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H-1B visas mainly go to Indian outsourcing firms (economist.com)
456 points by known 105 days ago | hide | past | web | 401 comments | favorite



This one sentence says it all:

"The Economist found that between 2012 and 2015 the three biggest Indian outsourcing firms—TCS, Wipro and Infosys—submitted over 150,000 visa applications for positions that paid a median salary of $69,500. In contrast, America’s five biggest tech firms—Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft—submitted just 31,000 applications, and proposed to pay their workers a median salary of $117,000."

None of those salaries listed are competitive with what a non-H1B (read citizen or permanent resident) would earn. Indeed.com quotes the average SD salary in Seattle (think Amazon and Microsoft) as 126,000 and San Francisco at 134,000. Companies sponsoring H1B need to be held to the letter of the law -- the salaries must be competitive. The demand for H1B visas would fall if the imported labor was paid fairly.


You're comparing the average salary of all H-1B jobs (developer, accountant, analyst, etc.) to the salary of a developer. Instead, look at the average salaries for H-1B software engineers in 2016:

Facebook @ Menlo Park: $152k

Google @ Mountain View: $130k

Apple @ Cupertino: $154k

Amazon @ Seattle: $124k

Microsoft @ Redmond: $120

So comparing base salary alone, these companies are definitely not underpaying their H-1B hires.

To see salaries for yourself, you can go here and filter by year to see the latest data:

http://h1bpay.com/companies/Facebook/cities/Menlo%20Park-CA/...


So by "these companies" you mean Facebook, Google, etc, because they are paying the going rate by paying $152k.

That just confirms the OPs first point, that TCS, Wipro and Infosys, with their 30,000 Visas avg. ~$70k, are massively abusing the system.

Its about time these companies were prosecuted for lying to the government:

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to: 1) knowingly and willfully; 2) make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation; 3) in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States.


And it disproves OP's other point (the one he even highlighted in italics):

> None of those salaries listed are competitive with what a non-H1B (read citizen or permanent resident) would earn.


However it still leaves the impression that H1Bs are doing more bad than good


>That just confirms the OPs first point, that TCS, Wipro and Infosys, with their 30,000 Visas avg. ~$70k, are massively abusing the system.

>Its about time these companies were prosecuted for lying to the government:

while they obviously abuse the system, i doubt they do it in immediately clear criminal ways - instead i suppose they use various loopholes like bringing people into some cattle grazing mid-states where $70K is prevailing wage (and where is real shortage of programmers, at least if you try to hire couple hundred or thousand of them in a short time, so technically these companies do follow the law here to the letter) and "bodyshopping" the people from there.


Accenture literally buses people over national and state borders, so yes, its possible. Somehow I don't think that's much more legal though.


lets say a person sent to work on a 3-4 month project in CA, another such project in WA, and another such in NY while officially living with the other 30 like him in a little house on the prairie. What government can do here? Specifically how it can be clearly identified as illegal? It is like with various other technical loopholes (like say taxes of many rich people, like that one American President who was able to show a loss of $1B once and write it down for many years after that - interesting that his opponents had practically mental breakdown over that absolutely legal write-off while missing the point of how one can show such a big loss, i mean actually losing $1B is obviously the least preferable way of doing it (especially considering the hard requirement that one has to be at least $1B wealthy to do it that way) while various technically interesting plays with valuations and transfers of various classes of assets can possibly get you there too :)


I am not a lawyer. But I'd be willing to guess that the difference is that you're a US citizen, attempting to get work wherever you can find it. While you're in that state, you abide by the laws of that state (you pay taxes to that state for income earned there, for example), while also following the laws of your home state (you also file tax there).

And while I imagine accenture's argument will be similar to yours, though much more nuanced, the argument against Accenture will be that those individuals were chosen and use specifically with the intent to bypass local wage laws.

In short, trying to find loopholes in the law, while knowingly violating the purpose of a law, does not result in innocence. Whatever Hollywood says.

I imagine the argument would be along the lines of:

Accenture - Yes, we frequently bus Mexican developers throughout the American southwest. This is because accenture uses many Mexican development shops, and occasionally our clients are interested in having our developers work on site to promote synergy, for small periods of time.

Legal Team - You bussed over a team of 50 devs to Client X, every day, for 2 years. They live in hotels, start on Monday, and end on Friday. This is not a case of the occasional developer meeting with a client as part of a business trip. This is an organized conspiracy to replace the American workforce.

Accenture - While we do run weekly bus services over the border, you will find that in your example, the same individuals do not go every week. Instead, a different 50 were located at Client A on a monthly basis. If there are 200 people working on the project, each 50 will meet for a month. That's four months of busing across the border, while the majority of the time, the team is actually operating from Mexico. We do this to promote synergy across the entire team, not just a select few individuals.

Legal Team - Your honor, we have testimony that when those individuals are in Mexico, their time is split between 20 other projects. When they are in the US, their time is dedicated solely to the client. In short, their claim that they have not somehow intentionally replaced jobs, because they continuously hire and fire different people for the position is patently absurd..

...

But it doesn't matter, because none of those developers are going to bring the suit, at least avanade doesn't hire US developers anymore, and the last few administrations simply haven't been prosecuting US businesses for labor infractions at a historic rate, so I somehow doubt this case would ever occur.


You are winning an argument against strawman. Accenture will not claim "occasionally our clients are interested in having our developers work on site".

Their business is outsourcing and their clients always want their consultants 100% on-site. If on-site presence is not required, why acquire an H1-B and cover travel expenses instead of just sending the project details directly to India (as I'm sure Accenture does for projects that do not require direct on-site involvement).


> "That just confirms the OPs first point, that TCS, Wipro and Infosys, with their 30,000 Visas avg. ~$70k, are massively abusing the system."

No, that was the article's point. OP's contribution was that everybody is underpaying, which isn't true.


Infosys pays a sub-par salary of $52k to a systems engineer in Sunnyvale California: http://h1bpay.com/companies/Infosys/cities/Sunnyvale-CA/job-...


Many people I've worked with came to the US on H1-B's sponsored by the big outsourcing firms, then they move to one of the above mentioned companes. Presumably they move to those companies for better pay and working hours. And they have processes in place to handle the H1-B transfers. There is a lot of prestige with landing a job at those companies too. It's not everyone who can do that though, these folks are the upper end of the talent pool.

An argument I've heard for the lower paying jobs at the outsourcing companies is that they can communicate with the offshore teams in the local language. One on-site lead is gathering requirements and funneling work to 20 offshore devs. They work a full day during US hours then spend their evenings on calls with the offshore team. There is a huge supply of people overseas wanting those jobs so that they can get their foot into the US and then find something better. Supply and demand would naturally drive down the wages for those types of jobs.

Another path is to transfer from the bigger outsourcing firms to smaller US based consulting and staffing companies to do contracting work.

At this moment it seems that many companies have frozen their H1-B hiring with all of the US visa uncertainty. This is putting people in tough situations where they can't find work and have families to support that they brought with them to the US.

These are my own observations.


> huge supply of people overseas wanting those jobs so that they can get their foot into the US and then find something better

That's not really a good justification of claiming that the US Supply is more than what the current market holds. With that same arguement, a business could claim: Banana processing in Costa Rica costs $0.5/hr, so that means that we should have that as a ceiling in the US for the same job. It's apples and oranges.

There is a huge amount of people that would like to emigrate for financial improvement. But, at the end of the day they live there you live here. Want to take advantage of the supply that you're referring to, open up a location there. (And find out why they don't already have that organization there)


I interpreted it a different way, not a justification but rather one interpretation of the scenarios that are happening.

> But, at the end of the day they live there you live here. Want to take advantage of the supply that you're referring to, open up a location there. (And find out why they don't already have that organization there)

You are omitting the fact that the labor of 20 ofshore devs is being imported to the US through the one on-site leads. The location is already opened up offshore where the cheaper labor exists. Global markets do not exist in isolation, and the issuing of work visas affects the supply of labor in the market.

There is not a line of US citizens with CS backgrounds looking to work 1.5 shifts a day, and learn multiple languages to be able to communicate effectively with the offshore team. There is plenty of supply on the offshore side, hoping for a shot to make it to the US.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, it's just one reality of the H1-B system.


> It's apples and oranges.

And here I thought it was bananas all along.


Would be fascinating to see how many people from TCS, Wipro and Infosys ended up moving to Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft after a few years in the US.


Some of the larger product companies employ contractors from those firms. I know quite a few people employed by TCS who work at Apple, and some of them plan to stay with TCS for 10 years or more. Those big companies are still taking advantage of these cheap visas even if they're not employing the people directly, and that definitely impacts wages in our field.


Also don't forget to add the ~$10-$20k in legal fees for sponsoring an H1b on top of that.


I guarantee all of the countries on this list, both the Valley tech firms, and the Indian IT firms, have in-house counsel specially versed in this, making the process largely boilerplate.

When I moved to the US (to work for one of the companies on that list of tech firms), their attitude was "Do you need a visa?" (I didn't, as it happened) "Just let us know, we'll get you a H-1B". There wasn't any shadow of a doubt in their mind that it was much more than a formality.


It still about $6000 in filing fees and premium processing fees on top of the legal fees and meeting any other requirements the business has to meet to be in a place to sponsor them in the first place.


My experience with a large multi-national was that they outsourced all of the immigration work to outside legal firms. This firm hired a lot of immigrants, but I don't think it makes sense to hire full time legal immigration experts.


The $6000 is USCIS filing fees, legal fees are on top of that, broken down as:

$325 base + $1500 AICWA + $500 fraud protection fee + [potential $4000 Public Law 114-113 fee] + [optional $1125 premium processing fee] = $6325 + [optional $1125].

Legal fees vary from $500 to $3000 on top of that.

[1] http://redbus2us.com/h1b-visa-2017-filing-fee-summary/


I don't know if the legal fees go that high, but it can depend on the lawyer I guess. 10k is normal, 20k seems high.

But regardless, also add the non-salary benefits, of course: non-discretionary bonuses, stock grants, etc.


The obligation for h1-bs is to pay a competitive salary, not a competitive salary sans legal fees for obtaining visa sponsorship.


I don't think anyone is complaining about companies like Facebook and Google, who, by many accounts in this thread, are paying market rate for H-1B holders. These guys are not abusing the system. People are complaining about those outsourcing consultant companies who are abusing the system by paying far below market rate to H1B holders.


Yup. I've said it before[1][2] and people just kept replying "Oh but we hire them for their talent, therefore everyone does."

I work at a run of the mill SaaS company. We have 60% H-1Bs devs here as contractors from a certain contracting company (more in QA). They live paycheck to paycheck. I get paid, literally, twice as much (I've seen the H-1B Labor Condition Applications for ones we hire directly--The contracting companies pay likely about as much but take some 20% of their salary).

We don't hire them because they are particularly talented. I've been on interview calls with ones from the contracting companies, all their resumes are the same [3]. They are just code monkeys. Our company does it to save costs, period. Upper management knows nothing of the mythical man-month.

The system is being rampantly abused.

[1] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13521791

[2] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13525766

[3] - http://www.vocativ.com/money/business/theyll-sponsor-america...


"The contracting companies pay likely about as much but take some 20% of their salary)."

Having worked as a contractor, I've seen that number typically between 33% and 50%. Staff Augmentation is a horrible, horrible business. The firms also end up stuffing the hiring managers inbox with a bunch of resumes of unqualified candidates to box out other competing firms. No one wins except the abusers of what could be a positive program.


My bill rate vs what I accepted from my firm in comp (salary+benefits) was roughly a 35% markup in Washington, DC between 2011 and 2013. I was working as a software dev in mostly Python and Javascript on web properties.


"I've been on interview calls with ones from the contracting companies, all their resumes are the same"

That's starting to drive me nuts. We have to work with a limited set of contracting companies. Whenever we post a new job we get 20 of the same resumes. I usually immediately delete the ones that say "used try/catch statements" but other than that there is no way to distinguish between them.


It was a weird moment for me when I first tried searching a candidate's objective statement. I found ~10 other resumes indexed online with the same objective statement, followed by the job-tips site from which they had copied the sample word-for-word.

I know that's an extreme case, but it's pretty bizarre when you start seeing literally identical content on different resumes.


So these contracting companies themselves send out resume to job post a companies makes? For example, received 20 CV for a job posted and all of them could have been sent from the same contracting company?


