to the college from overseas to study and brig their passion and ideas on this land ? This is USA, this IS a country made, constructed and developed by excellence and hard work of immigrants with their hopes and dreams. Cutting that idea off, putting the country and society in the mood of "preservation", could result in dangerous outcome, as society is not ready for that. This is not Europe and will never be, the rules that work there are not applicable on this land. There is no a notion of "nation" in USA, there is no such thing. It's just a colony of immigrants moved away from their homes to build something they could not there. This is a dream land, this is an opportunity land and should remain such for everyone.


> I would not invite H1B on that position, I would get one from local market for that amount of money

Are you suggesting that a $130k floor for H1B workers would undermine the practice of undercutting local workers?


It's hard to predict what will really happen. Some businesses will hire more IT personal overseas, to amortize the costs and avoid H1B application at all. Some will start really searching for a local talent with higher price (that's what this idea is meant to do I guess). But considering that IT reports constantly shortage on candidates, a big gap indeed, regardless top notch universities, makes me think it's not about problem of lack of open positions, what this new idea aims to solve, it's about a will to do that job or not. Still, I'm talking about IT sector. In other areas of life things may be way different.


anytime you hear "shortage of candidates"

you need to append "at the wage we are offering"

at 1 million per year, do you think there would still be a shortage? how about 500k?

Salaries are so bad in IT compared to development that I decided a couple months ago to start making the transition. I cant reasonably continue pursuing a career trajectory that i know will make me less money, and that is not valued by organizations.

add to this the demands for IT jobs:

certifications (costs hundreds of dollars per, need to refresh them every year or two)

experience with laundry lists of technologies (i.e cisco networking experience is apparently not valid if this employer uses juniper/pfsense/etc.)

probably the worst hours in the industry (yes devs get pagerduty, its not comparable)

compare that to:

literally no certification requirements (dont even need a high school diploma for many places)

much better hours

add to that substantially better pay, and its a real wonder why there is a 'shortage of candidates'


Possibly they might look at hiring outside of the Bay Area in such exotic locations as Boise, DesMoines, Minneapolis, Detroit or other places where they have recent college graduates who would have been motivated to study STEM fields.


There's places outside of the Bay Area? Blasphemy!


Yeah, you're right. We're all a bunch of stupid-heads in Sacramento, good for nothing but doing CRUD in COBOL++ (aka Java) :-)


> I would get one from local market for that amount of money.

Wait, why? Are you implying foreign workers are not competent and can't be exceptional? Surely it isn't that?

Otherwise, sounds like then H1B will finally work as intended, you'd be able higher exceptional people from overseas who might not be available in your area? Maybe there is a distributed systems expert from Argentina or a compiler writer from Ghana. For you to reach out to another country, they'll obviously be very qualifies and demand a decent salary.

> Plus, what international student will do once he completes the college, and with quarter of million in debts (say Bachelor only) ?

Go home or get a $130k salary if he is qualified. International student acceptance doesn't somehow guarantee or imply a continuation of stay based on employment. There is (or was) an work program where they can work in the industry as co-op / intern for a year or two. That can probably be expanded.

> Will you hire college fresh grad for 130K ? Don't think so.

Yes I would! There can be exceptional graduates. I have seen and interviewed some. Google / Facebook / Microsoft already pays that much for good graduate and more.

> This is USA, this IS a country made, constructed and developed by excellence and hard work of immigrants with their hopes and dreams.

So if they do such good work we should reward them appropriately by paying them a competitive salary. H1B should not be a way to bring in cheap labor. You can argue there should be other visas for that but H1B shouldn't be that one. And somehow you are tying it to hopes and dream. What about the hopes and dreams of develops working in US?

> There is no a notion of "nation" in USA, there is no such thing.

That is completely bogus. There is a strong notion of a nation here precisely because there is ethnic, religious or other history. If anything Americans are criticized for over-emphasizing their "Americanism".

> It's just a colony of immigrants moved away from their homes to build something they could not there. This is a dream land, this is an opportunity land and should remain such for everyone.

Well if this is a dream surely we don't want ruin that dream for those who are here and suppress their wages.


Really? From your handle, I did think you were among the more nuanced members in this forum. I guess this issue cuts too close to your heart though.

> Yes I would! There can be exceptional graduates. I have seen and interviewed some. Google / Facebook / Microsoft already pays that much for good graduate and more

Yes, and they are the exception not the rule. American tech sector is not just limited to these companies. And not just to the bay area where such salaries are common.

> So if they do such good work we should reward them appropriately by paying them a competitive salary. H1B should not be a way to bring in cheap labor.

60k is NOT CHEAP LABOR in most parts of the country! Please consider that outside of major cities, it is a pretty decent salary, especially a great starting salary.

> That is completely bogus. There is a strong notion of a nation here precisely because there is ethnic, religious or other history. If anything Americans are criticized for over-emphasizing their "Americanism".

I think the OP mean more along the line of patrimony and culture that is common in the Old World. While Americans might beat their chest and proclaim their uniqueness, they have existed as nation for just over 300 years, while the culture of Europe and much of Asia goes back thousands of years.

> Well if this is a dream surely we don't want ruin that dream for those who are here and suppress their wages.

Precisely. So don't.


> I guess this issue cuts too close to your heart though.

Yes it does. I have seen H1B being abused enough times. I was also an international student.

> And not just to the bay area where such salaries are common.

You know what else I have seen, lots and lots of very competent, driven, and smart American students. Also interviewed them. The idea that there are none and we have to hire from overseas using a visa process is ridiculous.

> 60k is NOT CHEAP LABOR in most parts of the country!

You are right there. I agree with that part in general. But if it is not cheap and is a decent salary, there should be no problem filling it with American laborers. Computer Science degrees and education has become more popular. I don't see H1B workforce as being immensely and uniquely qualified such that it would be impossible to find anyone in a country of 300M+ people with top universities in the world. If there are such cases, I posit $130k is a low end start for their salaries.

> While Americans might beat their chest and proclaim their uniqueness, they have existed as nation for just over 300 years, while the culture of Europe and much of Asia goes back thousands of years.

To be specific I was replying to the critique that Americans don't have a standing when talking being a "nation" and using that as an argument. 300 years is certainly enough reasons to form a national identity. I think it is silly claiming "You don't have a right to change your H1B visa rules because you are not a nation". Even as an immigrant, that feels a bit over-board.

H1B visas are about filling labor shortages with exceptional talent, that is their goal. Over the years that seems they have been perverted from anything from "Let's help international students who graduate to immigrate" to "I need indentured servants to work for me for X number of years".


> You know what else I have seen, lots and lots of very competent, driven, and smart American students. Also interviewed them. The idea that there are none and we have to hire from overseas using a visa process is ridiculous.

It isn't that there are none, the problem is that there aren't enough. And instead of hypothesizing, just look at how oversubscribed the H1B visa is and how many people come in via other work visas (e.g. L1).

> You are right there. I agree with that part in general. But if it is not cheap and is a decent salary, there should be no problem filling it with American laborers. Computer Science degrees and education has become more popular. I don't see H1B workforce as being immensely and uniquely qualified such that it would be impossible to find anyone in a country of 300M+ people with top universities in the world. If there are such cases, I posit $130k is a low end start for their salaries.

Wrong. I can't believe how common this idea that "free market will fix everything!" is on HN. It is making more US students consider CS/Programming as a career, but even in a nation of 300M+ people, they aren't graduating in large enough numbers. (I can go on about the specific reasons but lets deal with the relevant facts instead of throwing numbers around. One could argue why a country with 16000M+ people, India, won not a single gold medal at the last olympics). Simply changing lowest salary to $130k wont magically fix it, just like $60k presently is not fixing it.

