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Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders May Soon Be Allowed to Work in the U.S. (wsj.com)
189 points by dashausbass on Apr 11, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 141 comments

On one side I'm extremely happy that this might come to pass (might is a keyword in immigration legislation) because I personally know people who have been affected by this and can't work even though they're there. It's extremely frustrating for them to say the least, and extremely silly that people who want to be productive members of society can't.

On the other hand, I'm not sure how fair it is to all the people who applied for an H-1B last year and this year who were forced to participate in the H-1B lottery and couldn't get into the quota of 85000. Now one winning lottery spot could be worth two workers instead of one. Who's to say that the spouse, who didn't even have to go through the trouble of finding an employer, convincing them to sponsor, applying, waiting for the lottery results, etc is more deserving of a work permit than those who did but just weren't lucky enough to win the quota lottery?

I'm ashamed that I'm thinking of something so petty when I should be happy for those people, but having lost the lottery once, I can't help but feel a small tinge of jealousy and resentment.

I would be happier if none of this was an issue in the first place.

Words like "deserve" or "fair" are simply not part of the vocabulary when it comes to immigration. For example, while I am not a US citizen, my wife is which means that once I inevitably give in and agree to move to the United States with her (she's continuously pestering me with it) I will just get a green card after filing some paperwork. And you can rest assured that there are plenty of people more "deserving" of a green card than me.

The issue here is not that you don't "deserve" a Green Card, but that your wife deserves to live with her husband in her home country.

> your wife deserves to live with her husband in her home country.

Which doesn't require a Green Card for the husband.

How is he going to live in the US without the Green Card?

FWIW, in Japan you just get a spousal visa that's valid for 3 years (give or take). After that you can apply for a renewal. You can apply for a permanent visa after 5 years or so but there's no guarantee you'll get it.

There could easily be a spousal visa.

This is not how the US immigration system works. America issues two types of visas: immigrant and non-immigrant visas. The "green card" in question is, in fact, the end product an immigrant spousal visa (IR1 and CR1). There is also a non-immigrant spousal visa called K-3.

Here in the EU it works differently, as my wife is a family member of an EU citizen (me) she automatically has the right of freedom of movement within the EU. The UK Border Agency has issued her a residence document to confirm her status but it's not a visa or an endorsement in away way; it's just a confirmation of her existing rights.

Deserving or not the spouse is still there. So why block them from working if they're already there. It's not as fair as giving someone else an h1b but at the same you can't view it as trading one for the other. Instead you're just expanding what an h1b means. Again the person is already there so why not let them be productive...

Yeah, after thinking again, I can't help but agree.

I had a coworker who was stuck in limbo for a couple months due to this crap. His wife was not allowed to work due to this issue, and he wasn't allowed to work while some bureaucratic thing was being resolved. They were not allowed to leave the US for their home country, either, so they just had to live on savings for this period.

Unless he was out on bail, or something, he was definitely allowed to leave. The US has no exit immigration.

(Being allowed to come back after leaving is a whole different thing, though, which is probably what you meant.)

Sometimes they suggest you don't pass through border control posts if your visa isn't 100% done yet.

While my H1B (later L1B) was processing, I was legally allowed to enter the US for business trips (Visa Waiver with ESTA), but the lawyers really recommended against it.

The border control people apparently can see the pending application and sometimes tend to be in the "I think you want to come here early and start working" mood. That way one might get denied entry which in turn has a negative effect on the currently processing visa.

> The US has no exit immigration.

On a somewhat pedantic tangent, "immigration", by definition, is inbound. The outbound equivalent is "emigration".

I should have said "passport controls" or something.

I was in this situation as a j-2 visa holder. I could not leave the us for more than two weeks and i was not allowed to work for the first three months of my residence.

Great! I had so many colleagues in this situation - invariably it made starting a family more attractive as one spouse was basically stay-at-home anyway.

I understand that Americans want jobs for Americans, but bringing in immigrants and letting them work means you get taxpayers whose education was subsidized by a foreign government. They basically are net contributors to the economy upon their first paycheck. The higher skilled they are, the more dramatic this effect. It seems like a huge net win to the US economy.

I'm sure there's a good counterargument to this, but I'm biased being an immigrant myself.

The Netherlands even gives you a tax discount for 10 years if you're a highly skilled migrant, the criteria for being able to apply for it basically comes down to "is this person likely to need welfare? No? They get lower taxes then": http://www.expatica.com/nl/finance_business/tax/The-Dutch-30...

It makes sense for states to enact programs like these for the reasons you pointed out. If you can get skilled migrants you get net contributors from day one.

I have been looking at jobs in holland and the tax and benefits are very nice I could end up with both a maxed out UK and an aditional dutch state pension.

Oh and they tax relief of your mortgage payments

It seems counterproductive to the point of welfare to have the people who need welfare pay for it. It isn't an insurance policy.