That does happen, but I don't think it was the case here. I think this was just about people cribbing off the same tips sites and one another's resumes because they came through similar spheres.


I dislike poor working and visa condition as much as, if not more than, anyone else. But other than that I don't really see the problem. You're saying that the people you're hiring aren't particularly talented and get payed less. Not everyone can go to the right school, learn the right languages and get accepted to companies that pay $100k with perks.

It sound like, other than fixing some of the things with H-1B, what really should happen is some sort of easier O (-1A) visa with mainly a salary requirement.


> You're saying that the people you're hiring aren't particularly talented and get payed less.

No I'm saying a citizen fresh grad dev starts at 60-80k at my company, but a H1-B via a contracting company with "5 years experience" (which is a crapshoot but they usually have some experience) gets paid 40-50k. They do the same work.


Considering other factors that is still a fairly small adjustment. I meant what I said that the conditions should be fixed. It should, for instance, be easier for people to change jobs and find jobs on the open market. That would make salaries somewhat more competitive.

But that doesn't mean everyone are going to make the same salaries. Foreigners are always going to be more willing to pay their dues, be less knowledgeable of the local market and have more variable skillets.

People are talking about fixing H-1B by things like salary requirements. That isn't so much fixing it as excluding one set of people and giving preference to another set of people.


"Not everyone can go to the right school, learn the right languages and get accepted to companies that pay $100k with perks."

Getting employed at these companies has nothing to do with "going to the right school and learning the right language".


Of course it does? It's getting better, but companies like Google have been very honest with that they (at least in the past) preferred hiring from top schools. The "right language" is of course a bit simplified, but some experiences are definitely seen as more favorable although it's not clear they are. Often more academic or community knowledge over practical or enterprise. As far as I know it's much easier to get hired by such a company early with based on your academic record and "culture fit" than it is later in life trough experience, as the median age also indicates. What are you basing your opinion on?


> None of those salaries listed are competitive with what a non-H1B (read citizen or permanent resident) would earn. Indeed.com quotes the average SD salary in Seattle (think Amazon and Microsoft) as 126,000 and San Francisco at 134,000.

I'm not sure that comparison works fully. I don't think the ages of the average H1B applicant are made public, but a great many are college graduates - IIRC, a foreign citizen who graduates from a US university is given a one year visa, but has to find their own way after that. So H1Bs represent a lot of people at the start of their careers, wheras the average you've found represents all developers.

One clear improvement would be to allow university graduates to stay in the US much more easily. We've just spent an awful lot of time educating them to a US standard after all - why not keep them?


I work at Google on an H1-B. I can confirm that Google pays foreign workers exactly the same as American employees on the same level, which is above market.

I suspect that the number quoted is only base salary, includes lower cost locations in the US and professions other than Software Engineers.

Another thing is that this number is the salary when the person got hired, but any other number you can find will be current salary.


I also work at Google on an H1-B (Formerly TN-1). I can also confirm that Google pays foreign workers exactly the same (Salary, stock, bonus, vacation, benefits) as Americans.


I'm not sure how this works at google, but often, when a company replaces positions with H1B visa workers, they often contract out the work. As a result, the H1B who is doing work for google wouldn't be considered a google employee.

It's a fairly common practice, though again, not sure if it happens this way at google.


Correct, this is how H1Bs are abused. But companies like Amafaceooglesoft are hiring H1Bs directly and pay wages, bonuses, and benefits that are equal to their US counterparts, thus, using the system as intended. They are also far more likely to sponsor their H1Bs for Green Card status. I personally work on a team at one of Amafaceooglesoft. On that team are 7 people where 2 are former H1Bs and are now Green Card holders and 1 current H1B who is going through the Green Card process.


I guess the question I'd ask is, do amafaceooglesoft contract out IT work to companies that use the H1B visa, and were any of these roles previously handled in-house.

I'm not sure of the answer, but it could be that these companies make use of both paths. If you're hired directly by these companies, you are paid the same, but a job that is eliminated and replaced through one of the body shops wouldn't be.

For instance, the workers eliminated at Disney aren't technically getting replaced by H1Bs, through a slight of hand. Disney is eliminating the positions, and then hiring a consulting company to provide that work. This way, it can be made to look like the H1Bs hired by Disney are paid the same as their American counterparts- by ensuring that jobs replaced that don't pay the same are no longer considered Disney employees.

Again, not sure if google and other companies do this, but all your data tells me is that developers who are formally hired by google are paid the same. If google eliminates a 150k a year position, and then contracts that job function out to a consulting company paying 75k a year, that wouldn't show up in google's numbers.


That does not happen at Google.


> None of those salaries listed are competitive with what a non-H1B (read citizen or permanent resident) would earn.

As a new grad interviewing for software engineering positions at FB, Google, Etc., I make exactly the same amount as my U.S. peers who have also received offers.

Moreover, how do you know that the SE level of the H1B hires is exactly that of the pool from which Indeed.com calculates their averages? What if the H1B program was taking in a huge amount of new grads right now and not as many senior positions? Then the H1B average would be different than the Indeed one.

Moreover (again), as I make the same amount of money as a U.S new grad, my company would pay for Visa sponsorship, and even pays more to fly me in to interview. Not only that, they put me through more interviews, costing more engineers time.


> What if the H1B program was taking in a huge amount of new grads right now and not as many senior positions?

Then the program in turn wouldn't be abiding by the idea of the H1B program in the first place, which is to bring in people who have skills that can't be found in the US. You can hire new grads from the US just as easily as abroad, just maybe not at the artificially low prices that you want to pay them.


Except, in this context, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and others aren't underpaying anyone.

Also being a new grad != employable at one of these companies, and no, training isn't going to help them either.


This gets to the crux of the issue with the H1B system as it relates to age discrimination. Why are we hiring fresh grads on a "best and brightest" visa? If the college degree from a US institution made them the best and brightest, why wasn't a citizen in that classroom seat? If they are truly geniuses why are they paid at entry level wages?


The "best and brightest" visa is the O-1. The H-1B visa is a "specialty occupation" visa, defined roughly as an occupation that requires a Bachelor's degree in a particular field of study.


H1B is not the best and brightest visa. That's O for temporary visas and EB1 for permanent visas.


Maybe there were no citizens who passed the entrance requirements to that college


One of the arguments I see repeated here against hiring H1-B junior developers is that they:

  a) Aren't qualified as the best and brightest since they're still inexperienced

  b) Took a university seat from an American citizen
[1] Firstly, my response to these is going to treat the $65k/year as a soon-to-be-solved problem. It's making the whole program look bad at the expense of talented people and the American economy, and luckily has bi-partisan support for reform.

I want to offer a thought. As a country, we want the world's greatest minds to reside here. Those minds generate ideas, make local companies stronger and, at the most basic level, generate tax revenue greater than the average citizen. Creating a pipeline to bring in the best minds in the world is a net benefit for US citizens. Giving up /some/ university seats to attract the brightest from other countries makes sense. Giving up /some/ entry level roles to retaining those minds in the country, to which we've already lent our world-leading educational institutions to, also makes sense.

I've been in a hiring position with a Global 500 company that considers H1-B applicants. At no point during any of my conversations with other hiring managers did we ever consider "Oh, let's take that applicant, they'll cost less because of their Visa." If anything, some folks might hold off because they don't want to deal with the uncertainty of losing a key employee because of a lottery. If companies wanted cheap labor, they'd just use outsourcing. So it's possible H1-B applicants (excepting cheap consultants, see [1]) have a higher bar to clear than citizen/resident candidates.

The interesting point here, is that there's 3 types of nationalism in this discussion and I find it funny that we're not self aware about it (apologies, my bias is apparent in my descriptions):

  1) Protectionist nationalism - "This is America and AMERICAN people born [or naturalized] here deserve our companies' jobs."

  2) Opportunist nationalism - "America and its citizens as a whole are better off with more high-skilled H1-B immigrants because we can take the skilled horsepower other countries would otherwise possess."

  3) Anti-nationalism - I don't see this one mentioned much, but what happens to the countries America is soaking up talent /from/?  Is it a good thing that one country attracts the brightest from all around the world, rather than distributing skill evenly?
My personal opinions have hovered around type 2 (opportunist nationalism). I've considered type 3 and think it deserves more consideration. Does anyone have data on what happens to the countries America sources talent from? Is this one of those magic win-win scenarios, or the more intuitive win-lose?

Apologies, this is lightly edited as it's long-winded and during work hours.


There is most certainly a huge brain drain from China and India to the west. And it isn't limited to Technology: some of the best doctors and healthcare professionals, Biotech researchers etc. are all attracted to the well paying jobs and well-funded research opportunities offered by the US. It has always been a sticking point in India.


> As a country, we want the world's greatest minds to reside here.

I'd say, rather, that as a country we (should) want the world's greatest minds to become American, not just reside here. I don't just mean in terms of legal citizenship, but rather in terms of mindset and culture. I don't think it's good for us to import smart people whose ideals are opposed to our own.


Congratulations. You're not the average.


H1Bs hired by companies like Amazon and Microsoft tend to be near the beginning of their careers, so a direct comparison to an average salary can be misleading. At least at Microsoft, the company helps H1Bs become permanent residents which would totally eliminate any ability the company has to underpay them.

Disclosure: I work at Microsoft.


Apple does the same.


Before you get all indignant, note that you're comparing a median and average, and for income distributions like these the average will skew higher. Also, Google, etc, also hire non software people from overseas, you can see them in the H-1B salary data, making less than software engineers.


Anyone have a good summary chart that shows what roles are earning how much?


Here is a list of roles at Google in Mountain View http://h1bpay.com/salaries?company=Google&city=Mountain+View...



So isn't the obvious solution to move the allocation strategy from lottery to "auction" (highest payed employees get their visas first)?


That would essentially mean only silicon valley and NYC employers would get H1B employees. The entire South would face a skills shortage. The economist article actually provides a better solution. Visas shouldn't be tied to a particular employer. The employee should be able to transition to a new employer without a new visa application. There could be minimal paperwork to determine when a foreign worker is and whether they pay prevailing wages. Also the limit on visa numbers actually make the problem worse. Instead of say Apple getting engineers they need, their visa applications now have to compete with TCS' low paying applications. Apple in this case would then be forced to subcontract TCS employees so they can work onntheir projects. Also visas are once a year thing. So employers are forced into subcontracting if they have say a 6 month project. The solution would be to eliminate cap on visa numbers and to raise the prevailing wages labor department provides on a given city and to consolidate the multitude of job titles available for visa applications. For example there are Application Engineers, UI Engineers and Software Engineers all having different prevailing wages as per labor department.


> The entire South would face a skills shortage.

Maybe the "entire South" should increase their rates if they want to compete on talent. I have no sympathy for a company that can't find talent because "we don't pay SV rates because we're not in SV".


It's amusing how "cost of living" is somehow seen as a reasonable consideration for determining salary but not what rates a customer is charged for the products.


> Maybe the "entire South" should increase their rates if they want to compete on talent. I have no sympathy for a company that can't find talent because "we don't pay SV rates because we're not in SV".

Then the "entire South" is going to start charging you and me SV rates for their products and services. Probably not what you had in mind.


That's not the real issue. The real issue is that tech workers are not the only one's coming here on H1B, and those professions don't pay nearly what an SDE gets paid.


The premise of my post was a change to an auction-style H1B program.

Let's assume there is a $FooCorp in Alabama looking for a SysAdmin but not having much luck. They'd like to spend $70k and enter the H1B lottery under our current system. Maybe they win, maybe they lose but can hire an H1B for $80k from $OutsourcingFirm. Under an auction system, let's examine what happens instead.

$Hooli (and other SV companies) are offering $135k for SDEs. Because $135k > $70k no H1Bs can be imported as SysAdmins for $70k. This raises the cost of SysAdmin work across the country for employers. The new baseline is now somewhere above $70k which is the price it takes to attract citizens (or otherwise eligible residents) to $FooCorp.

Under an auction system, $FooCorp still needs a SysAdmin and they have 3 options:

(1) do without a SysAdmin

(2) pay more than $70K to attract an already eligible to work SysAdmin to Alabama

(3) pay more for a SysAdmin than SV pays SDEs in order to hire an H1B

Let's look at those options. If they need a SysAdmin, the first option isn't really feasible. If the role is optional, this might be a situation where they decide to do without. That means there are two options left, and the rational decision depends on what the true market value of a SysAdmin currently is. If $FooCorp can pay a citizen $100k to move to Alabama, there isn't a skills shortage. If $FooCorp can't find anyone to move to Alabama to be a SysAdmin for less than $135k, there might be a legitimate skills shortage and then the H1B program is attractive again.