> To be specific I was replying to the critique that Americans don't have a standing when talking being a "nation" and using that as an argument. 300 years is certainly enough reasons to form a national identity. I think it is silly claiming "You don't have a right to change your H1B visa rules because you are not a nation". Even as an immigrant, that feels a bit over-board.

Thanks for clarifying that. I agree, the US is a nation in the canonical sense. I think the OP was pointing out more to the critical contribution of immigration to American growth and prosperity.

> H1B visas are about filling labor shortages with exceptional talent, that is their goal. Over the years that seems they have been perverted from anything from "Let's help international students who graduate to immigrate" to "I need indentured servants to work for me for X number of years".

This is another untruth, where the world "specialty" is misused. Lets go to the definition[0]:

"Generally speaking, a job is a specialty occupation if the occupation normally requires a bachelors degree in a related field of study. Jobs in fields such as engineering, math, and business, as well as many technology fields, often qualify as a specialty occupation."

So basically, most engineering jobs are "specialty" jobs and using H1B is perfectly legal and right way to do them.

I absolutely agree that there is a problem with bodyshops abusing the system. But the solutions offered so far DO NOT, WILL NOT solve those problems.

[0] https://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupati...


> the problem is that there aren't enough

By what measure?

> just look at how oversubscribed the H1B visa is

What is your interpretation of this? Who would turn down the chance of cheap labor even without a shortage?

> I can't believe how common this idea that "free market will fix everything!" is on HN

This is an exaggerated characterisation; but to some degree it is necessary to rely on market principles, given how complex the economy is.

> even in a nation of 300M+ people, they aren't graduating in large enough numbers.

Demand is high. Why is the population count relevant? People are choosing other career paths, which means there isn't enough incentive to choose IT.

> One could argue why a country with 16000M+ people, India, won not a single gold medal at the last olympics

You could, and why not? Are you implying India is incapable of producing gold-medal winning athletes?

> Simply changing lowest salary to $130k wont magically fix it

Not overnight, might it might in the long run. Why wouldn't it?

> But the solutions offered so far DO NOT, WILL NOT solve those problems

You mean the bodyshop abuse? Won't a minimum wage requirement fix it?


> What is your interpretation of this? Who would turn down the chance of cheap labor even without a shortage?

The labor is not cheap. I have already explained this.

> Demand is high. Why is the population count relevant? People are choosing other career paths, which means there isn't enough incentive to choose IT.

It isn't. I bring it up because the parent brought it up. I think we are in agreement here.

> You could, and why not? Are you implying India is incapable of producing gold-medal winning athletes?

Most certainly not.

> Not overnight, might it might in the long run. Why wouldn't it?

I have already explained this. Please don't ask the same question for me to give the same answer. The only reason I am replying is because you seem to be genuinely interested in an open-minded discussion about this issue.

> You mean the bodyshop abuse? Won't a minimum wage requirement fix it?

No, I don't mean the bodyshop abuse. The problem: not enough Americans to fill vacancies in tech sector. That is the problem that this solution won't fix.


> The labor is not cheap. I have already explained this.

Is this:

>> 60k is NOT CHEAP LABOR in most parts of the country!

You "explanation"? Because you didn't really respond to:

>> But if it is not cheap and is a decent salary, there should be no problem filling it with American laborers.

>> If there are such cases, I posit $130k is a low end start for their salaries.

Or to: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13553710

> I have already explained this.

You haven't replied to all responses to those explanations (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13552944 ), and I haven't accepted some of your arguments yet. Can you point out which posts of your own you are referring to?

> The only reason I am replying is..

If you are going to take this arrogant tone, then take your own posts less authoritatively. It's not "open-minded" to lace your responses with such haughty barbs.


>especially a great starting salary.

This is exactly why people are railing against H1Bs so hard. How can you even suggest that an h1b be used for an entry level job?

meanwhile record numbers of american college graduates are finding part time work at mcdonalds and starbucks.

Sure wish some of my friends and former classmates could get 60k/yr jobs, instead of 24 hrs/wk @ 8.25 an hour. But no, its because tech companies are literally unable to fill these positions! i swear!


> This is exactly why people are railing against H1Bs so hard. How can you even suggest that an h1b be used for an entry level job?

Because all your friends and former classmates can't code even if their life depended on it. I went to school in one of the best CS programs in the country. Believe me: there are all kinds of outreach programs, high school outreach programs etc. to get more Americans involved in Tech. And while there are more Americans in Tech, the demand far outstrips supply.


> Because all your friends and former classmates can't code even if their life depended on it.

Everyone's experience varies of course. I have interviewed kids regularly from all tiers of US universities (most recently CMU). As a rule I found an international Masters student has a much better chance of failing the basic coding exam than an American-born BS graduate. Also I noticed when it comes to top students, American students overall come ahead in our interview process.


I'm not talking about CS students at US universities. I am talking about average joe college graduate who is apparently working in a Starbucks after college.


so you are making an assumption that no one who graduates with a CS degree has had to get a part time job?

are you serious?


> Because all your friends and former classmates can't code even if their life depended on it.

How about a little on-the-job training? Let's be honest, the real issue isn't talent. These H1B applicants are willing to sacrifice their lives for your company whereas your average entry-level American engineer may prioritize something else.


Bringing someone over to the US on a H1B is an expensive, time consuming, mind-numbingly long affair. The only companies that I see doing that is if they have no other options at all.


expensive relative to the savings of competing on the market?

"time consuming, mind-numbingly long" doesn't matter much if it's in your business model to do this at scale. In fact, it would be an explicit competitive advantage.


> And while there are more Americans in Tech, the demand far outstrips supply.

What is this supposed to mean? That there is no market clearing price where the supply curve and the demand curve intersect, such that at any wage level demand exceeds supply? Or just that the politically (because also economically) powerful buyers prefer lower prices than that market-clearing price, and so want government action to lower the price?


> What is this supposed to mean? That there is no market clearing price where the supply curve and the demand curve intersect, such that at any wage level demand exceeds supply? Or just that the politically (because also economically) powerful buyers prefer lower prices than that market-clearing price, and so want government action to lower the price?

Demand and supply curves don't work well when the thing in demand is skilled people. You cannot ramp up the number of skilled engineers immediately when demand shoots up.

edit: missed a "don't"


> demand far outstrips supply

and this difference is what drives wage. Every time you try to reduce the gap, you drive down wages.

> can't code even if their life depended on it

No, there just isn't enough money willing to proactively train more people. The outreach programs can take an unlimited amount more funding.

If you are claiming that there is literally a shortage of people that can be trained below loss for most of the IT industry, I'd like to see more evidence.


> and this difference is what drives wage. Every time you try to reduce the gap, you drive down wages.

I'm not going to argue any more on this reasoning at all. I have explained quite clearly why this kind of thinking is incorrect and hasn't worked so far and won't work in the future either. See my peer comments.

> No, there just isn't enough money willing to proactively train more people. The outreach programs can take an unlimited amount more funding.

> If you are claiming that there is literally a shortage of people that can be trained below loss for most of the IT industry, I'd like to see more evidence.

I don't quite understand what you're trying to say here. Of course my evidence for shortage is anecdotal. You seem to agree that the demand outstrips supply and so far Americans have not taken up CS in large enough numbers to satisfy that demand. That is my only "evidence".


> See my peer comments.

I've seen them, don't find them convincing, but will respond to those.

> my evidence for shortage is anecdotal

I'm not entirely sure which anecdotes, unless you explain your personal experience.