No that's not what this policy does.

For the sake of argument (and simplicity) let's say that schooling and other childhood / early adult expenses for the average citizen cost the state $100,000, and let's say that in return the state is likely to gain $200,000 in tax money back from citizens over their lifetime once they become productive members of society.

It's pretty obvious that if you give adult immigrants who can immediately become contributing members of the economy a 1/3 tax discount that the state loses nothing, and only stands to gain from the deal, since they never had to pay those $100,000 to send them to school as children, that cost was offloaded to some other nation-state.

The tax contribution of those immigrants to social programs like welfare is also going to be just the same as the contributions of native citizens, despite the lower tax rate, because the state isn't also using that tax money to pay for those $100,000 it never spent.

If anything the flaw in the Dutch policy is that the tax discount isn't large enough, should last for more than 10 years (i.e. indefinitely, and should be larger if you promise to get out of the country before retirement), and that they should offer it to more immigrants, not just the highly skilled.

The welfare state has a limitation: it needs to be paid for. It also has a consequence: people who seek welfare may attempt to move to the welfare state in order to obtain it. This may imperil the ability of the state to pay for the welfare - or, at least, the willingness of the taxpayers to fund that welfare.

So this impacts immigration policy. Insofar as the welfare state IS like an insurance policy, this is like the health insurance company denying coverage for a pre-existing condition.

As an American citizen, at least half of my employers have had at least one immigrant founder— immigration seems like a big contributor to the US' excellence in high tech. But H-1B visas aren't great for me, since they give so much more leverage to the employer and not the employee— just giving green cards or work visas to skilled immigrants would be much better.

Aren't H1B work visa? But I think your idea of the green card is pretty good to return the balance of employer/employee leverage. I wonder what abuses that might have though.

I think what the parent implies by "work visa" is a visa that is not tied to the employer. The H1B as it stands now is just a proxy for indentured labor.

right, that requirement to be tied to the employer is also what prevents the H1B to run its own company (although H1B can start a business, (s)he is not allowed to run it.)

> indentured labour.

Could you explain, I'm not sure how this is the case?

Sure. The way the H1B works is that it is tied to your employer. The employer knows this. You know it. This creates leverage on the part of the employer. How? Two ways: One, you get fired, you are out of status immediately, you have to leave the country ASAP or find a job immediately. So, you make sure you don't get fired. Two, an H1B employee is supposed to be paid the prevailing job market rate. For CA, San Francisco County, the max is around 100K. It is a pretty sum. BUT. It is also less than market rate as of six months ago (when I was job hunting). Now, most big companies don't need to exploit you. But a wily manager can easily fuck with you with enough awareness of the issue.

Personally, I have noticed this phenomenon at smaller companies where a H1B candidate is potentially more attractive. I got a green card very recently, however, I am obviously not an American and am relatively young enough that I can be suspected of not having a Green Card. I have had a few situations where hiring managers were rather disappointed that I didn't need their help to acquire an H1B or for them to file for my green card.

How does an H-1B give leverage to the employer? You can change jobs, you just have to get your new employer to notify the state that they are now your employer.

I'll provide a counter argument.

The foreign workers aren't actually that high skilled and their education is questionable.

So upon their first paycheck they are displacing local workers who could also do the job, putting extra pressure on local economies that they didn't "pay into", and giving more power to employers based on the restrictive nature of these foreign worker visas.

>education is questionable

Don't you think that generalization is stretching it.

>local economies that they didn't "pay into"

What would you like to say about millions accumulated as social security & medicare by H1B workers that they can't redeem. If one returns to their home country before certain conditions are met, all that money goes to the US.

Yea. Because all locals are so highly educated. Have you seen CS departments at major school in the US? Look at the demographics and then think again.

I'm honestly not sure what point you are trying to make. That US CS programs aren't as rigorous as foreign programs? That US CS programs aren't also filled with foreign students, further displacing and out pricing citizens?

My point is, we have 1.7 Million college educated grads currently unemployed[0].

We have an estimated 650,000 H1B workers[1].

I'd say we have plenty of educated, hard working, and able citizens to fill these positions.



There are many assumptions here that you should question.

- That the 1.7 million college grads who are unemployed work in the same field as the H-1B workers. H-1B workers tend to commonly be in engineering / science / medecine / etc. Mostly Bachelors in Science degrees. The most common majors in the US are mostly BA degrees. You can't just plop those people into what they're not trained in.

- That the 1.7 million college grads who are unemployed are unemployed because of H1B workers, and that if those workers weren't there, the unemployed college grads would be employed.

- That any worker can be anywhere at any time. If a company is in North Dakota and needs a programmer, it doesn't matter that there are 1000 unemployed American programmers in New York.

- That when someone graduates, they're able to perform their profession up to the standard required. That they are "good". This should be laughable if you've ever been to any college short of the top 30. 1.7 million graduates don't mean 1.7 million desirable employees.