It's worth noting that if $FooCorp can't find a SysAdmin for less than a SDE to move to Alabama, the true value of a SysAdmin is at least $135k (in this example). Under the current system, SysAdmins are being short-changed, both H1Bs and other eligible SysAdmins in our workforce.

There is no such thing as a skills shortage. There are only greedy employers looking to abuse a system to underpay all workers, whether they are H1Bs or otherwise authorized to work. Anyone who tells you there is a skills shortage is making money off telling you that. Don't be a sucker.


Considering tech companies are the ones filing H1 petitions by the truckload, sounds like non-tech professionals are screwed either way.

How's lottery status quo a better deal?


>> The economist article actually provides a better solution. Visas shouldn't be tied to a particular employer. The employee should be able to transition to a new employer without a new visa application.

I'm surprised by the level of expertise, demonstrated by the economist, given the fact that current H1B system already works EXACTLY THAT WAY. H1B visa holder can transfer to a new employer any time, if new employer is willing to fill in the papers, even without notifying the current employer.

L1B visa is tied to a particular employer (because it just intracompany transfer), not H1B.


Well, if you remove the limit on the number of H1B visas then all is of course fine and dandy for employers and potential H1B visa holders like myself, but I do think you have to respect the fact that American workers have a legitimate interest in restricting the number of visas...


You missed the part about labor department reporting correct prevailing wages. That would prevent abuses.


> The entire South would face a skills shortage.

Any loophole created for this scenario would be immediately exploited by outsourcing companies headquartering themselves in the South, sponsoring H1's and then immediately arbitraging a freshly arrived employee to a Silicon Valley or NYC client.

> The employee should be able to transition to a new employer without a new visa application.

That is such a great idea that it's always been part of the H1 visa. New employer just needs to initiate an H1 transfer.


So that is how the free market works your not one of those gosh darned socialists are you :-)

And I suspect that for a "brown" skinned persons the south is not exactly a welcoming environment.


Big cities in the South are liberal oases. Houston, TX had a lesbian mayor till last year, who got married legally while in office.


I'd rather live in a liberal area where I can be myself, than have boring/inconsequential/fake/superficial conversations about BBQ, football, weather etc.

Source: Lived in Dallas and Austin for 7 years.


But do you want to live in a Gheto


>And I suspect that for a "brown" skinned persons the south is not exactly a welcoming environment.

That's very ignorant.


How so? The south is extremely hostile (in general; exceptions exist in pockets) to non-whites.


That's not what my co-worker who is from the south and biracial said and its perception that counts.


There are a few solutions sloshing around at the moment. This article covers some of the levers in play: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/12/fixing-...


I was poking around in an H1-B lookup system that was posted here last year (2015 maybe?) that enabled me to check into another realm where I had a suspicion the H1-B program is also depressing wages:

Bench Science at Universities.

Mostly PhDs. Post-Doctoral Fellows. The numbers - state by state, institution by institution - are staggering in my opinion. It's a snake eating itself in how these Universities prepare US students (ahem, expensive via loans more often than not) then when it's time to get a job, funding is so competitive (different problem) that labor prices are forced into the gutter. Enter the H1-B labor force.

The idea that the US isn't capable of meeting real STEM demand is utter bullshit. The demand would be met if there was a living wage. A quality of life. People in the US still have faint memories of pride and not being over-worked and over-debt riddled, and still cling to just the last threads. That's why PhDs aren't lining up to spend $250,000, then take several years (if lucky) to get a $52,000 a year job with limited security.


> That's why PhDs aren't lining up to spend $250,000, then take several years (if lucky) to get a $52,000 a year job with limited security.

In many fields, often fields that don't pay well, the PhD students are mostly American. In my engineering program, the vast majority were Indian and East Asian. They have all gone on to get very good paying jobs.

And it makes a lot of sense for them. Most probably wouldn't be getting a high paying tech job back home, so the opportunity cost of spending 5 years in a PhD program is low, and it opens up a lot of doors. By comparison, a U.S. citizen with an engineering B.S. might get paid $65k-$115k year out of college. A 5-year PhD will then cost them $250k-$500k in lost earnings.


It is ridiculous that so many people support this wretched and miserable system. Anybody that has worked with these type of firms knows what is going on.


The bare minimum salary requirement for a position comes from the labor department. The first step on an H1B process is to determine prevaling wages in the city for that kind of position. For programmers, there are a multitude of titles available irrespective of what the actual job description is. So there could be an easy fix by investigating how prevailing wages are set and by bringing in industry experts to consolidate the list of titles and salaries required. Also companies list the bare minimum salary they would pay on a visa application instead of the actual salaries they would pay. This is especially true for consulting companies that share profit with their employees. Smaller consulting companies often don't pay the full salary when employees have a downtime in between projects. Also vacation time(extended month long) usually goes unpaid or less paid. The lower bid on the visa applications helps them stay in status in such situations.


Ex TCS employee here: Not only the employees are paid meagerly, the benefits most seem to have are literally nothing.

Health and Medical Coverage are very poor. Provides only basic coverage. No Life Insurance. Never heard of anyone being paid overtime. Most employees of these companies would be mostly working in odd hours to manage off shore teams.


> Never heard of anyone being paid overtime.

Which Indian IT company (outsourcing or a product) based pays overtime in India?


Uh? SD is a super-generic title. H1B pool can include disproportionate number of fresh graduates (BS or MS) because OPT program gives them the flexibility to wait till April comes around to file for H1B. It is almost impossible (with exceptions for researchers and multinational managers/ O1/O2/L1) to hire experienced people from outside the US via H1B. Thus this skewing happens: more jobs for fresh graduates probably go to foreigners than do jobs for people experienced and established in their fields.


Why would we need H1Bs for fresh graduates, unless they are graduates in some very niche speciality (maybe machine learning?). Aren't H1Bs for skilled workers where they can't find an American equivalent? Is it really the case that there aren't enough fresh American grads graduating every year?


1. Undergrads who are exceptional in one field: Imagine applying this "undergrads aren't skilled workers" to Linus Trovalds in 1990.

2. Masters students with specialized skills and possible prior experience before their Masters.


This is because H1-B is the "only" way for an international fresh grad to work in the US. This is a direct result of US immigration policy which ties up the visa process with the need for an employer sponsorship and more importantly the ability to acquire permanent residence is also tied up to employer sponsorship which leads to "indentured" servitude as many folks around here point out. Compare it with let's say Germany who has a "Blue Card" visa program which gives an international (or intra european immigrant) 18 months to find a job and then if you manage you work for an employer for another 22 months (only) you get a permanent residence. This does not need any sponsorship from the employer. It's just a clock. Same is the case with Canada and Australia.

All countries which attract foreign students in their universities give some sort of a time period for them to use the acquired skill and if prevailing conditions are right, to stay in the country and work. Imagine you want to move to Germany, what will you do? A) Search for an employer sitting in the US and hope they file a Blue Card for you (equivalent to getting an H1-B filed from outside the US) B) you plan to study and then stay there based on your studies (OPT leading to H1-B in the US). Now if you study at University of Erlangen and immediately after graduating you are told you pack up your bags and leave, then what do you do? You can institute such a policy saying no international students will ever get to stay in this country, then it's fine. The only thing would be a tremendous drop in in coming students who are also paying through their noses and investing dollars into the University System. That's how it works worldwide.

The problem here is most of the people here do not understand what Visa options are there, how they work, what kind of extreme vetting takes place to get a student visa in the first place, most folks would have never ever applied for a visa in their lives, would have never seen the inside of a consulate, would not know how visa systems work in the rest of the world and then arrive at a conclusion which is based on shaky foundation.

H1-B visas are not only for Tech, they are also for other streams of education or workers like MBAs. There are two kinds of complaints here which prop up constantly. A) H1-B applied by these "outsourcing" Indian companies which treat their employees shabbily (in fact its the US corporations which use and initiate these), so off with their heads. Sure, make H1-B attractive to maybe people who have invested and studied in the MS/PhD grad system. B) But.. now people moan about H1-B Masters and Phd getting "starting" salary lower than what they "think" should be offered to a regular US Citizen. Anyone who has ever interviewed or worked with the top Tech firms (or has managed to clear their interview rounds hahahaha) or have been part of the hiring groups would mostly say that these companies offer very competitive salaries and make NO discrimination at all in terms of talent.

Which side are we debating on or are we moaning the influx of ALL immigrants as unworthy of the job market? All jobs are ours hahahaha Microsoft can't take 10 rounds of interviews anymore since there are only US citizens available for these jobs. We won!


> Same is the case with Canada and Australia.

Australia also has a working visa which is tied to the employer.


So has Germany, the foot in the door is tied to an employer but you get a clock based PR.


I agree. There are only two factors that contribute to this problem- 1) Hiring at low wages to help the bottom line of a company and 2) Hiring quickly because we need "bodies" to show progress against projects.


> Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft ... proposed to pay their workers a median salary of $117,000."

> Indeed.com quotes the average SD salary in Seattle (think Amazon and Microsoft) as 126,000 and San Francisco at 134,000.

You cannot compare a median salary with an average salary. Salaries are going to have a long tail of large numbers.


Why would you compare the salary of top 3 companies in the world to that of 3 consultancy firms? Of course the average salary of the top 3 companies is going to be significantly higher, and of course the hiring is going to be stricter. What were you expecting?

Maybe use stats of companies that are about as good as these consultancy firms, and located in similar areas. That will put things into perspective. I'm not saying Indians aren't paid lower, but your comment is an exaggeration of the issue Americans complain about.


"Of course the average salary of the top 3 companies is going to be significantly higher"

The funny thing is comparing salaries isn't even fair, because total compensation at these top companies is much larger than just salary.


Probably true, but there's plenty of firms that are not hiring top talent and/or not in major metro areas where salaries are lower. Places that need 50 warm bodies to code back-office systems in a Pennsylvania suburb are not going to be paying $150K to anyone.


And why do they need an H1B visa for the employee then?


Because they won't be able to get domestic forces for that money. I'm not saying that it is the way to go, but there might be businesses that can only exist on h1bs. So we should definitely reform this, but be cautious. Execution should not be the same as the ban, rolled out without any kind of consideration or preparation.


> Because they won't be able to get domestic forces for that money.

The problem is many companies who can afford to pay good money to Americans dont hire Americans when they can just hire H1Bs at a lower salary.


Top visa recipients are these Indian companions. Just start browsing from year 2017 and backwards. This is very interesting. Numbers do not lie.

Example: Infosys 25k visas vs Google 4k, Apple 1.6k etc.

http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2017-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx

http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2016-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx

http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2015-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx


Why is this being marked down? I am not making up numbers. I am quoting a third party website.


I've seen people getting Software engineering offers from Microsoft/Amazon in the recent years, salaries were less than $117,000, but it came with a stock award vesting over 3.5 years that increased the total compensation significantly.

By people here, I mean H1B applicants but also Ivy league and top schools U.S. citizens. As soon as a H1-B employee starts, the company would start sponsoring a green card and cover all the legal fees associated with it.

The problem with H1-B at Apple/Amazon/Fb/Google/Microsoft isn't the base salary, it's the long path to green card for Indians and Chinese citizens, reducing their job mobility and career opportunities.


Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are hugely profitable corporations they pay top dollar to any talent, whether its domestic or international. So the argument Indian outsourcing firms should pay similar salaries to every employee is like, asking every US company to pay on par with Google/Microsoft employees, I guess.

There is something to be done to the US working class for sure. But when US wants to be the world leader selling high value goods in every country, can it afford to isolate itself from the world's talent?


H1B's should go for talent that you cannot reasonably find domestically. What you describe seems to imply that price should also be a consideration, i.e. Talent that you cannot reasonably find domestically for the price you are willing to pay. To me, that is abusing the system.


The question is why do the outsourcing companies need to hire so many foreigners---other than to pay them nothing and screw up the H1B lottery for everyone else, of course.


When I got my H1B visa over 15 years ago (I'm now US citizen) the visa sponsor cannot offer salary less than 85% of average salary in area was hired.


Honestly, tying the qualification of H1B to salary only works as some sort of state-sponsored unionization.