> You seem to agree that the demand outstrips supply

yep

> and so far Americans have not taken up CS in large enough numbers to satisfy that demand

Maybe. CS grads aren't the only source of software developers; but in any case, there is nothing wrong with demand being higher than supply, it's perfectly fine that demand be unsatisfied in the same way it's fine that supply be unsatisfied.


> Because all your friends and former classmates can't code even if their life depended on it.

I'm just gonna end it here, im not interested in having a discussion with you. Have a good one, hope your mood improves to the point where you aren't calling random strangers friends and family incompetent!


Usually I don't give comments like yours the dignity of a reply but it seems like even the best of people in this forum have latched on to certain incorrect ideas, so I'm gonna try one more time.

I wasn't saying your friends and family are incompetent, I was saying they are incompetent programmers, at least right now. I don't believe that everyone can or wants to do software engineering for a living, just like not everyone can or wants to be a chef, or a pilot. Its really important to understand that we can't retrain everyone to fulfill certain roles.


> they are incompetent programmers, at least right now

So train them. They will want to be trained and fill those roles if the salary is high.

> I don't believe that everyone can or wants to do software engineering for a living

Why can't they? Offer easy entry, and the promise of a high salary, and more people will want to do these jobs. If everyone got to do what they wanted, we'd have a surplus of firemen and veterinarians, and few accountants and garbage men.


> Why can't they? Offer easy entry, and the promise of a high salary, and more people will want to do these jobs. If everyone got to do what they wanted, we'd have a surplus of firemen and veterinarians, and few accountants and garbage men.

I'm not gonna argue too much on this since people seem to have set their minds on it. Having personally taught in American high schools as part of various outreach programs...I can say that, no, programming is not something you can "train" everyone into. Sure, there are some with aptitude for it, others without it who do want to learn and can be "trained" as you say. But you need to rethink the whole public education system from a very early stage to make it easier for students to be good learners and ultimately good programmers.

> easy entry, and the promise of a high salary

Its already there, yet....crickets.


> people seem to have set their minds on it

You're not wrong, people are just stubborn?

> programming is not something you can "train" everyone into

Would you be as happy to conclude that teaching isn't something everyone can do?

If there is some general failing with the entire educational system, "immigration" won't fix that; but this is a tractable/solvable (if difficult) problem if foreign countries are able to produce good students.

> Its already there

Is it? What counts a "high", outside SV? Why are SV wages limited to SV?

Previous posters describe CS majors working for Starbucks/McDonalds - if entry is easy, how could this be?


> Previous posters describe CS majors working for Starbucks/McDonalds - if entry is easy, how could this be?

They most certainly do not...please read the actual post. The post says their college graduate friends...not graduates in CS. Anecdotally, I haven't seen any American with a CS degree be out of job for a very long time unless they were doing something really wrong (i.e. not applying/following up with interviews).

> Would you be as happy to conclude that teaching isn't something everyone can do?

Hah, good point. I am willing to concede I might be a terrible teacher. But if we go along this path, where do you stop? You are trying to find fault in the system, in the teachers etc...essentially looking for a reason other than the most obvious conclusion: not everyone can or wants to be a programmer. Like I said, I do agree with this reasoning though: perhaps if we change the system to have better teachers, a better education system that makes CS more appealing, perhaps there would be more CS graduates.

> If there is some general failing with the entire educational system, "immigration" won't fix that; but this is a tractable/solvable (if difficult) problem if foreign countries are able to produce good students.

Immigration is not meant to fix your education system. They are not mutually exclusive: you can do both. The real reason foreign countries are able to produce good students is an interesting one; personally I get the impression that one of the major reasons is their sheer size ~3 billion people in Indian and China alone. However, one of my friends has correctly pointed out that the 3rd largest foreign student community in US universities after Indian and Chinese is: Korean.


> The post says their college graduate friends...not graduates in CS

Ah, I concede this. Maybe this isn't an issue in US as it is in the UK..

> They are not mutually exclusive: you can do both

What stops industry becoming dependent on it though? There are big advantages to H1B visa workers, there is a risk that it saps market demand. Immigration might be the path of least resistance to solving labor shortage, rather than any long-term native plans.

If technology comes to be seen as a reliable high-paid job, via being sustainably high-paid, then it's reputation will bring in more people. Immigration is a threat to this. You can argue industrial benefit to this, but how sustainable is it? What if the US lost it's attractivity, what would happen to the H1B workers then? The US needs to figure out how to produce workers - being able to skim the cream from other demographics is a benefit, but a dangerous temptation as well.


There is absolutely nothing that stops the industry from being dependent on it. It is a very real risk. But restricting immigration is certainly not the solution.

I've seen you argue for a market where demand doesn't meet supply as a desirable state for the labor market. If you do believe that, then there is really no basis for this particular debate. The principle of my argument has been that there is a problem, labor shortage which cannot be fixed by the solutions offered. If you're arguing that the labor shortage is not a problem, then that is a completely different debate.


> But restricting immigration is certainly not the solution.

Why not? A restriction signals immigration as an unreliable source of labor, hence de-incentivising business to depend on it on the basis that it is a risk.

> If you're arguing that the labor shortage is not a problem

There may a problem, but labor shortage itself, is not. An excessive shortage, or an industry-crippling shortage is another thing altogether; In either case, a shortage is a necessary, but not sufficient condition of the problem.


then your argument ignores the problem that literally everyone else is talking about, which is.... very strange.

We are here talking about changes to the H1B visa program which are intended to curb abuse/fraud of the program.

and you are here to talk only about a labor shortage in one industry?


>Ah, I concede this. Maybe this isn't an issue in US as it is in the UK..

You shouldnt, i later specified i was including CS grads - i was a CS major until i switched to MIS, so most of my college friends are from one of those two programs.


I wrote a whole long thing, but i think its much better to just illustrate my point.

You claim that H1B's:

1. can and should be used for entry level positions, because it is impossible to find entry level employees for programming

2. companies are completely unable to fill programming positions with US employees.

So lets investigate those claims then. Well, good place to start is probably looking at the top job titles of H1B visa holders.[1] Turns out the number 1 title by far, is 'Programmer Analyst' kinda vague, so lets try to dig in and see what that really is.

To do that, we can look for the top H1B visa employers[2] that appears to be Cognizant at 15,680 in 2015, followed by Infosys and TATA.

Well now that we know who the top employer of H1Bs is and what the top job title is, should be pretty easy to find an open position on their job board, right? Then we can look at the requirements for the 'Programmer Analyst' job and see what exactly is so specialized that no US college graduate is capable of accomplishing.

Weirdly, even though they filled over 33,000 of this job merely 2 years ago (an average of almost 100 jobs filled per day!) There is only 1 single job posting for a 'Programmer Analyst'[3]

Even weirder! the requirements for this job:

>Requirement: Basic computer knowledge, Good Communication skills and willing to work in night shifts

Well, that doesnt seem like such a demanding position to me....

Infosys had 0 job listings under that same title, TATA's careers site has no job listings at all[4]

But yeah, maybe you are right, maybe its just a coincidence that the top H1B job title has only 1 single listing across the top 3 H1B visa employers. Better keep letting them hire immigrants, since those stupid college grads 'cant code to save their lives' as you so put it.

[1]http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2014-H1B-Visa-Category.asp...

[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1B_visa#Top_H-1B_employers_b...

[3]https://cognizant.taleo.net/careersection/1nacorp/jobdetail....