Unemployment sure is a huge problem, but I think you might be barking up the wrong tree here if you're looking for a cause. Getting rid of the H-1B is not going to help much, from what I can tell.

> - That the 1.7 million college grads who are unemployed work in the same field as the H-1B workers. H-1B workers tend to commonly be in engineering / science / medecine / etc. Mostly Bachelors in Science degrees. The most common majors in the US are mostly BA degrees. You can't just plop those people into what they're not trained in.

I don't believe that a Bachelors degree necessarily limits your career options. Holding a four year degree basically means you are trainable, committed, and follow the rules. The ideal employee. I'm willing to disagree on this point.

> - That the 1.7 million college grads who are unemployed are unemployed because of H1B workers, and that if those workers weren't there, the unemployed college grads would be employed.

I made no such statement.

> - That any worker can be anywhere at any time. If a company is in North Dakota and needs a programmer, it doesn't matter that there are 1000 unemployed American programmers in New York.

This comment makes no sense when we are talking about foreign workers who have to cross continents and oceans to get to North Dakota

> - That when someone graduates, they're able to perform their profession up to the standard required. That they are "good". This should be laughable if you've ever been to any college short of the top 30. 1.7 million graduates don't mean 1.7 million desirable employees.

I think you are just repeating your first point here. I'd be willing to bet 90% of H1Bs don't hold degrees from the top 30, or whatever arbitrary cutoff you have. I'm not interested in pedigree. 1.7 million graduates should certainly be 1.7 million desirable employees (or at least 650k), and if it isn't, then it sounds like we found the root cause.

> Unemployment sure is a huge problem, but I think you might be barking up the wrong tree here if you're looking for a cause. Getting rid of the H-1B is not going to help much, from what I can tell.

I never once suggested that H1B is the cause of unemployment.

> - I don't believe that a Bachelors degree necessarily limits your career options. Holding a four year degree basically means you are trainable, committed, and follow the rules. The ideal employee. I'm willing to disagree on this point.

Some employers wont touch you for entry level roles, because they assume with a degree, you'd jump ship for something better paying in your field at the first chance.

That only enforces the GP's point.

> I don't believe that a Bachelors degree necessarily limits your career options. Holding a four year degree basically means you are trainable, committed, and follow the rules. The ideal employee. I'm willing to disagree on this point.

How is someone with say a Bachelors in Sociology an ideal tech employee? A degree is about specialized education and you're completely ignoring that. That's why it's called "higher learning", it's not Highschool Part 2.

> I made no such statement.

Sigh. This is tiring, but I'll bite. You implied that the unemployed college grads could be working the H-1B workers' jobs. Heck, in this comment I'm replying to, you say:

> 1.7 million graduates should certainly be 1.7 million desirable employees (or at least 650k)

So, you did make such a statement. The sentiment that there is some overlap could be true to a small degree. But if you'll listen this time, I'll try to rephrase why the 1.7 million unemployed college grads might not be able to replace the 650k for the most part (or vice versa).

- Not having the right training. You seem to think a bachelor's degree is magic and if you have a BA in Political Science, you can be a Lawyer or a Chemist (or vice versa), simply because you're trainable and committed. I guess a person could be retrained to a different profession maybe (rare in reality), but that requires getting yet another degree. Who will pay for that?

- Not being good enough. Graduation standards are pretty low on average. I disagree about the grads being trainable, committed and following the rules part. Seriously, when I was talking about "top 30", I wasn't talking about H-1B workers, I was giving an exception to the trend I noticed where in most schools, merely graduating is the bare minimum. Which means that a college grad in the 1.7 million unemployed doesn't necessarily have skills.

- Not having homogenous demand across the country. The point with the NY-N. Dakota anecdote is that it's possible to have a shortage in one part of the country and too much in another. So what's the company in North Dakota to do? Immigrant workers tend to be okay with, well, immigrating. Most other workers aren't open to relocation, so they are tend to not fill those positions. So a position belonging to an H-1B in one of these places might not necessarily be able to be filled with a native.

Another way to think about this is consider how many orders of magnitude workers there are who are NOT immigrating to the US. By accepting immigrant workers, you're self-selecting people who are by definition more willing to move to places.

So the point is that it's not likely that these two groups of workers overlap very much.

If you want to rail on immigration, rail on the L-1. No wage minimums (to ensure undercutting locals), no skill or degree requirements, no quota, no requirement to have tried to hire a local, workers can't move to other companies. Some companies can apply for a blanket L-1 and they don't even need to file a new petition for each worker. The L-1 is legitimately everything you dislike about the H-1B.

Hope this helps.

How many of those 1.7 Million unemployed US college grads refused to consider market demand when they were choosing their major, because they were mistakenly lead to believe that either "Any college degree is good enough for any job, because it is still the 1950s." or "I shouldn't have to consider employment when picking my major because I should be able to study whatever I find intellectually gratifying and society will then owe me a good job in fields that I did not study."?