Not to mention the salaries of H1B employees are public, and that they are bound to a company meaning they have less bargaining power. And that the sampling is completely different, one is more of an homogeneous american citizen and the other is basically every country in the world, with varying degrees of knowledge,education, expertise, cultural fit,language penalties, relocation costs, etc. EDIT: and remember, for a company to issue an H1B, it costs them many thousands of dollars, that the future employee has to be paying for it to be worth it.

Increasing restrictions helps american tech workers as much as Trump adding a tariff on mexican imports. It hurts consumers, it hurts companies, and it gives americans a small benefit.

I can understand american steel workers wanting protectionism , but i cant understand why people that work creating products world-wide like google, facebook, apple, amazon and microsoft, can find it consistent to believe in protectionism.


Honestly, tying the qualification of H1B to salary only works as some sort of state-sponsored unionization.

It's not unionization. It's a simple case of letting the market decide who's got rare and valuable skills. If you don't command an unusually high salary, your skills aren't that rare or aren't so essential to the company.


> It's a simple case of letting the market decide who's got rare and valuable skills.

With company-tied commitments, high transaction costs, lotteries, field of expertise limitations? Markets gone wild!

> If you don't command an unusually high salary, your skills aren't that rare or aren't so essential to the company.

This is a union-style wage argument. If the company would like to hire you below what the union makes, the company should not be able to and you would not qualify to work in this field.


"Union" is exactly the point of the United States of America


Is this disagreeing with Blake Irvine. See

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/02...

This is the man who refers to H1B visas as genius visas. I have worked with many Indian outsourcing companies and while talented people do exist, calling their employees genius is wholly inaccurate (as would be calling most software devs in the Western world genius).

I did laugh when I read irving's original post on LinkedIn and some former employer of GoDaddy expressed just how Mr Irving was using his H1B allocation I.e. to get the same job done for less dollar...


The problem is the incentive system.

I have never been known for my lack of directness and in given so, I used to work with an Indian developer who was very good at his job. So one day I just flat out asked him, I said Karthick why do a good portion of Indian developers suck, his response floored me.

Without missing a beat he responded, look it's a misaligned incentive system. When I go back to India the first question I am asked is how many people do you manage. If I go on a date, it's the first words out of a fathers mouth.

He went on to tell me that you see Indian has remains of the cast system still culturally in place and this stems from that way of thinking, but it has morphed into changing your cast by moving up the corporate ladder. The fastest way to managing people is IT given it's over representation in the Indian economy. So what you have is a bunch of would be MBA's getting tech degrees so they can do their time and make it to management. They have no passion for technology and look at it as doing their residency for management.

Then he looked at me and said, with a laugh. Put Simply they go into IT to get laid. Whereas I went into IT to become and American, because and Indian guy with citizenship is John Don (he meant Don Juan).


As a current CS student from India, I can completely back this theory. Most in my class are very sure they want to pursue a career in Computer Science, but have little to say if you ask them why. A good fraction of them, every year, end up joining consultancy firms in nontechnical roles, or (what I hate more) in HR - and are perfectly fine with it.

Computers in India are not associated with the amazing feeling most of us had the first time we wrote a program that worked correctly. They are associated with a guaranteed (heh) paycheck and a comfortable life, and the quality of the work produced in this fashion is a natural result of that attitude. The outsourcing industry is at the centre of this idea, but it also supports a large number of degree mills and certificate farms producing a mind boggling number of absolutely useless "computer engineers" giving all of us the reputation we do.

I, for one, would love to see companies like TCS and Infosys gone.


Can confirm all of the above.

I study in an average college in India, and it seems the only motivation for studying computer science is to get a "lucrative" job at an outsourcing company. Getting a job at an top outsourcing company is considered pretty respectful by all of society.

The interviews are pretty rough too. The screening is done based on an aptitude quiz (it's an entirely different thing that is hardly related to the CS curriculum) and once you crack that, the "smartness" factor gets involved. I have had people confess to me that they got the job just because their english speaking skills were good.

A lot of this is due to the fact, which I think is the primary motivation, that the salaries offered at these companies are actually quite high compared to other markets, all you have to do is shell out four years somehow. This leads to students not even caring about computer science as a subject, but a ticket to the "IT dream", if you will.

Also, note that this represents the "average" colleges of India, which is what most of India is filled with. The demand for studying engineering becomes higher every year, and to cope up with that, engineering colleges are built of nowhere with no real regard for education.


Sounds like most of the people I know who working banking and finance.


Damn there are some really solid responses in this thread... Thanks for the input


Wait till you hear the stories feom inside those three companies and more mentioned in the article! You'll be surprised :-)


Another thing to note is that Indian schools have quotas for majors, so what major you end up in depends on how well you test. You end up picking the hardest major to get into that you qualified for, which happens to be computer science.

I see tons of recent computer science grads who want to do "anything that doesn't have to do with computers."


I think pay is also a factor.

IT is listed as the third-best paying job in India [1]. In the USA, it's not even in the top 10 [2]. In the UK, it barely scrapes into the top 10, and that's for IT Directors [3].

In India, the pay is a great incentive for people who aren't necessarily interested in tech.

[1] http://www.chakreview.com/Education/Top-10-highest-paying-jo...

[2] http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/03/29/the-10-highes...

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/dec/02/highest-paid-j...


The US News article has eight different medical professions in the top ten. It's rounded out with Psychiatrist as number nine (which I'd argue is medical as well) and "Chief Executive" as number ten.

If you consolidate nine of them as "Medical", I bet IT, or some variant of it, would be in the top ten.


> Psychiatrist as number nine (which I'd argue is medical as well)

No argument needed. In the US, psychiatrists are fully-licensed physicians.


Scroll down a bit further and they have a list of the top 10 non-medical professions. IT makes it on the list at #7 with "Computer and Information Systems Managers". Still not great I'd argue.


Yep.... if you are a US citizen, for the money, go to med school, everything else is overrated.


A medical degree costs a lot more than the degree necessary to work in IT. I don't have the report off the top of my head, but doctors don't reach salary parity with their peers who got bachelors degrees until their mid-40s.

Edit: I'm talking about lifetime earnings parity, not yearly parity. If you are marking $85k in IT as a 27 year old, you are way ahead of someone who starts making $175k at the age of 35 and has $250k in debt.


Though I do not have doctor friends in US so I may be wrong but I have heard from many that even family doctors here start with 200K pa almost anywhere in US. Now apart from top end software/banking most would not reach that number by end of career in software/IT.


That's true, but you can easily reach a six figure salary in software or IT, and you'll essentially have been in the workforce for twice as long as the doctor if you retire at 65.

How much you make really depends on your specialty as well. Cosmetic surgeons, anesthesiologists and radiologists make a lot more money than general practitioners. Pediatric anything does not make much money.

Cosmetic surgeons make an absolute boatload of money though. Like, an absurd amount. A guy I play pickup basketball with went from being a pediatric surgeon to a cosmetic surgeon, and he said it almost feels criminal how much more money he makes now.


That 6 figure IT salary is only recent AND doctors make 2-3x that.


My wife is a general medical provider, by the time we pay liability, malpractice, etc. etc. we end up making about the same. General practice (when compensating for overhead) provides about the same level income as senior level IT. Now granted that is out the door and IT you need at least a decade in to get to that salary but when balanced out for schooling required, you hit the same level of compensation at about the same time in life.


Lifetime earning parity...

Let's make three assumptions:

* person in IT has zero education debt (per your example). Not likely, but okay * retirement at 65 * no promotion, pay raises * education debt is at zero per cent (but since we're saying the IT worker has none, it balances a little)

IT worker has 38 years of useful career at $85K. Earnings: $3.23M

Physician has 30 years of useful career at $175K. Earnings: $5.25M. Minus $250K in debt and we have $5M.

I'm not sure how the IT worker at $3.23M is "way ahead" of the physician at $5M...?


You are ignoring a lot of really important factors, such as investments. Obviously if neither person invests any money then the doctor will come out ahead at the end. Furthermore, if you are making $85k a year and haven't paid off your BA by the time you are 27 you are a moron. Plus, most of the debt the doctor will have is probably in the 6.5% range.

Regardless, I'm not saying that a doctor will make less than an IT worker over the course of their life, only that the IT worker will be leagues ahead of their doctor brethren for a large part of their working life.

On top of that, quality of life is an issue as well. Most doctors I know are still on call several nights a week, and work odd shifts. Most IT workers I know are on call for a fraction of the time doctors are on call, and generally work standard hours.

If money is your only goal, being a doctor is probably a more reliable career path. However, it's not far and away the more obvious career path, at least if you live in the United States.


Dunno man.. 1.75M is a lot of ground to cover in investment vs base salary alone..


It's not salary parity per se, but rather that in the comparison the doctors are paying both the actual cost of medical school (and the servicing of the resulting debt) and the opportunity cost of spending seven-to-ten years in school/residency/fellowship before actually making a high salary. Meanwhile, their bachelor-only peers have been paid money, gained experience and gotten promoted.


Doctors can get 10 year loan forgiveness or even employer repayment. Then after age 40 (salary parity with a BS) the earnings compound. The doctor will be at 150k+ which is likely more than the BS holder alone. Plus the doctor doesn't have to worry about layoffs and is always employable.


Loan forgiveness isn't that great of a deal, because the IRS treats it as taxable income. So if you are making $200k a year, and you get a $200k loan forgiven, you will have a massive tax burden.

Plus, loan forgiveness is only after ten years of payments. Doctors will probably not have much money remaining on their loans, unless they spent ten years working for Doctors without Borders or something similar. If you pay back your student loans at the standard rate you will have repaid them after 10 years.


Doctors get special incentives to work in rural, nonprofit, NIH and other places... All of the big academic medical centers are nonprofits and they pay well.


You are misinterpreting the sources.[1] isn't sorted by Jon, it bundles many jobs in one sector into each section, vs [2] which ranks very detailed subcategories


You're absolutely right about this and I can attest. Whenever I tell someone I run my own software business the first question I'm asked is how many employees do I have?

Nobody cares about the revenue of the sites, it's just that if I have more than 10 employees then you're successful. So in India a person making 1 mil / month is less successful than someone who has a company of 10+ employees that is drowning in debt.


I'd rather you pay 10 salaries than just 1 too :-)


For what it's worth, maybe the U.S. would have better employment among young men if the "IT is in demand and steady work" meme found a place here.


For the last several years "learn to code" has been a meme (President Obama spoke to this on multiple occasions), and the "T" in "STEM" is "Technology." I don't think the "meme" is the problem.

Also, while I definitely am much more well paid as an engineer than I ever would have been as an academic, the quality of employment the field (in terms of opportunities available, working conditions, peers, and other factors) is a bit underwhelming, in my opinion. Without some pretty big changes in some of these I'm not sure we should blindly encourage "everyone" to seek an IT career.


Agreed on the quality of employment. It's quite eye opening when you realize that a company will pay you $100k salary, basically to "own" you.

Show up for work at the designated time, sit in your assigned seat. Sometimes you will get interesting work. Most times you will get menial tasks. Sometimes you won't get any work at all.

After the first month, you're thinking, "Uh, I was here about the software developer position? Are we going to be building any software?"

le sigh


Curious as to which fields you think have it better? (i.e. quality of employment is far greater than the effort to become employable)


Many of us who went to college in the 1990s saw this. There were so many people who thought that getting a CS, CIS or CIT degree was going to lead to them becoming dotcom millionaires that it was sad.

We had an abundance of IT people with little actual knowledge and even less interest around the time of the dotcom bust.

I used to work with a guy who was like that. He was a decent programmer but his limitations made themselves readily apparent when the performance of his code was observed.

I guess this is my long-winded way of saying to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.


I also want companies to either pursue vanilla tech stacks or aggressively retrain almost-qualified people for their special-snowflake systems.

I think just shoving people into tech is short-sighted. That's not what I want.

That being said, much of American youth sees "business", law, medicine, and even entertainment (including sports) as a great way to succeed. We would do well to put engineering, especially IT, on that list.


Americans have many better options than IT to make a good living. Many of those options though, are slowly getting eaten up by tech (Amazon, Walmart - Jet)

In India, IT sector escaped the clutches of red tape, and thrived. So it became a very good option to make a living.