[4]http://www.tata.com/careers/index/Career


Let me repeat that I am not denying the existence of H1B fraud. I am saying that H1B can and should be used for entry level positions as well. And if there are companies abusing the system, as you point out, they are breaking the law. They should be prosecuted and stopped.


an H1B visa is specifically for someone in a "Specialty occupation" and very specifically requires experience in the field.

>(3) 12/ For purposes of section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b1) , the term `specialty occupation' means an occupation that requires--

>(A) theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and

>(B) attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.

So, since 'Entry Level' means someone without experience in the field - the H1B visa clearly does not apply to them.


> I did think you were among the more nuanced members in this forum

What does this mean?


it means "i wouldve guessed (based on your username) you were smarter than i know believe you to be"

Its an insult, not really hackernews quality, as almost all of this users comments in this thread have been an attack on someone. I dont know if this person had a bad day, or if they are always so unbearable and condescending.

see also:

>all your friends and former classmates can't code even if their life depended on it

>Usually I don't give comments like yours the dignity of a reply

>I was saying they are incompetent programmers

>I have already explained this.

> The only reason I am replying is because ..


> I would not invite H1B on that position, I would get one from local market for that amount of money.

So you're saying the incentives would work as intended..


Again, my understanding of IT market, is that shortage of candidates Silicon Valley, and not only, so complains about, is because there are NO local candidates willing to take that job, and not because "all those indians steal our young grads jobs". If by saying "So you're saying the incentives would work as intended" you mean minimum salary wage will raise because of that, don't think so.


> NO local candidates willing to take that job

>not because "all those indians steal our young grads jobs"

Yet we have record numbers of college graduates working at starbucks and other hourly employers.

Do you honestly believe that college graduates would rather work at starbucks or mcdonalds than a tech company doing IT?


Well now that C.S. is "hip" it's a pain to land a junior job. I'm no graduate, but I am a self taught (albeit) hobbyist developer doing it for a few years now working as a part time stocker for $8.00/h because junior jobs A) Don't exist. or B) Have stupid requirements.


In our company we have struggle to get applicants to apply. Junior, or Senior. May be it's our company, but in general I would agree that H1B should be meant for experienced personal. What is happening now, companies are getting qualified labor (years of experience, Masters/Phds) from overseas for $60K. Nice and shiny. My point is that this, most likely, will not open more entry level positions, or make companies willing to pay more for entry level engineer.


"There is no a notion of "nation" in USA, there is no such thing."

Oh you mean other than the revolution we fought to be the first nation in the world to establish a secular government based on the principles of natural rights and natural law? This pisses me off something fierce to hear people want all the benifits of the country but not want to learn basic citizenship duties and responsibilities.

Our nation is the Constitution, and you don't know what you are talking about.


>I would not invite H1B on that position, I would get one from local market for that amount of money.

Sounds like the effect is exactly whats intended then


> There is no a notion of "nation" in USA, there is no such thing

Yeah ok, buddy. Try that line when you don't wanna pay taxes.


The term "nation" typically means a collection of people with a common culture and ethnicity. The "Poles" are a nation, Poland is a state. That's why the the term nation-state exists, and contrasts with, say, empires composed of multiple nations. Canada, for example, traditionally described as a binational state, is now typically identified as a multicultural state, with some Québécois disliking the change in emphasis.

Americans as a people are united in sloppily mishandling the term "nation", mostly because it doesn't really apply to us.


America absolutely has a culture. Have you never lived in another country?

Our houses, cars, schools, music, food, pass times, athletics, language (slang, dialects), entertainment, government, habits, communication (verbal, body language), aspirations, societal expectations, humor, things we find offensive/inoffensive, etc.


Britain has a culture, despite being composed of the English, Scots, and Welsh nations as well as many immigrants.

One can, of course, feel entirely free to use words in arbitrary ways. But to correct someone (who clearly understands the correct usage of the term nation) with the nonsensical notion of a nation imposing taxes is odd.


I'll admit to learning from your definition of nation just now. Sucks that I went well into adulthood never learning the proper meaning of a basic word. On the bright side, google has just given me the green light to continue using 'country' and state interchangeably.

Americans sloppily mishandle a lot of things. That's a common culture right off the bat ;) in addition to everything devmunchies said.


To be fair to all of us Americans, nationality, even when when you understand what the term means, is still a sloppy concept, with porous boundaries inviting people to contest any particular usage. And that's putting aside aside any (perfectly appropriate) metaphorical usage i.e. "nation of immigrants".

Anyway, hope that you find the definition useful going forward.. For example, the title "Birth of Nation" is clearer, even if the substance of the movie remains evil nonsense.


> a collection of people with a common culture and ethnicity

google says:

> people united by common descent, history, culture, or language

You added "and ethnicity", are you saying a nation can't be composed of multiple ethnicity?

And does it really matter? America is a country.


To be fair, Americans are also united in sloppily mishandling the term "state", mostly because it (arguably) no longer applies to us the way it used to.


I think it's $130K, which is 2x as much as before.

I think you need to get out of the Valley. It's come up on HN before how $125K+ salaries might be common in SV, but not in other areas of the US.

Make the salary floor $130K and only SV will get to hire H1-Bs.


The salary floor is just the floor at which you do not have to prove you advertised in the US for the position first. Also the current bill proposed in the house would allow bonuses and equity to be considered party of the salary. So you could offer someone $65k a year in salary and $65k a year in stock with 4 year vesting without having to advertise the position in the US first.


The minimum salary could be industry based. For example, 150% of the average wage for that field. If the point of these visas is to bring in talent that America doesn't have, that shouldn't be a problem. These people should be paid above average salaries if they are truly a scarce resource.


How do you prevent loopholes based on industry classification and job switching? Ex. what's going to stop a company from hiring a lower-minimum "design" worker and then having them do 10% design and 90% writing code? We have to assume that companies will attempt to abuse the system any way they can, so a simpler blanket setup for everyone is going to be much more effective than attempting a nuanced setup that would require even more oversight.

As others have pointed out, it would be better to create separate visas with stricter limits for industries that really need them, like high-level interpreters.


>To date, as we all know, the H-1b system has primarily been used to arbitrage for lower wage by Indian companies

This isn't really true, or it is, but only in high profile yet minority cases.

H1B abuse is more about hiring someone at near competitive wages and telling them they're working 60 hour weeks and slowly getting rid of native workers who won't stand for that. So now your IT department is 12 people instead of 20. That's significant cost savings even if you're matching salaries. H1B's aren't typically paid less, they're worked like dogs instead. They can't easily migrate to a new employer, thus the abuse. This is the problem that needs fixing the most. The salary issue is secondary and something of a red herring as you can raise salaries but still have this abuse and it will do nothing for American workers who have been victimized by H1B abusers.

I don't see Trump or anyone addressing the indentured servitude aspects H1B creates. Considering most H1B's are clearing 80-120k, codifying 100k or more will do next to nothing. Worse, the only H1B bill I see has a 130k suggested salary but which can be contested and you can bet every HR company will do that.

These bills are mostly smoke and mirrors. H1B needs to be either completely scrapped or be re-done under a new program to allow H1B holders to switch jobs easily. Ideallym, if these people are truly hard to find hires they should be put on a fast path to naturalization and all costs paid for by the employer instead of this weird middle ground H1B currently creates where you're supposed to be super valuable but naturalization is up in the air. If it costs, say, $250k or more per head to bring them as a flat-fee and to express naturalize them, that'll stop abusive hiring I imagine. Corporations really need to have more skin in the game here and H1B's need to be naturalized quickly to avoid second class status.


>H1B abuse is more about hiring someone at near competitive wages and telling them they're working 60 hour weeks and slowly getting rid of native workers who won't stand for that.