Perhaps my university was unusually good (I do not believe that) but all of the people in my graduating CS class that I still have contact with are happily employed. I know this because about once a year I ping them asking if they want recommendations at my company... I'm trying to get those sweet referral bonuses...

> "The foreign workers aren't actually that high skilled and their education is questionable."

I work alongside many H1B people. They are all highly competent.

A point I made above, but I don't really think a 4 year degree decides your future, it just shows you are trainable and can commit to something. I've worked with plenty of water walker software developers that didn't have a CS degree to know this is true.

> I work alongside many H1B people. They are all highly competent.

I work along side a lot of H1B people. They are all kind, smart, and competent. But they are people, there is nothing special about them, which was the whole point of the H1B program.

> "I don't really think a 4 year degree decides your future, it just shows you are trainable and can commit to something."

Jim wants a job in software development, but instead studied [something that isn't related to software development]. Do you know what Jim's degree says to me? It says that Jim is not willing to put in the effort to learn about something that he supposedly wants to be involved in. Is he actually interested in the work?

If Jim can somehow convince me that he actually does care about the work (say, an extensive github account, previous employment in the field, or even perhaps one hell of a cover letter) then I would be more than willing to overlook the fact that he chose to get a degree in something unrelated. In absence of those things though? I'd rather find somebody who can point to their degree as evidence that they care enough about the field to spend time studying it.

If there's nothing special about them, why are companies hiring them?

The usual "cheap workarz" angle is irrelevant. They all get market rates. Not to mention businesses having to sponsor relocation and the actual visas.

Surely you're not suggesting a business would bear H1B related overhead for no reason, unless they would be forced to do so.

I don't fault for employers for using the system they are given to cut costs, but that's all it is.

I'd be fine if it were an immigration visa, but these worker visa programs have no oversight and there is no conversation at the decision making level representing the american worker.

the cheap labor angle isn't irrelevant just because you say so. It's been documented that a) there are plenty of STEM graduates b) H1B workers are under paid[0]

[0] https://www.google.com/#q=h1b+workers+underpaid


"Those certifications represented far less than 1 percent of the approximately 960,000 H-1B applications approved by the U.S. Department of Labor between 2002 and 2005"

Sorry, that's terribly weak sauce for an argument.

Alright, I stand corrected. Do you think it's worth the time/opportunity cost/H1B costs/lawyers as opposed to hiring a local worker, if there's not something else going on?

It doesnt really matter what he thinks, the evidence and the lobbying by the biggest H1B consumers suggests that it is very worth it.

Look at any academic institution in the US in the life sciences. If you would take away the Europeans and Asians, what would be left?

The field would become more attractive to Americans and they would fill the empty places.

How would that make the field more attractive? If the aforementioned Europeans and Asians left, and Americans moved in afterwards, aren't you essentially implying Americans cannot keep up with them?

Americans can't keep up with outsourced foreign factory workers, either. Americans are unwilling to get paid $5/day.

Except we're not talking about outsourced work, and not about unqualified work either. Great job misrepresenting and misunderstanding what the issue is about.

The only reason prices are so low is because it's all outsourced. If you want Americans to do the work of the SEA and China, then you're going to pay a lot more for your shit. Those low prices are the only thing that a lot of people rely on their livelihood for.

No, I'm implying that a lot of capable Americans prefer not to work in fields flooded with foreigners. The status attached to working in the field would improve and attract more native candidates.

You do realize you're implying that Americans are xenophobic?

Held to the proper degree xenophobia is a normal, healthy instinct in all cultures.

I don't see how not joining a field just because it consists of certain amount of foreigners is a healthy, normal instinct.

It is because of secondary effects -- larger supply of foreign workers drives down the wages, now and in the future.

Except the whole "software eating the world" thing that might be the exception that proves the rule.

"Held to the proper degree xenophobia is a normal, healthy instinct in all cultures"

That may be, but I'm not sure you know what the words "normal" "healthy" or "proper" mean.

I have two MSc from a great non-US university, working with H1B for a top IT corp in SV. My wife has the same two MSc, staying home with H4.

I have seen similar patterns among other H1B/H4 immigrants (e.g. same university, same education, yet only one of them is allowed to work).

I think the US should do what Singapore has done a long time ago: open up its job market for high-skilled professionals, as it will bring in talent, know-how and experience. Otherwise, as soon as the H1B term expires, all of this talent will go back to their countries, improving their economies. (Not that there is anything wrong with it, but from the US point of view, it is better to have the talent in the US than at any other place.)

Since we're talking in absolute terms, you're basically saying all education acquired outside of the US is questionable.

If you look at the world ranking of universities top 100, you'll see a number of foreign universities on par with Ivies.