Seconded. In fact I am in full agreement with mike row from the tv show "dirty jobs". There are plenty of jobs in the trades that pay damn good money. Americans just aren't doing them. Plumbers, carpenters, hvac, electrician, etc. Somehow Americans have evolved to see these jobs as beneath them or jobs that people don't respect. But the fact is trade skills are in high demand and if you've ever needed trade skill labor you know they make a damn good living. America needs to give up on this nonsense that only white collar STEM jobs are what kids should be training for. America needs to BUILD things again. Boys and girls need trade skills.

/soapbox


My brother is an electrician and makes worse money than I've seen administrative assistants make in tech shops.

Partly, many of those trades have ceilings. Your salary doesn't always scale with skill and ambition like it can in IT.


I don't see how that is possible unless you work for someone else perhaps. If you are a licensed, bonded electrician and work for yourself (which a sizable portion of trade workers do) your earning potential is only limited by the amount of work you are willing to do. Stay busy and you make a lot, work one day a week and you starve. YMMV.


> The middle 50 percent of Electricians earn between $17.00 and $29.88 per hour, for an average annual income ranging between $35,360 and $62,150.20.

...that's a living, but it's not "damn good money" or "only limited by the amount of work you are willing to do". It's not even very competitive with entry-level salaries for IT jobs. It's competitive with "support" roles in those organizations. Like admins, entry-level HR jobs, etc.

That being said, I have a lot of respect for people with "dirty jobs" (my family and I have had them myself), and likewise, I have a lot of respect for Mike Rowe and his message. I'd be very happy if there were a newfound respect for those roles.

...but the money, work conditions, and career advancement prospects are certainly better for STEM degrees.


For those who don't have the equity required to invest in a medical or legal education - what are those options? I'd imagine banking is largely based on what school you attend.


You might not need the equity to invest in a medical degree, aside from cost of living and some pre-med catchup. Many states offer free medical education if you are willing to serve an underprivileged population for 5 years. I researched for a bit. Parts of Indianapolis, a fairly metropolitan city, count as under served. I don't think you get cost of living, but you might be able to find a similar grant that pairs with the free schooling.


As a young man in America, I would only recommend this if you both live in a tech city and hold a degree. I have neither, and so despite my ability to develop software, I am not taken seriously by employers.


i started out in tech as a teenager doing data entry and software installs. if you haven't done a similar job yet for at least a year or two, re-evaluate your expectations.


I have been doing tech support for nearly two years now. I've gotten plenty of certs, am mostly through college, and always ask to do more. It doesn't seem to matter in this area.


> am mostly through college

Lack of a degree and a code camp certificate only works in tech cities where it's hard to find coders who are gullible enough to work for free...I mean get paid in equity in a startup that's really only there to suck at the tit of an angel investor for a few funding rounds.


Right. That was exactly my point with my first post. The only way you can get a job in this industry without being in a tech city is to have a degree. I don't understand why I'm being downvoted for pointing that out.


because it's untrue. you just aren't skilled or experienced enough to get a good job.

"the only way..." usually is a made-up fact designed to fit a circumstance.


While not universally true, there are some geographic locations in the US that make that feel true.

The town I grew up in had 4 major tech employers.

- A weird segment of Department of Defense contractors that developed "mission simulators" (AKA first-person shooters) for the Army

- A banking umbrella company

- An insurance company

- A credit card payments processor

The state university in the same town had a Computer Science degree and offered a Bachelor's of Science with three different tracks/specializations:

- Games Programming: Focused on learning how to write 3D game engines. You learned C++, OpenGL, a bit of DirectX, a lot of Client/Server stuff like writing your own protocols on top of IP and UDP, and so on.

- Systems Programming: Dig into multi-threaded programming, write parsers as a way of learning how programming languages work, and magically segue into COBOL, IBM HLASM, DB2's unique takes on SQL, etc.

- Web Programming: JavaScript, ASP.NET, Windows IIS, Oracle.

Guess what those four employers filtered every candidate on?

Either 5+ years prior work experience littered with every keyword on the job description or a degree. There was literally zero way for someone without prior experience to get a degree, and because this wasn't Big Tech City X, even with 5+ years you pulled $65,000 tops.

Basically, the whole life cycle worked like this:

1) Tempt new students with cheaper CS degree compared to nationally famous college two hours away.

2) Use CS degree to snowflake their skills into a perfect match for a job with local employers.

3) Continuously have local employers show up on campus and talk up how cheap the Cost of Living is in small military town. Show hand-wavey "$65,000 here is the same as making $200,000 in San Francisco!" Neglect to explain how Social Security and Pensions/401ks work.

4) Convince students to "just get a few years under your belt" then go to Big Tech City with actual work experience.

5) Further pigeon hole skills and provide zero continuous learning, training, certification, or other ways of expanding employee's skill set, making it hard for them to find jobs in Big Tech City.

6) Profit by never paying anyone more than $80,000 to write software.

7) Avoid employing demographic profiles that are less likely to have kids. Grow your employee culture around "setting down roots". Profit even more by having almost perfect retention if you lump all four major employers together and colluding to maintain low wages.

EDIT: Formatting


If 'caste system' is responsible for Indian IT workers, what do you think of Americans who have been 'scheming' from high school to get into HYP, then to consulting (McKinsey, Bain, BCG), IB (GS, JPM), PE (KKR, BS), hedgfuns. Of course, you don't see a caste system in the States.

You make it sound like 'every human being is not selfish' or 'most of the human beings are not selfish'. Just work in the service Industry, you see the turnover rate just because people want to make $2 per more elsewhere.

The reality is that caste system never exists, nor does it exist in India. Castes exist, however.


I am sorry but your token Indian is not entirely wrong but also not entirely correct. First of all regarding your broad hypothesis,(which comes with a good dose of judgment on the side), "why do a good portion of Indian Developers suck". To quote a similar question, I would ask you "Why are great portion (50%) of Americans turned racist in 2017?". But I won't ask that question because as I know, things in life for which you have a high confidence in having a fantastic one line explanation usually turns out that those are crappy theories. Hence I don't believe in one line explanations to complicated questions.

Putting that aside, there is a Fundamental Law of Incompetence which says, "In any random sample of a group of people in any country, the amount of incompetents is a constant". We have a lot of so called incompetent people because A) you may probably outsource to the cheapest bidder/contractor B) We have 1.3 billion people, of course a large number are incompetent. I have worked with outsourcing teams in Romania, and the law still holds, I have worked in Germany and the US, and the law still holds. It has yet to happen that I have walked into a country and observed, "Holy shit, so many geniuses are around here, what kind of Cola do you guys drink?". Now you may know that there are other "legit" multinationals who have captive R&D Centers in India which are awesomely working cause hey each country has a thick creamy layer of talent and those companies employ them. Case in point, Texas Instruments, Microsoft, Google, Adobe's big campus near Delhi, Amazon etc etc. Plus a whole slew of startups popping up in India. So your token Indian thinks that all of those people are retarded?

What irks me about your guy is not that he is spouting what is the common understanding of the lot. But you are possibly talking to a regular uninformed guy with pet peeves about family and caste system. I know quite a few of those. What those kids need is a spinal surgery.

Did he mention how crap the infrastructure is in most of the Universities in India? How shoddy the teaching is? Oh it all starts with the School system, which is the base factory of parent/caste/society oppressed individuals who just blame everything else than their own free will to progress and learn in life. That's the reason why so many smart people tend to migrate in order to do a Masters or a Phd program because University Research does not exist in India (even in the top 10 universities).

The boom in IT sector in India circa 1995 was a god send for so many impoverished but educated Indians who could now afford to literally have a decent work environment and pay and that brought so many of us out of poverty. The much derided call centers brought employment to a range of blue collared workers who put their balls to the walls and attempted and mastered not only fluent English to some extent but to copy the American Accent. Now all these whiny newly born Indians with their trust funds piss all over that fact. I know you may think outsourcing is bad and call centers sucked, but hey market forces will decide that. No one asked any US multinationals to make your underwear in China, they all did by their own free will. The world economy will shift focus to something else.

I by no means want to engage with you harshly, you have a genuine curiosity about the subject but I would implore people on hacker news at least to think about the World in a more refined way.


> I said Karthick why do a good portion of Indian developers suck

If you peanuts you get monkeys. The Indian developers who dont suck are not working in your company because they are getting a good salary somewhere else.


That's a fascinating perspective. Thanks for sharing!


The "genius" is allowing people like Irving to print money on the backs of kids from India.

I recently coordinated a operational outsourcing task where a big vendor took over some specific functions. They sent over these two kids on H1-B visas who are brilliant, but are making something like $25/hr (probably 18% of bill rate) and work 20-30 hours of overtime. Their subcontractor/pimp probably skims more than they make.

My grandfathers immigrated here from Ireland as a chauffeur and laborer and retired as a successful pub owner and senior civil servant. That's the story of America.

Immigration is great -- we should just do a lottery for green cards and let people move here without the corporate overseer. I don't care where your from... you should be here as a free person.


I've only worked with H1B visa folks who came on as contractors... while they were mostly not terrible, I didn't find them to be noticeably better than the folks we hire, with one exception (and he just became a citizen).

I'm not bothered by immigrants, but the whole "genius" thing is a lie.


Plus I'll add if they are geniuses then they should have a min. starting salary of $500,000 attached to their visa. I mean, they are einsteins after all. Right?


"Outsourcing" covers a wide range of companies based on quality and pricing, so it depends on which end of the spectrum you are.

Unfortunately the people who end of migrating to the United States on an H1B do form the cream of developers. Infact Indian outsourcing companies use H1Bs as an incentive.

I for one, will be happy if the stakes are increased. This will ensure more smart people stay back in India and fix local problems.


> Unfortunately the people who end of migrating to the United States on an H1B do form the cream of developers.

Well that is not necessarily true when it comes to Indian outsourcing companies. If a person has a very good rapport with his manager that person would be preferred over someone who is more technically competent but does not enjoy the same rapport with the manager.


What's the argument against using an auction for H1-B visas rather than a lottery? That'd maximize the tax collected from their salaries and ensure the salaries are on par with the going rate for said workers. Arguably it's in the interests of everyone besides companies trying to get cheaper labor via H1-B visas.

The only counterpoint I've ever heard is "It's not fair for company XYZ in low cost of living Podunk, USA because we can't compete at those high salaries against banks / SV / expensive cities". So what? I doubt they can compete against the ability of TCS or Infosys to game the system and get the lions share of the visas either.


The objective of the visa is to enable business. It is beneficial to America that business flourishes in America. If a pharma business is viable only if it pays $100k to its researchers and if it is being hamstrung by lack of researchers in America it doesn't matter that a software engineer can charge $200k for his services.

The pharma researchers may argue that this should present an upward price pressure on their salaries but their industry isn't solely driven by salaries alone.

At the higher salary that gets a company enough researchers, the company may become unviable. In addition, if there are only 100 researchers and there are 1000 jobs, rising salaries will still leave 900 jobs unfulfilled.

These are things one doesn't care about if one is a researcher because systemic economic slowdown will take a while to catch up to you because there are more jobs than researchers.

But thinking above that in the long term, it is advantageous to have more researchers since more jobs filled leads to more successful companies which leads to growth.

In truth it's more complicated. There are a large number of unqualified people who carry the credentials claiming they're qualified. For the same title, skill levels vary substantially. This is why people believe good lawyers are far better than average lawyers, that good doctors exist, and that the concept of a good software engineer exists.

This means that while there is apparent supply, there is no real supply. This makes the problem less apparent but no less real.

The government distorts markets for its own reasons and one of them is the long term economic health of the country. The most efficient distribution may be that most companies should be in Africa. The government doesn't want that. It wants companies in the US. It organizes in the long term to allow this.


> If a pharma business is viable only if it pays $100k to its researchers and if it is being hamstrung by lack of researchers in America it doesn't matter that a software engineer can charge $200k for his services.

True, but in another sense, more people will train to be software engineers than pharma researchers? educated people are the common resource? Why should anyone train to go into pharma, when they could earn more as sw devs?

> their industry isn't solely driven by salaries alone

what does this mean?

> if there are only 100 researchers and there are 1000 jobs

Are jobs are not equal. Ultimately, there are only 100 jobs willing to pay a higher salary. Consider an auction, there are not really millions of buyers willing to buy an iphone (at $1), there is just one, the rest lost interest once the price point had been hit.