If the native workers won't stand for it, the wages for it aren't actually "near competitive".


Agreed 100%. People seem to be focused entirely on the salary aspect, but my observations match yours quite well. I've worked for almost 10 years in the industry and with numerous H1-Bs, and I can't recall anyone being underpaid in total comp (I've had discussions on pay with a good number of them). However, they were always the yes-men - working long into the night to meet some ridiculous deadline, remoting in on weekends because the boss needed something done etc etc.


  near competitive wages and telling them they're working 60 hour weeks
"wage(s)" implies pay per hour worked. If you're spreading "near competitive" wages across a 50% longer workweek, the per-hour isn't actually competitive, is it?


It seems this is about to happen soon, a draft of this new executive order was leaked and viewed by Axios yesterday [1]:

"A draft of Trump's executive order viewed by Axios directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to consider ways to "make the process of H-1B allocation more efficient and ensure the beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest." That could mean replacing the current lottery system with one that prioritizes visas for jobs promising the highest salaries."

"What it means for tech: In theory, prioritizing by salaries means visas for more senior, higher-paying jobs will be granted first, and visas for lower-paying jobs (such as those being filled by Indian IT services firms) would fall to the back of line, perhaps not getting allocated at all if demand for the high-wage job visas is strong."

"But there's a catch: Wage-based hiring means companies may miss out on mid-level workers they still have trouble filling with qualified Americans. For example, software engineering jobs will be filled quickly, but jobs for network engineers or tech support that tend to skew lower on the pay scale could be tough to fill without H-1B visas. "The demand in the job market is not always captured by the highest salary," said one tech lobbyist. So tech companies are advocating for worker skill-set to be taken into account in addition to salary alone."

[1] https://www.axios.com/h1-b-salaries-2228205505.html


Tech support tough to fill without H1B? Give me a break! What a crock. Unless they mean "tough to fill at $8/hr."


"Wage-based hiring means companies may miss out on mid-level workers they still have trouble filling with qualified Americans."

This seems a bit ridiculous. Yea, they will miss mid-level workers at the current price point but if there is a lack of supply of mid-level works the price (salary) will rise for Americans and the supply of mid-level Americans will begin to increase. A win-win for mid-level Americans... not a win-win for the Tech Companies though


> "The demand in the job market is not always captured by the highest salary,"

I don't see how we can have the combination of low salary, high demand, and a deficit of supply. It sounds like the proper economic adjustment here is to increase salary. I imagine the only reason the adjustment hasn't happened is because wages are sticky.


How much would this system get gamed? This could just turn into a Visa store for elites.


Probably they have been doing well below 100kU$S in benefits, because surely if they cant land a 100k gig and can land a 60k one, they have lower skills.

Its reasonable to feel discontent with such companies, but if there were free movement of people working lawfully they would still be compelled to hire immigrants. Its only frowned upon because the government said so. If the government says you can get H1B's with 50k salary, we wouldnt be talking about it.


As long as there is a cap on these visas, they should be distributed in the most efficient manner, i.e. through an auction. Anything else is wasteful.


The question would be why have a cap at all.


There is no reason if one is OK with a nearly unlimited supply of cheap labor pricing out local competition and/or depressing wages.

If a hypothetical person thinks "free markets über allies" of course they're fine with unlimited visas depressing wages and increasing competition. (I don't know if that's your view, this is just a hypothetical.)

On the other hand old farts like me already have an advantage over the average HN or Reddit reader in that our education cost far less than theirs.

So the the question becomes is it fair to bring in foreign talent who (for example) may have been educated at little or no cost to compete with Americans buried under a mound of student debt?


I'd say it doesnt matter if they were educated or not, only if they can work in the US, which means they provide value to the economy, because they produce more than what they cost. If someone is educated and paid for it himself or with the generosity of another state, why does it matter?

Saying that bringing employees drops wages salaries is similar to saying the US shouldnt export things because it increases the price of local goods. Its simply not good from an economic perspective, its not really up for debate. I've never heard an economist saying immigration is bad economically for a country at any level except living on welfare.


Because no country has a cap-less work-visa program for American workers.


Tit for Tat between states for the life of individuals?


Unfortunately this salary requirement means immigration will turn even more into a pay-to-play kind of deal. If you have money (or skills/education) borders disappear and if you're broke you're stuck in a place that offers no decent opportunities.

America was built on "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", and this H-1B change is another step away from that.


Well H1-b is for temporary foreign workers, so the restrictions would be on the companies hiring foreign workers rather than the immigrants themselves. Personally I think H1-b visas for lower end workers are just an excuse for companies who want to treat their workers poorly by offering lower wages and benefits than they would get with American workers. And of course that contributes to unemployment among low income Americans who would otherwise have these jobs. By all means we can have a mechanism that is more indifferent to money when we look at other categories of immigration.


"Give me your tired, etc" is fulfilled through the DV lottery program, and support for refugees (now sadly suspended). Temporary Worker Visas have always been about providing foreign labor to American corporations to fix real or imaginary labor shortages.


"Fulfilled", except for the bit where it's a lottery.

"Give me your tired, etc., and bet their future on red maybe six or seven times in a row. If they win every time, send them on. Otherwise screw them."


I think, not refunding the application fee in the event of a denial might be a better solution. It acts as a rate-limit, disincentivising Indian companies from applying for many H1B's.


Also the diversity lottery based green card needs to be replaced. Those 50K/year slots would go a long way towards alleviating employment based green card shortages.


Riddle me this:

We're hiring massively (SF East Bay), have a really hard time finding suitable, qualified candidates (from Java backend to native apps on iOS, Android, Windows). And even our junior devs make more than your new floor in base pay, not even counting RSUs.

If I would start filtering out H1B transfers (and other visa types), my hiring pipeline would be empty.

Where are the former Pennsylvanian coal miners pouring into tech? Where are the great US coders willing to move to the CA Bay Area? I don't see them. Indians, Chinese, Russians, Ukranians, yes. 3rd generation mid-westerners? crickets. ( I did move my family, from Europe to the US. )

The US education system does not generate enough coders. It's too bad before college, too expensive in college. Decent to great public school systems in those other countries take up that slack.

You restrict foreigners joining tech and the sector grinds to a halt. The US population on a macro level right now is simply too uneducated to run it.


Can we agree that the US citizens who are capable of becoming programmers are making a rational economic decision to do something else?

If so, why hasnt tech competed successfully for them? I think open offices, poor autonomy, career issues as you cross 40, and so forth, have played a big role here. Even salaries arent remarkable compared to what skilled and intelligent people can earn in other fields. I think that if tech is having trouble hiring, they should learn to compete.

I see no reason to create a program that allows tech companies to force an immigrant to study CS and work a a dev as a condition of living and working in the US.


Why can't you hire remote employees? is it imperative that the employee be present?

Considering that SF is the most expensive place to live, why would anyone want to move there? especially if you have family?


> Considering that SF is the most expensive place to live, why would anyone want to move there?

SF is the most expensive place to live because people want to move there.


Are engineers preferring SF because the quality of life is higher?

Or is it that the perceived access to the next, more lucrative opportunity is greatest there?


Wow, such passive racism on HN. H1b is mostly targeted because it is associated with Indians. Are those sweet Canadians not stealing American jobs on TN visa ? Are your Australian mates not getting american jobs on E-3 visa ? Oh wait, they look white so no problem. But you see bunch of brown folks suddenly moving into your neighbourhood and think.. Geez.. These foreignours took'urrr'job.

Yes, like any government program, it is been abused but there are more than enough high paying jobs available in Tech. Indians are one of the richest demographics in USA. If Indians are such a low wage misers, what happens overnight ?