Even just considering the top 100 is misleading, unless you only want to talk about Americans and foreign workers that are "top 100 material".

If you want to complain about foreigners displacing americans I think you would have a better argument with graduate school. At BU more than half of the engineering PhD students are foreign, and that isn't just displacing Americans, it is also 100% tax payer funded.

Most graduate programs aren't displacing US citizens with foreign students. They literally cannot find a US citizen willing to take the job. I know, they were trying to recruit me and after seeing the bullshit my graduate friends had to deal with I got the hell outta there.

The science and engineering graduates have no problem finding work. It's no secret why the engineering school is full of foreign PhD students. Local graduates weren't interested.

Sociology and Political Science were a different matter. You can't get hired in Sociology without at least a MS. PoliSci was the entry point for law school.

They'd have no problem getting US students if they paid more.

This has been my experience in my industry outside of Silicon Valley.

Speaking as someone who moved to America on H1B with my wife - this is promising.

In the back of my head, I'm preparing to go back next year if my awesome wife can't find anything to do - missed this year's H1 cap already.

It's frustrating to watch her get depressed sitting at home and feeling like she's missing out. It's making me angry to come home every day to find her turning her energy inwards into frustration.

She's more talented than me, just not in tech - she's into ads.

The ad industry does not have the patience of the IT industry when it comes to keeping a req open for 6 months while the H1 processes.

Australia & Canada are attractive options in my radar.

At least, I'm sure I can work on hadoop from anywhere and get paid to ship open source code.

I'm with you, it's really sad to see my wife getting depressed for not being able to work (she is a very qualified software engineer). She is going to college now, but she still worries that when she graduates she won't be able to find work because of 1) years away from the market and 2) H-1B caps being reached every year - she already missed an opportunity because she wasn't selected in last year's lottery.

UK and Germany would also be good options. I know the UK has a points based system so if you are highly educated with a good salary in the US you will most likely meet the highly skilled point quota and receive a work permit.

Would you know how hard it is to obtain permanent residency in those countries?

In the UK if you have a Tier 2 visa then you apply for "Indefinite leave to remain" after 5 years of residency. The only restrictions are that you cannot spend more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months and your employer (sponsor) still needs you for your job.

The proposal does not give a blanket approval for spouses of H1-B workers to work. It only allows spouses, for those H1-B holders who have maxed out the original 6 years on their visa and are now awaiting their turn in line for Green Cards (which for India and China is ridiculously long).

But it still is progress.

I'd hope they remove country based discrimination in EB visas. And better yet pass immigration reform sooner rather than later.

Edit: Here is the link to the original proposal: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=20121....

For a country founded on the "self evident truth" that "all men are created equal", it is really sad to see discriminatory lines based on the "country of birth" [1]. It's not even based on nationality, but on country of birth, so applicants are effectively being considered "created differently" depending on random circumstances at birth.

[1] http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy...

The citizenship vs. birth country thing bums me. I have two nationalities and with the one that's not from my birth country I would be eligible to the diversity visa lottery :/

Just a quick confirmation, this applies to Green Cards only, and not H1Bs, right?

AFAIK it does not apply to H1Bs, but many other visa categories discriminate based on country of birth / nationality.

This really gives me second thoughts about going into CS, as someone who was born in India (but is now a Canadian citizen (which apparently doesn't matter at all)).

> a country founded on the "self evident truth" that "all men are created equal"

This is the "proposition nation" myth: the idea that America is not a normal nation of a people with a heritage. Instead America is merely a place with some abstract ideals.

This is of course complete hogwash. The founders were very much aware of Americans as a distinct people, despite written nods to some universalist enlightenment philosophe prattle.

This gets into the real problem: You have a bunch of H1-Bs who have passed labor certification, and will in 95% of all cases get a green card the minute a visa number is available for them, and yet, they can't really switch employers easily, and by the time the application is due, the'll probably be doing a very different job.

So why have a green card limit for H1-B applicants? After they apply, they can work in the US for an indefinite period anyway. So the only difference is that they spend 3-10 years with limited rights that actually depress everyone's salaries. After that much time in the US, they have already immigrated: They probably own a house, their children are American.

Get rid of the yearly quota for people already in the country: It's not as if a more mobile workforce that is already here is a problem.

There have have few proposals that give blanket approval for spouses of H1-B: The Senate bill of 2013 does, and few House proposals as well, like the House SKILLS Visa Act (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr2131/text).

> I'd hope they remove country based discrimination in EB visas. And better yet pass immigration reform sooner rather than later.

What country based discrimination? The quotas are to prevent two countries from flooding the immigration markets and making sure diversity exists.

When employers hire workers, the birthplace of the worker is irrelevant. For people with the same qualification and experience, why would you discriminate between someone from Ireland, UK, India or China. For you it should be the same, and it is illegal to consider otherwise. Now, why doesn't this extend when converting them to a permanent visa?