I understand, an industry can still be hamstrung by lack of employees, but

a) Would this be different in the US compared to other countries? If not, all similar industries will be equally slow to progress; No problem for the rare employees living in good times.

b) If the industry is desirable, people will begin to train for it, or be encouraged to train; high salaries will be just one incentive. In the meanwhile, the growth of the fledgling industry can be helped via investment: this investment could help provide aforementioned training, and also help pay for foreign labour at higher cost than than native, so as not to undercut native labour - hence the nonviable industry is subsidised until labour supply catches up.

> it is advantageous to have more researchers since more jobs filled leads to more successful companies which leads to growth

"job creation" theories are dangerous, much like trickle-down economics. It's easy for the wealthy to act in their own interest by promoting flawed justifications of this nature. I agree, certain high-skilled jobs actually fuel certain struggling industries than actually bootstraps industry in a way that makes existing workers more valuable, especially locally (vs nationally); but I can see how this line or argument, which applies to rare cases, can be abused to argue similar effect where it is not the case; Is is also the case that there would be an point where the visas must stop (when the benefit ends), which again it would be easy to manipulate - you'd need strict criteria to make it fair.


If that's the long term goal, then the US government is going to have a problem things such as the internet, bitcoin and more technologies open up even more possibilities for foreign workers and freelancers to work from abroad and avoid US taxes all together.


The points I've seen and agree with for an argument against an auction is:

- It is a tacit acceptance of the falsehood that there is a skills shortage.

- It ultimately relies on scarcity of visas. There will be a number of visas to auction off and this number will become a political football that is tweaked and tweaked until it is meaningless. What is the point of an auction if there are a million visas being auctioned off?

- It does not address the corporate/education institution partnership loophole.

Ultimately if they are the best and brightest the visas should be given to the employee not the employer and, if the employee wants, they should be put on a fast track to a green card as soon as they start (6 mo-1 year)


> It is a tacit acceptance of the falsehood that there is a skills shortage.

The entire premise of the H1-B program is that there is a skills shortage. It's not specific to IT, it can be used for any field where you cannot find local talent.

> It ultimately relies on scarcity of visas. There will be a number of visas to auction off and this number will become a political football that is tweaked and tweaked until it is meaningless. What is the point of an auction if there are a million visas being auctioned off?

There's already a number of visas auctioned off. I don't see how the number is any more or less political if it changes to an auction based on salary.

> It does not address the corporate/education institution partnership loophole.

I don't know what you're referring to here. Please explain.

> Ultimately if they are the best and brightest the visas should be given to the employee not the employer and, if the employee wants, they should be put on a fast track to a green card as soon as they start (6 mo-1 year)

The visa already goes to the employee, not the employer. H1-B visa holders can move jobs if the new company is willing to take over the H1-B sponsorship (I think it's just a bunch of paperwork).


> The entire premise of the H1-B program is that there is a skills shortage

And it's a bad program even if that was true, since at best it's a band aid that papers over short-term symptoms without addressing underlying problems, and since it is perennially used in the same industries for the same types of jobs, it's clear that if it is addressing a skills shortage, it's not a transitory, short-term problem for which a short-term patch to cover up symptoms is the appropriate response.

Either no one involved in making policy has noticed this, or "skills shortage" isn't the actual reason for the policy.


Considering things from the point of view of the immigrant, the current h1b system seems to me like the only route to immigration for a person who is not exceptionally skilled or wealthy or connected. So there are definitely people who would like to immigrate who would lose out if it became an auction.

I'm not saying those people should necessarily be a major consideration, but you did say "everyone besides companies trying to get cheaper labor".


> Considering things from the point of view of the immigrant, the current h1b system seems to me like the only route to immigration for a person who is not exceptionally skilled or wealthy or connected. So there are definitely people who would like to immigrate who would lose out if it became an auction.

Sure but the point isn't to provide a side door for immigration, it's supposed to be for filling short falls in labor that cannot be accommodated locally.

> I'm not saying those people should necessarily be a major consideration, but you did say "everyone besides companies trying to get cheaper labor".

That's correct though I was specifically thinking from the perspective of the USA, its citizens/permanent residents, and its corporations (both those trying to get H1-B applicants and those that aren't).


It's not necessarily just immigration. Many young people I know have moved countries for a few years to experience a new culture, climate or whatever whilst working there. Some stay, some don't. The US makes that really hard/impossible, especially if you want to stay. So what? Well, many visa arrangements are reciprocal...


I just wanted to thank you for putting the point of view of an aspiring immigrant into the conversation. Just recently my sister completed a coding bootcamp in NYC and would gladly accept all the 'abuses' associated with being an H1B holder and then some to be able to work as a software developer in the US.

I ask for no special treatment for my sister, just the decency of not using the immense power of the state from preventing her for working for a willing employer. Sort of how we don't ban black people from working as software developers even if they replace white people.


H1 is a non immigrant visa; using for that purpose is fraudulent. Under the law, H1s should have no right to permenant residency unless they return on a proper immigrant visa -- otherwise, its vastly unfair to those that go through the legitimate process.


H1B is dual intent. Meaning that it is absolutely within the law to apply for permanent residency via the normal EB2/EB3 process.


H1b is a dual intent visa. No crime in having immigration intent while on it.


Apropos of anything else, a lot of the definitions are weird.

I came here on a K-1 Fiancee visa. Which was, ostensibly, a "non-immigrant" visa. Though it allowed the ability to live, work. And to remove conditions on permanent residency by submission of a form.


The argument is probably that you'd end up in a situation where the highest-paid fields get all the H1-Bs and the lowest-paid fields get none. Workers in that highest-paid field would still get their salaries undercut and, in those lesser-paid field, there would be problems finding people with the right skills.

I'd favor a policy that looks at the ratio of citizens/green card holders to H1-Bs when determining priority. Want more H1-Bs? Hire more citizens and green card holders. This is similar to what other countries do in mandating that a certain number of locals be employed before you can employ a foreigner.

This both addresses the CoL objection you cited as well as the type of business objection I listed. But it would also destroy the body shops that basically only employ H1-Bs.


> Workers in that highest-paid field would still get their salaries undercut

There are arguments that this isn't the case, though a bit out of my league.

> in those lesser-paid field, there would be problems finding people with the right skills

If a job requires a rare, yet specific skill, then why is it lesser-paid?


I guess an argument could be made that this would only maximize short-term tax revenue, and only tax revenue that is, as you said, collected from income taxes, which might or might not correlate to the guest worker's long-term direct and indirect contributions to the federal budget (and the American economy in general).


> I guess an argument could be made that this would only maximize short-term tax revenue, and only tax revenue that is, as you said, collected from income taxes, which might or might not correlate to the guest worker's long-term direct and indirect contributions to the federal budget (and the American economy in general).

All else being equal, I'd wager that the long term tax revenue collected from a guest worker with a higher starting salary will be more than one lower starting salary.

Tax revenue is a function of the worker's salary. Higher starting salaries will lead to higher salaries down the road.


something something democracy.

The country is run (roughly) on something resembling democracy and equality. If, instead, the ethos changes to "more power to people who pay more", we give up any pretence at democracy. We might as well just advertise that politicians are for sale.

Which the mostly are right now, but at least they have to pay lip service to the people. Once that's gone, the culture of the country will change enormously. And not for the better.

See William Shirer's "Collapse of the Third Republic" for what happens to countries in this situation. It's less well known than "The rise and fall of the third reich", but I found it a lot more informative.

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


> something something democracy.

> The country is run (roughly) on something resembling democracy and equality. If, instead, the ethos changes to "more power to people who pay more", we give up any pretence at democracy. We might as well just advertise that politicians are for sale.

What's not democratic about optimizing need based upon projected tax revenue? Are we discriminating against "poor companies"? Would you classify companies that allow their employees to work remotely doing the same? (ex: I'm sure Google can pay more for a remote employee than any local company in Podunk USA).

I personally have no horse in the H1-B race. I don't employ any nor do I intend to apply for visas. The vast majority of citizens and permanent residents in the USA are in that group as well. It's in their interests to raise the price of said foreign labor. I'd say that's very democratic and keeping the price of it artificially low is short changing democracy.


> What's not democratic about optimizing need based upon projected tax revenue? Are we discriminating against "poor companies"? Would you classify companies that allow their employees to work remotely doing the same?

The unstated assumption in your questions seems to be that optimizing for revenue should be the #1 (or a high) priority for a government.

If so, why not just cut all social programs? They're expensive, and the poor people can find jobs, right?

My leaning is more towards the idea that governments should optimize for something else. Perhaps "the greater good", however the citizens decide that. Money is always an issue, but optimizing for tax revenue is a little to inhuman for me to be comfortable with it.

> It's in their interests to raise the price of said foreign labor.

... to artificially raise the price of foreign labor. Many companies now are trying to artificially lower the price of foreign labor, through lobbying, etc.

And the foreign labor market is in no way free. When I worked in the Bay area, it was well known that many H1B holders were paid low salaries, and treated like crap. Because they wanted to stay in the country, and were willing to accept hardship in order to do so.

That artificially lowered the labor cost, and lowered salaries. If they were paid the same as local talent, the artificial low cost would go away, and more local talent would be hired.


>> What's not democratic about optimizing need based upon projected tax revenue? Are we discriminating against "poor companies"? Would you classify companies that allow their employees to work remotely doing the same?

> The unstated assumption in your questions seems to be that optimizing for revenue should be the #1 (or a high) priority for a government.

> If so, why not just cut all social programs? They're expensive, and the poor people can find jobs, right?

Social programs aren't revenue, they're an expense.

> My leaning is more towards the idea that governments should optimize for something else. Perhaps "the greater good", however the citizens decide that.

The beauty of using something objective like salary or even a pure auction where the USA sells the via to the highest bidder is that it's objective and consistent. "Greater good" is a feel good (no pun intended) term that has no objective meaning. It may make you feel better that you've provided a job to a third-world immigrant but that doesn't mean it's objectively a good thing for the USA. And at the end of the day the foreign policy of the USA is for its own interests (which may align with global ones but not at the expense of USA ones).

> Money is always an issue, but optimizing for tax revenue is a little to inhuman for me to be comfortable with it.

If you don't pick something objective where at least the government can get a fair share of the money, you'll end up with outsourcing firms gaming the system. It's the immigration equivalent of "this is why we can't have nice things".

>> It's in their interests to raise the price of said foreign labor.

> ... to artificially raise the price of foreign labor. Many companies now are trying to artificially lower the price of foreign labor, through lobbying, etc.

It's not artificial at all. It's the price of providing that same service locally which is what the H1-B's salary is supposed to be anyway.

If the foreign labor wants to provide that service remotely, more power to them. Let them do so. But if it's done in SF, or NY, or anywhere in the USA, the prevailing labor rate is what should be paid. The point isn't to provide cheap labor to firms. It's to fill gaps in the labor market (or at least that was supposed to be the point).

> And the foreign labor market is in no way free. When I worked in the Bay area, it was well known that many H1B holders were paid low salaries, and treated like crap. Because they wanted to stay in the country, and were willing to accept hardship in order to do so.

> That artificially lowered the labor cost, and lowered salaries. If they were paid the same as local talent, the artificial low cost would go away, and more local talent would be hired.

Well duh. That's what I'm trying to say!!


> Social programs aren't revenue, they're an expense.

That's nit-picking. Social programs are negative revenue. If you want to maximize income, you can increase income, or decrease expenses. This is grade 5 math.

> "Greater good" is a feel good (no pun intended) term that has no objective meaning.

"Greater good" can be define to mean that it matches societies preference. i.e. long life, healthy life, whatever.

If only the constitution defined greater good.. perhaps something about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"?


>> Social programs aren't revenue, they're an expense.

> That's nit-picking. Social programs are negative revenue.

No it's not nit-picking, it's basic accounting. If you want to maximize income, you can increase income, or decrease expenses.

Revenue impacts your top line gross. Expense impacts your bottom line net. Income != Revenue.

To use an extreme example, if I have $1M of expense and zero revenue, no matter how much expense I cut I'm not going to turn a profit as you can't go below zero. Conversely, if I have $0 of expense and $1M of revenue, I can continue to increase income by raising revenue.

> This is grade 5 math.

No it's Accounting 101.

> "Greater good" can be define to mean that it matches societies preference. i.e. long life, healthy life, whatever.

> If only the constitution defined greater good.. perhaps something about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"?

It's not an objective measure though.