Only solution of h1b visa is to allow free movement of switching jobs. Right now a h1b worker is practically a slave of his/her employer which companies like TCS, Infosys exploits freely.


The tone of tech companies does not resonate with the electorate. The Bay Area basically says to America: We have foreigners here who founded some companies and got rich, so we don't want your visa restrictions.

How do tech executives motivate the average American to support this stance? Taxes? IT companies and their owners enjoy a very friendly tax treatment. Jobs? The largest IT companies employ only 20-60k people each (for comparison, Walmart employs 2mn). Product? Software is a tradeable good, so Americans can buy it from anywhere. Pumping GDP numbers? The industry is flat for the last 10+ years.

Tech companies must put something on the table to get better immigration laws.


It may not be the desired tone but essentially that's how America got populated in the first place, a place where foreigners with some disadvantage in their country of origin could get rich. And many did.

Kicking the door behind you closed once you've got yours or because you're afraid new immigrants will take your job is hypocrisy of a terrible kind for a nation that was founded on immigration.


> that's how America got populated in the first place

This isn't 1910. We are the top 5 in the world in population. We don't need as much immigration as we used to.

Americans should benefit from the American system before foreigners, like, you know, how every other country works.


In addition with looming automation, we simply cannot employ all the people who want to come here for a job, either skilled or unskilled.

We have large swaths of underemployed Americans but it costs companies too much to recondition them, so they prefer new bodies over training the domestic workforce.

This should be an opportunity for the likes of YC to double down on extending their know how to American women, American minorities and other underprivileged Americans, but instead they bemoan how a few foreigners are affected all the while ignoring how those same countries might treat not only foreigners, but their own minorities.


For what it's worth, unemployment is actually higher among men than women: https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpsee_e16.htm

That said, it's absurd to focus on individual identity groups. All who are willing to work and develop the necessary skills required by the market are deserving of employment irrespective of their demographic identity.


The YCs and large companies can easily move their investments and offices to Canada and hire the world's best and brightest there.

I'll give you the often conservative advice:

Tough luck? pull yourself up by your own boot straps! Go to school. Go back to school. Work hard, and interview with Google/Amazon/Microsoft again.

And stop perpetuating the idea that you are at a disadvantage because of immigrants and refugees. If you end up with a job at Apple or eBay or Expedia btw, remember that your livelihood was made possible because of the hard work of immigrants and refugees.


In tech you don't have to be the first to market, you only have to have a market that's ready for you.

Xiaomi, tencent, alibaba. Not fist to market. All doing well. All done with a very predominant domestic labor force.

My point, is it's not do much the foreigner, or even the local, but the opportunities made available by your domestic economy.


> can easily move

They can move, but not easily. It'd be easier to just open satellite offices.


Americans should benefit from the American system before foreigners, like, you know, how every other country works.

There will be specific Americans who benefit less than specific immigrants, but the net effect of immigration has pretty much always been a benefit to the economy.

Why should we put the interests of specific Americans ahead of the interests of Americans overall?


He's saying we should have a preference for existing Americans before we handicap foreigners.

But with re Americans over other Americans, yes, it makes sense to handicap underprivileged Americans. Give them a leg up on education, training, tax breaks, etc. before we even begin to think of how we can benefit foreigners.


He's saying we should have a preference for existing Americans before we handicap foreigners.

Yes, I'm saying that it doesn't accomplish the stated goal. Restrictive immigration policy is worse than a more welcoming policy when you consider the impact on all existing Americans. Immigration is the better policy for Americans, it's just that the benefit is spread out across more people than the downside, so it is easy to think otherwise.

As far as retraining and such, we should seek to design such things so that they are highly available and are beneficial to the United States as a whole regardless of whether you train an immigrant or a first, second, third, or fourth (or fifth or sixth or seventh) generation American.


So not only are we wrong, but so is every other country on earth. How is it all countries, many of which would like to become relatively more competitive than America, seem to all be making the same mistake you allude to?

W/re training. America is responsible for training our own, I don't think we should think we should off load that job to say Canada, and in the same way people's home countries should be responsible for their own citizens wellbeing and development. We cannot be responsible for nor absorb the deficiencies by other countries with respect to their own citizens, in effect subsidizing malgovernance.


Other countries tend to have less productive economies than the US. Both overall and per worker. Of the few with higher productivity, most of them have more generous immigration policy than the US has had in recent years.

So yes, you are wrong, both about the impact of immigration here and the impact of closed borders elsewhere.

With the training I see it as a utilitarian issue. If training someone is a net benefit to the US I don't care where they were born. I certainly don't want to leave the benefit sitting on the table just because they weren't born here.


> Other countries tend to have less productive economies than the US. Both overall and per worker.

But often not per worker-hour.


When you say more generous immigration policies, do they just allow anyone in, or do they try to ensure there is an unmet demand at home? Can I just get a ticket land there and get a job in a desirable sector?


Here's a link [1] to a description of the point-based immigration systems in Australia, Canada and the UK. They all seem to be much more permissive than the US. And no, they don't allow everyone in.

[1] https://loc.gov/law/help/points-based-immigration/index.php


>There will be specific Americans who benefit less than specific immigrants, but the net effect of immigration has pretty much always been a benefit to the economy.

Well, tell that to the Native Americans, who were nearly exterminated by immigration.


America never needed immigration, not since the first European landed there. Historically immigration has initially always been to the advantage of the immigrant, only later does the balance shift the other way and do subsequent generations contribute substantially to the bottom line.

> Americans should benefit from the American system before foreigners, like, you know, how every other country works.

First of all, that's not how every other country works, then besides that America is mostly empty space and Americans will benefit from the system before foreigners because they have been there longer, have more starting capital (which is the biggest lever you can have) and tend to know the rules better so they can be worked to their advantage.


Historically America absolutely needed immigration.

Early America lacked a lot of skilled laborers. England was opposed to allowing skilled workers to emigrate to the US for fear of the US competing with England. The preferred the US to provide them with cheap agricultural goods in exchange for high-priced steel, tools, and weapons.

It wasn't until the mid 1800s that the US began work on the first steel mill because they couldn't get the expertise necessary to build one. At the time, Britain produced about half of all steel consumed in the world, once the US finally imported the skills necessary to produce steel, Britain's share of the global plunged by half.

I'm certain this story can be repeated for many more industries throughout history, from chemistry, rockets, medicine, and technology. So yes, America has always needed immigrants.


Early America was full of Native Americans and they didn't need those immigrants at all.

The people that needed the skilled laborers were immigrants themselves.

By the way, the very best way to stop immigration is to make other countries wealthy.


You're being intentionally obtuse. Sure, the Native Americans would have gotten along fine with bows and horses. But we are discussing the economy.

The growth the US economy throughout its history was driven heavily by immigration.


No, I'm pointing out the hypocrisy in your statements.

The Native Americans had an economy too.

> The growth the US economy throughout its history was driven heavily by immigration.

Yes, because of the increase in demand for goods by those immigrants who brought their money/gold/silver if they had it but very little in terms of goods, and if they didn't have anything they immediately went to work in order to make ends meet.

Immigration is good for the economy, which is exactly the conclusion I want you to reach but from the increased demand point of view rather than from the myth that the majority of immigrants in the past were skilled labor (they were rather, on the whole immigrating because of a bleak outlook on their situation in their home countries due to religious persecution or outright poverty, the skilled craftsmen were making good money back where they lived and were much more free in their choices to emigrate or not and contributed only a very small number to the total stream of immigrants).


I'm not being hypocritical at all.