The same reason we have diversity in work places and that American workplaces are not all filled with straight, white men.

You can't comprise of 90% of any population and whine about discrimination. That is not how society works.

India and China are vast countries, the diversity should also take into account population/area of the country on which limits are enforced.

It is a bit ridiculous that Iceland and China have the same caps.

The diversity argument is turned on its head - esp. when there is legislation to legalize "illegal/undocumented" workers who are mostly from Latin America and primarily from Mexico. Indians are not even 1% of US population. The Green Card caps per country is absolute joke.

Is there an overview of what the per-country caps are, and how long someone from a given country might expect to wait until they get a green card?

Applicants from any single 'country of chargeability' cannot exceed 7% of the total number of available employment-based green cards in a year [1].

In practice, someone from Iceland or Tuvalu can get an EB (category 2) visa in about a year, whereas the average for someone from India or China is more like 5-6 years [2].

[1] http://www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary/country-limit

[2] These rough numbers are from observations on http://www.trackitt.com, where applicants self-report application statistics

In which we learn that there is not such thing as non-bias. Whether de facto or de jure, there are always biases. Either a person chooses them, or nature chooses them. There is no universally "fair" distribution over a scarce commodity.

> India and China are vast countries, the diversity should also take into account population/area of the country on which limits are enforced.

It is not clear to me how having a diverse country that is not dominated by immigrants from one or two ethnicities arrives from letting this happen. Or how it is fair to the guy from random tiny country X when he has to compete against two largest sources of immigrants to this country.

> Or how it is fair to the guy from random tiny country X when he has to compete against two largest sources of immigrants to this country.

Compete for what?

There's a separate category specifically designed to diversify the source nation of incoming immigrants -- the DV (lottery) green cards. It has a quota of 50,000 visa per year, as compared to around 77,000 for all of EB-2 & EB-3. The purpose of those visas is supposed to be bringing qualified workers into the United States, additional restrictions just hurt that goal.

Furthermore, it doesn't make any sense to treat each country as if it were equal size. The per country employment based limit is not much less than Tuvalu's entire population.

There is no "per country employment based limit". It doesn't matter if you were born in France or Tuvalu, everyone gets an equal shot at the H1B. The "per country limit" is for a more permanent status. I see no problem in the country deciding that it doesn't want to become a homogenous society dominated by one ethnicity. This is completely different from employment based equality.

Thing is, its not even ethnicity that decides the cap. Its 'place of birth'. If you are an Indian citizen, born in the UK, you get to skip the Indian line.

Still, I see no basis for discrimination based on place of birth, ethnicity, race, caste, creed, color etc. when I can do my job right and be good at it. I would agree that if it were a lottery or family based immigration, such caps could prevent chain immigration. However, employment based visas having that cap makes absolutely no sense and blatantly discriminates.

Employment based (EB) is the name of one of two major categories of permanent resident visas. It's a term of art that doesn't include H1Bs. Given that what you quoted included the term EB I thought that was rather clear.

As for one ethnicity dominating the country -- the entire permanent resident visa program subject to the 7% rule is only 366,000 visas per year or .1% of the population. Even if all of those visas went only to Indians and Chinese the US would be in no danger of being "dominated" by one (or rather two) ethnicities. In any event on the family based side, which has a larger allocation than the employment based, it is Filipinos and Mexicans who face the longest waits, not Indians and Chinese. Finally the mapping between ethnicities and countries of birth is not one to one.

Having been through the process of being on an L-1 and having an L-2 wife who is permitted to work, it creates an interesting dynamic. The primary visaholder is tied to the sponsoring company - if they lose their job, both visas disappear. They clearly have less leverage in negotiating salary with their employer, with really only the visa requirement that they be paid a fair rate to protect their interests. The limited transferability of H1Bs gives them a little leverage - L-1s have no such negotiating power, other than the market rate for their skills overseas.

The working spouse, on the other hand, is a relatively free participant in the employment market, so has far more leverage - able to freely negotiate salary (or to start a company of their own, or whatever). Of course they have hanging over them the risk that the master visa might go away at any time and they would be forced to stop working (and probably sell up and leave the country), but there is at least employment protection law to stop employers discriminating against a person who has the legal right to work on the basis of how they acquired that right.

The whole US immigration process is full of craziness. This is pretty well understood. That being said, in my own experience I feel very fortunate compared to many stories I hear. Came in on an L1 visa just over 2yrs ago, my wife was able to work immediately. In SF where we live, having two incomes is very helpful. Almost to the day, 2yrs after arriving processing completed on the green cards which we both now have.

Whole process was paid for by my employer (a large US multinational) that regularly needs to move people around all over the world and is very well organized and takes good care of it's people (and their families) in that regard.