> To use an extreme example, if I have $1M of expense and zero revenue, no matter how much expense I cut I'm not going to turn a profit as you can't go below zero. Conversely, if I have $0 of expense and $1M of revenue, I can continue to increase income by raising revenue

Show me a government with zero revenue, or a government with zero expenses, and I'll believe you.

Until then, it's still nit-picking.

At the scale of governments, expenses == -revenue


Ok democracy. Let's put H1 policy to a vote.

Democracy has nothing to do with equality of outcomes: it's about the representation of the citizens.

Why can't I easily get an oil exploration license but some multi-national can? I can't afford millions of dollars. But with a license, I'd have a scarce resource and could easily raise money to drill.

Why aren't radio frequency spectrums allocated by a lottery system? Why is surplus federal equipment sold at auction and not just sold to the first person that shows up?

Pricing is an excellent regulatory mechanism. It works -- until the system is gamed by the well-connected.

Making third Reich comparisons, even tangentially, seems like an unnecessary Godwin.


> Making third Reich comparisons, even tangentially, seems like an unnecessary Godwin.

Insults like this are unethical, especially when you didn't bother reading the link I posted.

The reference was to France, not to Nazi Germany.

I've seen rather a lot more of this on HN recently. People who automatically assume that the comments they're replying to hide some kind of nefarious evil intent.

Stop it. It's anti-social and abusive.


In the labor market I'd say we gave in to "more power to people who pay more" [1] quite some time ago, and rightly so.

1. Like e.g. employees, all other things equal, tend to work for the employer that pays better. That gives more power to employers that can pay more.


In a free labor market. The labor market inside the country is mostly free. People can move to where the jobs are.

The labor market for foreigners isn't free. There are restrictions in place to prevent foreign immigration.

If it's cheaper to import someone from India rather than Montana, is that OK? If so, why? If not, why not?


> If it's cheaper to import someone from India rather than Montana, is that OK? If so, why? If not, why not?

As I understand the reasoning behind the H1B visa program:

If it's just cheaper, then it's not ok, essentially because workers in Montana should be protected from wage competition. But if it's unlikely that someone in Montana could / wants to do the job, then it's ok, because then there is no competitive situation and the interest of the business / economy to fill a position takes precedence.

Isn't a good way to ensure that to just raise the bar in terms of wage? If a business has to pay $150k/y for a H1B worker (because otherwise they won't get the visa) then they'd probably prefer a comparable candidate from Montana for $140k/y. If they still hire the H1B it's because nobody in Montana wants to / can do the job for $140k/y, so no wage competition (except of course if someone in Montana does want to do the job for $160k/y - but in that case they're perhaps not in desperate need of "protectionistic intervention" from their government).

So to me it seems an "auction" allocation strategy for H1B visas would strike a pretty good balance, raising the wage bar when demand for visas go up (and lowering it if/when demand goes down).


Most countries today will give you citizenship if you pay enough.


Source please. From my experience, this is not even close to true. You might gain a residence visa that after several years might yield citizenship, and even this is not available in many countries.


America is not a democracy. It is a representative republic.


Meaningless distinction based off the differing meanings of 'democracy'. It's a constitutional representative democracy that is also a republic.

I don't even agree that a move like this takes power from the people but the democracy/republic distinction wasn't even relevant.


The economist proposes getting rid of the rule that requires H1B workers remain within the company that sponsors them

That sounds reasonable, but why then require that a company sponsor an immigrant in the first place? Why not let that immigrant choose where he or she will work?

In fact, why not let the immigrant choose what to study, where to work, where to live, all in response to market signals?

People have posted various lists for the average H1-B salary at what they consider top companies, like Google. $130k. Is that the salary in mountain view?

You know, I actually think that salary is somewhat low for what a talented and well educated person can earn in the Bay Area. Why force these people to get hired as developers? Why make them study what google says they should study, take interview exams on second year data structures and algorithms the way google says they should? Why on earth should google get to have this power, over anyone?

Let's just have immigration. All immigrants arrive in the US free, free to choose what they will study, where they will work, how they will go about it. They can sell real estate, install drywall, write python code, write novels, paint portraits, or whatever they wish to pursue. Nobody owes them success, but in the US, they should have the freedom to pursue happiness as they define it.

Not as Facebook defines it. If working as a dev in an open office so big it has a horizon line for a CEO who says things like "young people are just smarter" for $152m a year doesn't sound as appealing as the flexibility and stability of working as a dental hygienist for $110 a year (roughly the median salary in SF), then that's the market's answer.

I still maintain this - any immigrant system that allows corporations to decide who gets to come here is flawed. Allowing immigrants to quit once they're here would be an improvement, but it still allows corporations to decide who does and doesn't get to come here.


'I still maintain this - any immigrant system that allows corporations to decide who gets to come here is flawed.'

Corporations ARE the workforce market, which should indicate what kind of workforce is needed. It can only go from employer to employee, not vice versa. You can also look at that from company's perspective: You not only paid for someone's visa but also went through all the paperwork and then the person leaves in a month, just because he got a bigger offer. This should somehow work in both directions.


Wow, do I ever disagree with you. I'm not a market fundamentalist, but supply and demand are still relevant concepts here. The market would demand far more developers at $50,000 than the market would supply. It would be the opposite at $250,000 (maybe... there would still be a lot of demand at that level). If corporations can't hire on there terms and conditions they offer, they need to sweeten the pot. If I try to hire a top lawyer at 50k a year and a large open office, people will say "uh, you need to offer more money and a better office." They don't say "oh, there's a shortage of lawyers, so clearly you need to have the power to bestow US residency and worker rights, and remain in control of them, to coerce an immigrant into taking that job"!

As for the company's perspective, honestly, I couldn't care one whit. If you can't offer competitive wages and working conditions, that means the worker has found a higher value role somewhere else. Why on early would I, or anyone really, have any interest in helping a corporation force an individual to remain in a lower value job? It's a basic human rights issue as far as I'm concerned, but you know, there's a reason human freedom and generally free markets often go together. No, I'm not a market fundamentalist, but the freedom choose where and how you will work seems pretty basic to me.


Wasn't disagreeing with that, just looking at reality. This visa was meant for corporations to be able to get the talent they're unable to find in the US. Not for opening US workforce market for the entire world. Thus it is one-sided.

Don't get me wrong, I'm in the US on a work visa and would be happy to have jobs market completely open for me.


This is the moral, practical, and efficient solution.

It's disheartening to see so many smart people blame H1B immigration for "harming" the tech econonomy, when the tech industry has comparatively high salaries and low unemployment. The amount of vitriol towards people trying to get by in life is unwarranted.


It really is unwarranted. Every now and then I like to take the opportunity to say this as well, since I am very critical of the H1B program.

The US doesn't have a good immigration system, and if you don't have family reunification or a few other avenues, there isn't much left for you, even as a skilled worker. We don't have a "I'm a skilled and decent person, I'd contribute a lot, and I'd like to live and work in the US" program.

Yeah, I completely get it. This is the only game in town for some really good people. No way would I blame someone using this path, considering their limited options.

The nice thing that I really believe that we can solve this problem by expanding personal freedom and limiting corporate power over people's lives. The sad thing is, that's probably why it hasn't happened and continues to not happen.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj1bHpPvSuE

^^ Rahul Reddy, an immigration attorney, discussing with a group of "body shop" owners how immigration reform allowing free movement of people on H-1B can be bad for business and what can be done to lobby against it.


One, salary is not total compensation. Two, if an H1B can job hop, you have to include a nice carrot along with the sponsorship to keep them around (vesting RSU, vesting profit share %, tiered bonuses etc). Let the free market work.


>That sounds reasonable, but why then require that a company sponsor an immigrant in the first place?

The point seems to be to let immigrants punish punitive or abusive situations themselves.


There is no rule that stops an H1B from transferring to another company.

It is a two way "at-will" law that supersedes any employment agreement.


No, but if they are in certain stages of applying for a green card, their application resets.


Looking at the discussion so far - probably going to get trolled/downvoted but here goes:

From all of the above comments - people are trying to undo only the parts of globalization that they don't like (wage arbitrage is one of them - stop crying!). I truly wonder what would happen if the Indians (and the rest of the world) started treating Americans the same way the America treats them and starts to roll back the impacts of globalization:

1. Stop American businesses from getting favors under trade deals and especially with sales of military equipment

2. Ask each American to provide all their social media account information when entering the country or throw them out

3. Set quotas for American businesses to sell their products/services.

4. Force Google, etc to locate servers and data-centers in China/India directly and give the keys to local governments (if the US government can get access why should other governments not?)

If a trade war did happen:

Specific to India: Their economy is mostly non-export oriented (except the IT services part) - they will probably take longer to raise the quality of living for their population - but it will probably be a better path to take (a trade war would probably help grow domestic businesses faster)

Specific to China: The USA needs access to the Chinese markets rather than the other way. Plus they can always dump all those treasury notes

Perhaps a trade war (rather de-globalization) would be a good idea for the developing world - it would bring better balance to the world and undo globalization as a whole and not parts of it (which is exactly what USA voted for when they elected Trump).

P.S. Please don't give a self-righteous BS response about USA being the land of the free and so on.. I think it's pretty obvious most immigrants are there for the money and quality of living (the kind of quality that comes with money and not society, safety, etc)


You're severely underestimating the impact U.S. business has on other countries. A trade war with any of the countries you have listed would harm them much more than it would harm the US.

China holds about 8-9% US debt. Their entire economic model is based on the devaluation of their currency so that the US and other countries purchase their products. If China dumps US debt, there is plenty of demand elsewhere.

Look, I'm not some extreme pro-America nationalist - but you have to look at the facts and it is simply an indisputable reality that no other country in the world can compete with the US on economic grounds.

You are overplaying your hand if you think that a trade war with the US would end favorably for any of those nations.


You are right - no other country in the world can compete with the US on economic grounds. And the reason for this has been decades of international trade that the USA has benefited from. The aim should not be competition but dis-engagement.

It would cause a LOT of short term pain - but 15-20 years later it would show benefits. China and India need to evolve with reduced dependence on exports (and the developed world). In any case they will have the largest markets based on current population projections.

Just look at the kind of income inequality that exists in these countries - I would actually argue that this was a by-product of trying to copy/serve the US model at some level.


> I would actually argue that this was a by-product of trying to copy/serve the US model at some level.

How?


If a trade war happened, it would wound the developing world a great deal more than it would impact the United States.

The US could be self-sufficient in terms of resources and manufacturing with relatively minor policy shifts and subsidization of domestic industries.

China's export-driven, currency-manipulating economic engine pretty much needs the US as a market so it doesn't collapse under its own weight. China already isn't playing ball by allowing American companies to compete within its domestic market, so it's not like that would be any great loss on that front.

Personally, I'd love to stop subsidizing the third world at the expense of American citizens. Developing countries need the US a lot more than the US needs them.


"Personally, I'd love to stop subsidizing the third world at the expense of American citizens. Developing countries need the US a lot more than the US needs them."

That's the exact illusion most Americans live on.

"On November 7, 2016, debt held by the public was $14.3 trillion or about 76% of the previous 12 months of GDP.[5][6][7][8] Intragovernmental holdings stood at $5.4 trillion, giving a combined total gross national debt of $19.8 trillion or about 106% of the previous 12 months of GDP.[7] $6.2 trillion or approximately 45% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were China and Japan at about $1.25 trillion for China and $1.15 trillion for Japan as of May 2016.[9]"

Go figure..

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_of_the_United_St...


Public debt is just a way to account for spending publicly, instead of printing money. The national debt can grow indefinitely so long as the economy continues to grow. (Fun fact: the US Government does make money out of nothing by minting coins. The Treasury creates them and hands them to the Federal Reserve, who increases the US Government accounts by that amount - creating new money out of nothing).

China buys US debt because they are forced to do so. They print Yuan to buy it which depresses the value of their currency. Some of the Chinese leadership is well aware that the balance of trade with the US and Europe must equalize. They've been taking measures to encourage domestic consumption and a transition away from an export-heavy economy. I don't think they're moving quickly enough because they're scared of disrupting the economy - fearing the Communist government (and their power) won't survive.

If China stopped buying US debt they'd have to buy European debt. If they stopped buying both their currency would appreciate and their exports would not be so cheap.


Debt and GDP is only loosely related. Nations only need to service their debt not pay it down in some short time period. Thus, 14.3 trillion in (debt) * (current interest rate - inflation) or around 14.3 trillion * (2.423% - 2.20%) = 28.6 billion per year or ~1/500 GDP aka peanuts.