The Native Americans had an economy, yes. But the economy was much, much bigger after immigration. That's my entire point: immigration fueled economic growth in America.

Skilled labor (and investment capital) played a major part. From horticulturalist to provide plants for early agriculture, to carpenters and ship builders in Boston (and later steel and tools makers), to the physicists and engineers fleeing Europe during the World Wars, to the technology people today. All of these people contributed to the technological growth and dominance of the US.

If none of these immigrants were skilled, the US would look more like China or India than it does.


> I'm not being hypocritical at all.

We're going to have to differ on that.

> The Native Americans had an economy, yes. But the economy was much, much bigger after immigration.

But native Americans did not necessarily benefit from that larger economy, in fact, in a very measurable way did the opposite. Mostly because the immigrants were exactly that which the current ones are unjustly accused of (being murderous bastards).

The one thing the Native Americans weren't saying was 'these Europeans are here because of our jobs'.

> That's my entire point: immigration fueled economic growth in America.

But for a different reason than the one you keep harping on.

It grew because of their capital and consumption.

> Skilled labor (and investment capital) played a major part.

Less than you think or wish to believe, but since you're somewhat stuck on this I'll just let it go.

If you feel open minded I encourage you to read this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_immigration_to_the_...

And not to just cherry pick the bits that fit your narrative.

> From horticulturalist to provide plants for early agriculture, to carpenters and ship builders in Boston (and later steel and tools makers), to the physicists and engineers fleeing Europe during the World Wars, to the technology people today. All of these people contributed to the technological growth and dominance of the US.

That they did. But - again - they are not the predominant factor. In fact the employers needed the immigrants (so immigrants needing other immigrants) mostly for 'dumb' labor (hence also the import of many slaves from Africa and indentured people from Europe).

> If none of these immigrants were skilled, the US would look more like China or India than it does.

No, the US would look more like England, which in fact it does.


> You're being intentionally obtuse

Side note, but every time I see someone online accusing someone else of being "intentionally obtuse" I stop reading immediately. You know nothing of the intentions of a stranger who's obviously willing to openly discuss an issue with you.


I see where you're coming from, but I also think it's okay to infer people's intent from their statements. In this instance, I feel like the "effects of immigration on the US economy" and "the impact of European migration on Native Americans" are so loosely related that dragging a discussion of one to the other really has to be intentional.

Though, I agree obtuse is probably a poor choice of wording, perhaps I should have said persnickety.


> perhaps I should have said persnickety.

Or maybe just debate in a way such that the strength of your argument is not dependent on your choice of insult?


> I stop reading immediately

Intention can be inferred; when the stranger is being intentionally obtuse, they aren't being "open".


Let me clarify: when I see "you're being intentionally obtuse", I read "you are not just stupid, you're stupid on purpose". Because that's exactly what it is: a next level insult disguised under slightly fancier words.

*Obtuse - Synonyms: stupid, slow-witted, slow, dull-witted, unintelligent, ignorant, simpleminded, witless;

Needless to say, I have no patience for those kinds of insults.

> Intention can be inferred

Sure. And when you're talking to strangers, your inferences of intention will be wrong more often than not.

"You're intentionally avoiding my question" - objective statement, not an insult and can be discussed further.

"You're intentionally being a dumbass" - subjective statement, an insult and a non-sequitur

Hopefully you can see the difference.


> I read "you are not just stupid, you're stupid on purpose"

I think that's right, but without using the insult "stupid", it says the same thing. But an insult has no content, where as this does i.e "you are misunderstanding on purpose"

A constructive criticism can be 'insulting', but this isn't the same as a pure insult.

> "You're intentionally avoiding my question" - objective statement, not an insult and can be discussed further.

Is this not the same as "you're being intentionally obtuse"?

> "You're intentionally being a dumbass" - subjective statement, an insult and a non-sequitur

Because it uses the word "dumbass", which is an insulting label rather than a description of behaviour. But " intentionally obtuse" is a description of behaviour also, and is also as objective as "avoiding my question" in context.

It's only a non-sequitur if you misunderstand what it means in context. I think "you're being intentionally obtuse" would be fairly clear in context?


None of what you've said would make any sense for anyone who agrees with the list of synonyms for "Obtuse" which I posted in my previous comment.

Those synonyms are from a dictionary, and they are all insults.

So I have to conclude that either:

- You have a radically different definition of "obtuse" which you somehow consider a non-insult and which is non-standard usage

- You're intentionally beating around the bush in order to avoid admitting to understand the difference between an insult and a constructive criticism :)

These are just my two hypothesis, but if you have others, I'd love to hear them.


The meaning of a word comes from context, with a thesaurus you are meant to pick the correct word based on intended or derived meaning. The "synonyms" are not synonymous with all interpretations of a word. You can agree on a list of possible synonyms without fixing the definition.

The definition:

1. annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand.

"he wondered if the doctor was being deliberately obtuse"

> So I have to conclude..

hypothesis three: your argument wrt synonyms is incorrect. People may dislike being called "obtuse" but it is not, by standard, an insult.


  Sure, the Native Americans would have gotten along fine with bows and horses
To be pedantic, horses were extinct in the Americas until the Spaniards brought them.


Horses are immigrants too.


It helps if you're clear in you writing. When people say America they refer to the republic, they typically neither mean colonial America nor pre-European contact first nations. But in this discussion, you're using the term for all three distinct meanings.


We were fourth in 1910, and moving to third seems more to do with the breakup of Russia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_populatio...


[flagged]


Found the insulting novelty account. Please do not do this. Thank you.


[flagged]


1. "/s" -> those two characters are not a "get out of jail free card" that allows you to behave without respect and decorum.

2. On HN, flagging a comment like yours is a much more appropriate response than downvote. Maybe once you've had enough of our comments removed you'll start to understand the etiquette around here, but there's easier ways to fit in.


If the "created" field in your profile is of any significance, I've been here for much longer than you. Stop bossing around other people just to feel morally superior.


So you've already been banned once?


>Kicking the door behind you closed once you've got yours or because you're afraid new immigrants will take your job is hypocrisy of a terrible kind for a nation that was founded on immigration.

What about immigration from Kansas to California? We all know these tech companies prefer to hire from Stanford, MIT, and each-other. Why not just hire the proverbial kid from Brooklyn if we're so concerned about migration and diversity?


> We all know these tech companies prefer to hire from Stanford, MIT, and each-other.

Maybe you know, but around tech companies, I see more people from Georgia, Texas, Michigan, South Carolina ... than from Stanford or MIT.

Tech companies need people with tech skills, so if University of Kansas produces skilled CS graduates, they'll also work in tech companies. If they don't, Kansas kids go study to Michigan, Texas, Georgia, MIT, Stanford, and end up working in those tech companies.


> Why not just hire the proverbial kid from Brooklyn if we're so concerned about migration and diversity?

The diversity is just a fig leaf, the migration angle is mostly about money and very rarely about skill.

Also, not everybody is willing to relocate for a job and people from poor countries have usually much less to lose.


>The diversity is just a fig leaf, the migration angle is mostly about money and very rarely about skill.

My point exactly.


I'm coming to this late, but I do want to point out that the US takes 1.2 million immigrants legally into the country every year, in a process that has essentially nothing to do with the H1B or employer controlled work visa programs.

These immigrants are free to choose what they study and where they work. High tech doesn't like that, because smart educated people who have the right to choose can find better options than staring at a computer screen looking at JIRA tickets in a big loud open office, in a field where they get elbowed out after age 40.

So high tech has lobbied for an alternative immigration system, that they control though their HR departments, where they get to decide who gets to come here and the circumstances under which they are allowed to remain.