Despite itself, sometimes the process works and companies act well too. In the current system, L1 is generally confided the best case scenario for coming to the US. Any problems you might run into with L1 are still pretty fancy problems compared with challenges faced by so many others trying to get into the country.

I'm currently also an an L1 (B) and I've been thinking about the EB2 greencard. How would you say your experience was with the process?

yes, this. only way out is for the L-1 holder to start the green card process to "upgrade" his/her status - provided this is desired.

L-1 sometimes really is just for a temporary work assignment.

While the L-2 + work permit sounds better, the smarter companies use the risk of the L-1 holder as leverage against the L-2 holder.

The L-2 work permit is better than not being able to work at all.

Companies (smart or not) can't really leverage an L-1 spouse against the L-2 job applicant in negotiations, although they might consider the L-1 holder a possible risk factor that might count against the L-2 job applicant.

If this happened or played a critical role in candidate evaluation, it would be difficult to prove that the L-2 holder was discriminated against.

The only time that a company could truly "leverage" the L-1 visa against an L-2 applicant is if the L-2 truly had nowhere else to apply except to the same company as the L-1 holder; but I feel that's an unlikely scenario.

EDIT: To your point about upgrading the L-1 into permanent residence status, it's typically easier and quicker on the L-1/L-2 than via H-1B.

> EDIT: To your point about upgrading the L-1 into permanent residence status, it's typically easier and quicker on the L-1/L-2 than via H-1B.

The path from L1A, to EB-1C (Multinational manager or executive) is pretty straightforward, the requirements are very similar, and the quotas are current for every country.

An L1B visa holder, on the other hand, faces a situation much like that of an H1B.

You're correct. I had a typo and meant to specifically write "L-1A/L-2".

I hope it is true this time.

I sent a question a few days ago: Ask HN: How many H1B holders here taking the H4 "punishment"? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7547839

The current H4 only offers a disruption to the family. Nothing else.

I was an H-1B worker myself and was following this rule making progress. The rule was not something new -- it was lobbied by big name software companies, and has been on DHS/USCIS's policy making agenda since 2011 at least:


The rule, as its currently proposed form, does not provide automatic work authorization to spouses of all H-1B workers. Rather, it allows "certain" H-4 spouses to be employment authorized. The subset of eligible H-4 spouses are defined as those "who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment" and apparently before finishing it. Specifically, their H-1B spouses had to be in H-1B status for more than 6 years and are the beneficiaries of certain pending or approved employment-based immigrant petitions or labor certification applications.

Congress employs numeric control over the number of employment-based green cards that can be issued each year. The process is very complicated, and the wait time is highly dependent on the country in which a beneficiary was born and the category of green card he/she sought. For beneficiaries from most countries, the wait for an employment-based green card (once you had an approved petition) is far less than 6 years. The only country that currently suffers a more-than-6-year backlog is India, whose current line for the "EB2" category is 10 years, and "EB3" 11 years. The current "backlog" is published by Department of State each month:


Most applicants from countries other than those listed can finish their green card process well within the H-1B's 6-year limit, and do not benefit from this proposed rule.

Link to the whitehouse factsheet announcing this: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/07/fact-s...

Relevant excerpt from the section "Attracting the World’s Best and Brightest": These proposed regulations include rules authorizing employment for spouses of certain high-skill workers on H-1B visas, as well as enhancing opportunities for outstanding professors and researchers.

As to what certain means remains to be seen.

'certain' in this context means: those H1B holders who have completed 6 years of the original visa term. They are compelled to either wait and languish in line, or go back home where their spouse can work.

Edit: Not sure why I got downvoted. I was just paraphrasing the reasons given in the proposal. Its not an opinion. Don't shoot the messenger. See http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=20131...

Where do you see that? If that is the case then it helps only those who applied for permanent residency late in their 6 year H1-B term hence they don't have EAD for their spouse through green card application but can extend their H1-B status indefinitely.

Here is the link to the original proposal: http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=20121...

Uh, don't remind me of H-1B. I am currently on F1 working as a software developer for a Fortune 500 company (with work permit / OPT), and my consulting agency said they'll apply for a H-1B visa for me, so I was very happy.

Turns out, they actually tried to extend my work permit (which they couldn't in my case since I didn't actually graduate with CSci degree) and now I have my work permit expiring in July, and not sure if I'll be able to stay in the country because I'm not sure if H-1B visa will arrive in time.


If they did file a H1B for you this year, then you should be able to extend your OPT period till October. It's something called a 'cap gap' fix that was introduced around a couple of years ago.


Thanks a ton for this! I will forward this to my consulting agency.

I maybe pessimistic, but I haven't seen any progress in H-4 employment proposals recently and the article doesn't point to any particular proposal.

The Senate bill for Immigration reform passed the Senate last June, but the House isn't taking a vote on it.

The house in turn had similar proposals last year in committee, but House leadership has no plans of putting them to a general vote at least till November elections.