That's assuming there is still growth and inflation - who are going to be the buyers?


I am on an H1-B work authorization.

The company applied for my position with a salary of ~$100K/yr (on the LCA and the H1 application) but they actually paid me ~$240K/yr. This year and the next, it will be well north of $300-$330K/yr.

Why would they do this? Simple - to be able to pay me a prevailing wage and keep me in status in case the shit hits the fan.

If they applied to the government saying they'd pay me $240K/yr, and for some reason they had to give me a pay cut, I'd be out of status or we would have to make a less-confident amendment to my H1 auth. A pay cut amendment should be viewed with skepticism in my opinion and I would avoid it.

It's like underpromising and overdelivering.

My actual salary will never be reported in an H1 database. But it will be on my tax returns.

This isn't a common case but just something to keep in mind.


My actual salary will never be reported in an H1 database.

The company has to report your actual salary. That's what in this database: http://h1bdata.info/

It's not prevailing wage, it's actual base pay.

I can remember at a previous employer that when you file for an H1-B, the company has to post the information in a public place. The form states the prevailing wage and the actual base salary.


Well, one can pay out using bonuses, distributions and any number of other instruments.

I didn't dispute that the job opportunity had to be posted prominently in the workplace with details exactly as stated in the H1 application.

LCA re-applications / H1 amendments are not required unless the location, the position or the nature of the job change significantly. Pay cuts are simply not allowed without informing the government.

Actual base pay >= prevailing wage? Perhaps my using them interchangeably isn't right. However, given a reasonable chance of approval, I would not apply for an H1 auth promising anything above the prevailing wage.

My tax returns / pay stubs are included in H1 extensions, intermediate steps to a green card and in visa applications. They are well aware of the pay raises.

IANAL and I can check with our lawyer again but this was our company's legal advice. If you are a lawyer or know one, this may be a difference of opinion.


The company has to file the salary only when they submit a new or extension petition which could be valid up to 3 years.

So if OP had a salary increase from $100K to $240K since his original petition, it won't be reported until the company files for his extension or Green Card processing.


>Although it is true that foreign workers at the Indian consultancies receive more visas than higher-skilled workers at better-known firms, a simple solution exists. Congress could raise the number of visas issued. Given that the unemployment rate for college graduates sits at 2.5%, it is fair to say that most native workers displaced by H-1Bs land on their feet.

Absolute scum. Native workers displaced by H1Bs is ok because the fired workers eventually find other work? Vile.

A significant proportion of IT and STEM graduate are unable to get work in their chosen industry, and proceed to waste years of education by going into other areas out of necessity.

I can't believe somebody could shit out the quoted text and have it published.


The idea that a US citizen could rack up tremendous debt on a 4 year STEM degree only to be passed over in favor of a cheaper H1B "indentured servant" that received a degree from a low cost diploma mill is vile indeed.


It isn't just the US too. It's the same all over Western Europe.

What sticks in my craw even more is that, to legitimise the process of issuing more visas, companies and governments have to continually say "there aren't enough STEM and IT grads! Do STEM and IT everyone!" knowing full well that there wont be jobs for these kids at the end of it.


Anecdata: I'm in US. Three boys, all graduated Engineers. All have jobs, easy as pie. One had $30/hr part-time remote work during last year of college. Have to move to get the right job maybe, or take what you can find, but for various reasons they're all very happy.

My Niece is in a field that's chronically low on qualified Engineers - she designs and installs automation in factories. So many facets including mechanical, electrical, industrial, chemical, process, thermo, etc. You have to be an all-rounder to get the job. So they work her flat out every minute she can spare (lives in hotels in remote cities for weeks during installs).

Other niece does lithium-battery development for startups in Silicon Valley. They keep going under, but no problem another one starts up the next week. Got all the work she can handle.

Wife's niece does biomedical research, never been a day without work. Canada, East Coast US (Yale actually), then a regular job with Govt.

Anyway, of the 13 siblings and their cousins, exactly 1 has ever had a day of trouble with employment. So all the talk about 'over-supply' might be exaggerated.


There's a reason anecdotes are useless in these kinds of discussions. Your family probably benefited from network effects: one person gets a job, then provides industry contacts and references to the next, and so on. Your family's tremendous luck should not be mistaken for a reasonable expectation.

Someone will be along with an equivalent tale about how they and everyone they know looked for a STEM job for years and gave up. That's why anecdata isn't actually a thing.


Exactly one case of 'network effect' - one brother got little brother hired on at startup as intern during the summer. Others all lived at far ends of the country from one another, in entirely different fields.

There're other effects, things labeled 'white privilege' or 'middle class ethics' I imagine. So no, not a recipe for escaping poverty or anything. I was the son of a dirt farmer in Iowa (like my sisters and brothers), but worked in Silicon Valley when young so my boys didn't have the disadvantages I did.


Don't get me wrong, I know that some people have major success and I'm glad that they do (I don't think 'white privilege' has anything to do with it as you contend below, as I have as much anti-anecdata as yours which also involves white people).

The data is all out there with regards to the level of unemployment and underemployment amongst STEM and IT grads, the number of people who have to seek employment in alternative industries, and the level of stagnation of wages in the industry. It's not at a level which indicates systemic failures, but it's significant enough to raise questions.


"having work" isn't the only metric, the pay is relevant too. Presumably, the pay for these individuals is competitive?


Only moderate debt for most. None for some. Pay is relative.


Both "there aren't enough STEM and IT grads!" and "I can't find a STEM job" can be true if candidates aren't willing to relocate to where those jobs are. Despite being one of the most remote-friendly jobs possible, tech is still frustratingly regional. It's amazing how many people will opine on how expensive San Francisco is and how they'd never want to live there and then complain about how scarce tech jobs are without seeing their own hypocrisy.

This doesn't condone what the body shops do, but I don't see a problem H1-Bs being used to address regional shortages in the labor market. But the program absolutely needs to have a regional component given that the scarcity of talent really is regional. We should not be issuing H1-B visas to work in cities where US workers can't find jobs. And H1-B priority should be given to companies that employ the lowest percentage of H1-Bs. With a few other provisions to ensure similar pay, this would destroy the companies that rely almost solely on H1-Bs without hurting tech companies that legitimately need H1-Bs to address the difficulty in finding talent.


The (sad?) truth is STEM degree is useless in most IT areas. Even the most complicated development (OS kernels, drivers, a/v processing and encoding, encryption, cv, ml, etc) is all about self-education. It's anecdata, but I personally see zero to no correlation between GPA/how-cool-school-name-sounds and efficiency of a developer. IMO a university is good for building a network, but not for knowledge per se.


For deep knowledge you may be correct, but I learned a ton in College. I went back to school with no programming experience at 28. By the time I graduated I had touched on nearly every one of those topics and I didn't take a CS class until my sophomore year because I originally started as an ECE.

If it wasn't for school, I would never had known where to go after I learned the basics, that is, Data Structures and Algorithms come next, then applied knowledge. Because of the school that I went to, I have a high level knowledge of programming language design and paradigms, OS and systems programming, compilers, encryption, security, and privacy. I also, because I double majored, know more than I want about signals processing and really the only thing in your list that I didn't get to touch on was ML/AI which was unfortunate.

But to your point, College has always been about self-education no matter the subject. The general guidance has always been that for every hour spent in class, you should be spend 2-3 out of class studying.


A significant proportion of IT and STEM graduate are unable to get work in their chosen industry, and proceed to waste years of education by going into other areas out of necessity.

Therefore all the talk about a tech talent shortage is complete and utter bullshit and coding bootcamps and H1B visas are another strategy to keep wages low and make it so companies don't have to pay for training, don't have to have signing bonuses.


Truly terrible, but consistent with the Economist. I don't want to bring Trump into every comment; but with "solutions" like this floating around and decision making based on an unemployment statistic - not happiness, job fulfilment, job challenge or job earning potential - you can really see why he picked up the votes.


"A significant proportion of IT and STEM graduate are unable to get work in their chosen industry, and proceed to waste years of education by going into other areas out of necessity."

Not contesting this statement, but is there some research or data supporting it ?

My very anecdotal experience is that the number of people that I know with a CS or STEM degree that have been unable to find work for more than a few weeks/months is basically zero.


There is. Not to be a dick but I'm rushing out...if you search for "STEM IT underemployment OR stagnation" and so on you'll find actual studies. Personally I know several people who had major trouble finding employment, from the most reputable college in my country. Some remained unemployed, some went into teaching, some moved into academia, some changed industries, most emigrated. Maybe things are getting better now. Anyway..

This article links to census data as I recall: http://archives.cjr.org/essay/it_doesnt_add_up.php

This one's a little older but gives a good jumping off point for academic keywords for further searches: http://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/education/the-stem-crisis-i...


Is there a single major industry where foreign workers wouldn't displace any native workers? If you go back a century or two, I'm sure the Irish/Italian immigrants displaced a whole lot of native workers as well. By your reasoning, the US would completely shut off all avenues for immigration.


Well obviously if there's enough demand for workers, and immigrants are paid at the same rate, then nobody would displace anybody.

I'm not saying that the US should shut off avenues for any immigration, but simply that indigenous workers shouldn't have to compete against low wage emerging economies in their own country. If companies want to off-shore, fine.


I can't think of any major industry that has a 0% unemployment rate. Virtually all industries have some level of unemployment, and 2% is on the very low end compared to other industries. Even if all immigrants were paid at the same rate, you would still see a number of American tech workers unemployed.

> "indigenous workers shouldn't have to compete against low wage emerging economies in their own country"

Are you saying that it's ok for foreign workers to displace natives as long as its on the basis of skill, and not costs? I can get behind this proposition, but it sounds very different from what you were saying earlier.

If someone believes that it's never ok for a foreign worker to displace a native worker, even on the basis of skill, the only way I can think of to guarantee this is to shut off immigration completely.


Let me offer a deal:

If i get a green card today (no strings attached) I'll quit my H1b job right now I'll bootstrap my own startup that'll create 10 jobs in 1 year

Does that sound like a good deal? You are happy, I'm happy, and all the jobs i create, those employees are happy. its a win-win-win deal.


What collateral do you offer against the unproven claim of "I'll create 10 jobs in 1 year"? Are you saying you'll fund the startup yourself?


If he doesn't create the 10 jobs within 5-10 years his visa is revoked and he goes home. That seems reasonable, no?

It is similar to the entrepreneur visa DHS just finalized. If you have a certain amount of funding you can stay for a while, with the option to renew as long as you meet certain objectives (creating X jobs and raising $x more funding).

Immigration is not a zero-sum game. Immigrants need houses to live in (they must be built). They buy various goods and services. Presumably their children become productive members of society just like many generations of previous immigrants.

In fact we should allow immigrants to bring their entire extended family. If we did that remittances to $country would drop dramatically and that money would stay here in the US, buying more US goods and services.


> If he doesn't create the 10 jobs within 5-10 years his visa is revoked and he goes home. That seems reasonable, no?

Depends, is he funding the startup himself? If so, fair enough, he gambles his labour on a venture likely to benefit the US if it pays off. If not, He gets a 10-year visa, and maybe a chance at rolling the dice.

10 years is long enough to make good money without risking a startup. Put up 10 years worth of dev pay as collateral (7-800k?) and suddenly the deal is only worthwhile if, either:

a) the jobs are indeed created, and a 10yr visa becomes a green card,

b) the startup has considerably more value than the collateral.

Of course, the collateral would be so high it would be unreasonable to be able to give it upfront, so I'm not sure how you'd get round that..

> They buy various goods and services

feels like the Glass-Makers fallacy again; I have no idea how the chain of events plays out.

for example; people still buy goods and services from the US as exports, but without many of the commitments citizenship would entail.


bootstrap = grow a company from own funds and generated revenues, instead of taking external / investor funding.

You seem to be agreeing to give a green card equivalent of rights to an immigrant who is willing to bootstrap own startup and probably invest own money in it?


+1 to what you said!

And those on H1b pay max taxes (for that salary bracket).

Most citizens who are sw devs, can work as 1099, drawing similar salary as a W2, but not even pay half the taxes (federal, state, social security and medicare) because most of it can be expensed, and salary they pay themselves will be artificially low.

H1b visa holders dont have that choice of not paying tax.


The US has to balance worker displacement with staying competitive with other countries.

US competitivity, especially in specialised areas that it does well in, is different to a century or two ago.

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