I'm honestly bewildered when I read arguments like the one you just made, that opposing the H1B visa means you're opposed to immigration.

I think that immigration has been a marvel for the US, but that pretty much every system we've tried for bringing in immigrants who are not free to choose their job has been an unmitigated disaster. The H1B is hardly the worst of these, but because it doesn't preserve the freedom of the individual, it is ultimately unfixable. It must be replaced by a system that allows the immigrant to decide what to study, where to work, how to live.

It actually turns out we have a system like that, it's called immigration, and we take 1.2 millions people a year under it. From the way Silicon Valley talked it, you'd think that entire path didn't even exist.


>Kicking the door behind you closed once you've got yours or because you're afraid new immigrants will take your job is hypocrisy

There's nothing hypocritical about it. It can sure be called selfish, but not hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is to pretend you support one thing, while doing another.

Here they just stop supporting immigration after they themselves got in (and usually decades after they themselves got it -- it's not like some 2-years fresh American citizen is asking for a stop in immigration).


I've never understood how it qualifies as hypocrisy to take an opportunity (e.g. get into a country), then shut other people out. If you found a pile of money in the street, is it hypocrisy to shut other people out?


Well your analogy is not a good one :). The contract offered by America to Immigrants is not: come here and get this pile of money! Its always been: come here and you get an opportunity to work hard and possibly make a pile of money.


The money was my analogy to that opportunity. Admittedly it's ambiguous.


> I've never understood how it qualifies as hypocrisy to take an opportunity (e.g. get into a country), then shut other people out. If you found a pile of money in the street, is it hypocrisy to shut other people out?

The resource 'a pile of money' is something an individual or a small group of people can hoard and exhaust. Something the size of a continent not so much so yes, that's hypocrisy.

America could easily operate on 25% of the landmass that it currently occupies (and it would probably be a much wealthier country, but that's another subject entirely).

Most of it is empty space anyway (and this even goes for countries that appear at first sight to be densely populated such as the country where I currently reside, the Netherlands).


Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor I'll piss on 'em /

That's what the Statue of Bigotry says /

Your poor huddled masses, let's club 'em to death /

and get it over with and just dump 'em on the boulevard


I guess some people aren't Lou Reed fans. Some people saw this state of affairs long before it happened.

p.s. this song was on the top of the modern rock charts for 4 weeks


It may be collective hypocrisy, but the poor today did not get rich after their ancestors got here, so in principle they owe nothing to the system.


[flagged]


Immigrants stealing wealth is not really something that happens, economics wise. Usually it's the other way around.


Immigrants are a bargaining chip used by businesses to steal wage, e.g. Techtopus was called "wage theft".


Keep hammering the fact that these people are job producers, not consumers. If you can prove that one skilled H1B results in additional two jobs being created in the region, then it becomes an easier pill to swallow.

I work in a rural region with a high number of H1Bs because one of the biggest companies in the area is a tech giant. Most people I've talked to (outside of tech) realize that these people bring in a lot value to the area and without them, 10s of millions of dollars would disappear from the local economy.

I straight up tell people, when asked about H1Bs, that I wouldn't have a job if not for them. I've worked at too many companies where the star of the team was on an H1B.


And as a counterpoint to your anecdata, I've worked with H1B co-workers whose only redeeming quality was the ability to provide CO2 for the plants in the office. They were net-negative contributors.


Is there anyway to grade the general effectiveness of H1B co-workers and how they compare to people with permanent residency or citizenship? Or even to compare different people of the same citizenship status?

Have you also worked with H1B co-workers who did have redeeming qualities?

I've known many people in all differing forms of work authorization and citizenship, and I haven't observed any strong correlation of competency and a person's immigration/citizenship status.

I've seen people here on student or H1Bs who have worked particularly hard, because they know that school or their job is the only thing keeping them is the only thing keeping them in the USA, which is where they truly want to be. I've also seen US citizens work really hard because they care about their job, or just take pride in doing good work. And I've seen people of many different backgrounds just not be the best contributors, too.

If a company keeps net-negative contributors around, that's to the company's detriment. If it eventually contributes to hurting the company enough that the person gets laid off or fired, that person will struggle to keep a job at a better-functioning company. And once someone with an H1B cannot find another job, they cannot stay in the country for very long.


  without them, 10s of millions of dollars would disappear from the local economy
The positions would disappear, and the company fold, rather than the company offer enough to attract domestic talent (including Resident Aliens)? That's odd.


The positions would be relocated to a different region if the H1Bs weren't available, thus the money would disappear from the local economy.

This is entirely due to a shortage of talent willing to locate to Nowhereville, USA. The compensation here is very generous, and they advertise it. But there's just not enough Americans willing to move here, regardless of how much you can make.


Many of the tech companies create employment opportunities far larger than their own staff. eBay and Amazon both have huge markets of merchants. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all created massive markets for application developers. Uber, AirBnB and Lyft have all created lots of part-time and full-time income from underutilized personal assets.


You didn't provide any hard numbers. As far as I know the tech industry is an important contributor to the American economy and if they decide or are forced to move those jobs to another country it would hurt America more than it would them.


Do you have ideas of what a tech company could put on the table?

I have a bit of an idea, and also a way to frame the problem that may sound a little ridiculous, but hopefully is helpful to someone.

I propose tech, free-trade, outsourcing, and other forces have impacted the US job market similar to the problem laid out in The Innovator's Dilemma [1].

Apple - and Steve Jobs - have been applauded for figuring out ways to solve the innovator's dilemma; specifically, Apple lets newer products with a greater profit potential cannibalize older products' smaller profits.

1. The iPod classic and iPod nano were great products that had solid profits.

2. The iPod Touch ate into iPod classic and iPod nano profits. However, it also eclipsed the profits that the earlier iPods could have achieved, since it was much more than just a music player.

3. The iPod classic and iPod nano did not mind that they sold less, and Apple changed their expectations for sales from each product line accordingly as one product took sales away from other products.

Here's how I see the US addressing a similar dilemma, but involving people's jobs:

1. Career tracks in manufacturing and energy production (coal, especially) had solid salaries and career prospects.

2. Market forces (e.g. trade deals, technology) reduced need for US manufacturing and energy production jobs. Computer programming, technology in general, and design of things rather than the manufacturing of things all have better profits for the companies involved than the building of things.

3. The people who had manufacturing and energy production jobs DO mind that they do not have a job. Government and society did NOT recalibrate goals by saying something like, "sorry your coal job experience is no longer relevant, we're going to give you basic income / job training / some other job prospects."

Apple can make the iPod classic, whose qualities are outdated, simply go away from stores without a tear shed.

The US cannot make people whose skills are outdated simply go away, though. Those people need, at a minimum, some way to pay the rent, food, and aspire to something greater than they have now.

How should the US best address this?

It makes as much sense to re-introduce the iPod classic when the iPod Touch is already out there as it does to go back to dirty energy production when clean energy production already out there, and has great qualities like an endless, easily accessible energy source in the sun and less pollution and land destruction.

However, that very thing has been proposed, and I have not seen any other plans. What about, for instance, ensuring solar panel production facilities are built near where coal jobs went away? Or perhaps big wind farms, sun farms, etc?

The places where coal is buried is not where wind or sun is best captured, but giving some kind of hope to people in those areas - whether in the form of subsidies, training, moving people, etc. It may mean some changes to those impacted, but with every big shift in technology and labor, some jobs simply are no longer necessary like they used to be.

Thoughts?

[1] https://smile.amazon.com/Innovators-Dilemma-Revolutionary-Ch...


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