My lawyer has been quoting this "may soon be allowed to work" for more than 3 years. My wife & I have given up on it. She's resigned to volunteering & working on hobbies. Considering how split the government is over these matters I doubt we'll see any reform in the next 5 years.

It's a good news. It's one of the main reasons not to even consider moving to USA. Now, let's just fix ridiculously high taxes compared to Europe, sane healthcare system, work conditions and education system, and you might be up to something.

>let's just fix ridiculously high taxes compared to Europe,

Eh? Europe has higher taxes.


Maybe higher nominal rates, but USA has much higher tax rates for what you get out of it.

In many parts of Europe tax include social contributions, so you don't pay anything additionaly for haelthcare and retirement. You have free or almost free education up to the university level, subsidized child care, actual unemployment benefits, good transport infrastructure and many such things that you need to pay yourself in the USA. If you want to compare real effective tax rates, just add all these additional expenses to your tax amount and compare it to Europe.

Than again, the chart doesn't include US state tax, so you are really taking into account only a part of US tax rate.

USA has SOCIAL contributions - FICA, SSI, Medicare. That's retirement, care for disabled and elderly. Our schools ARE free. It's easy to add up my healthcare insurance which isn't much - $250 per month - less than 2% of my income.

The chart INCLUDES NYS tax. Source of that charts:


On top of your $250 contribution, your employer will be paying a lot more - average total premiums are $5,615 for a single person or $15,745 for family coverage [1]. And that figure excludes co-pays, which unlike the EU can be huge. Healthcare in the states is just horrifically expensive - 18% of GDP compared to 9% in the EU (or about 11% in the richer countries.) [1,2]

[1] http://www.statisticbrain.com/health-insurance-cost-statisti... [2] http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/healthspendingineuropefallsfort...

That's true, but the employer is the one paying that.

It reminds me of a job offer I had in the UK, which was 30% lower than the equivalent job in the US. When I visited the site in the UK, the people working there admitted the wages were lower, but stated "You don't have to pay for health insurance."

When I mentioned I only paid $150/month, they seemed shocked.

Of course they were shocked, they pay nothing for equal or even better service and they are covered through the whole EU.

The problem is not if $150/mo is too much or not. The problems are [1] copay and [2] what happens when you don't have a job or money or neither. We all heard the stories "This car ran over me and I'm $100k in debt now" or "I got this $15k bill because I passed out and the ambulance took me to the hospital". That's just plain impossible in the UK or pretty much in any other country in the EU.

That doesn't mean that you can do just fine in regards to health care if your salary is $100k/year in the US.

And I'll give you that in reality it doesn't look cheap when your paying 40% of your salary in taxes, but I'm happy to know that today I'm the one contributing and tomorrow I could be the one receiving treatment "for free" or "paid by others". It's called society.

you pay $150/month if you DON'T use it. If you need more than just a doctor's visit, you have minimums to meet even before the insurance starts paying a part of it

True, but you also make much more in salary and pay much less in taxes.

Are your universities free/cheap?

EDIT:to expand, the school costs are free. But where do the unis stand in terms of costs? For instance, a huge chunk of taxes go to subsidizing free education in a number of EU countries.

They are probably the most expensive thing you will ever pay for outside of your house (and your children's education), and the debt can't be discharged by bankruptcy.

So lets raise taxes to European rates, reduce military spending, and ta da, you can get the same in the US. :P

And you get something in return for those taxes in the EU. Like an existing, functioning social safety net, PAID MATERNITY LEAVE, ~35 hour work weeks, and a slew of other tangible benefits. Our taxes go into ponzi schemes to pay off retirees, fund obscene foreign wars, and to build more and more prisons.

Progress...I have friends that went to the US on a similar Visa. She works..he sits at home. The raw skills are there: This is a guy that can take stones from a nearby hill, build a multi-storey natural stone house and have it pass structural and regulation specs. Now he sits at home and is bored out of his mind because he isn't even allowed to build his neighbors drive-way for a couple of bucks.

I get the need to protect the local people's jobs but that is just criminal waste in my eyes. Both the ability and the willingness to contribute towards the GDP/country is there and yet regulation forces him to watch youtube/paint dry all day.

I don't understand immigration restrictions at all. If the US is afraid foreigners are coming to "take our jobs" and is concerned about its citizens well being, then why isn't it concerned with the fact that cheap foreign labor could save money to millions of americans while it currently doesn't, since immigration is restricted? Or if it is concerned that foreigners are going to use the social safety net without providing any value, how about not providing it to foreigners?

There's absolutely no grounds for restricting immigration. The US was built on immigrants and now somehow it is no longer a viable policy?

>The U.S. is planning changes to the immigration rules that will make the country more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skilled immigrants, the White House said in a statement Monday.

Yeah, let's go ahead make it more attractive for talented foreign entrepreneurs, BUT let's only offer a few 65,000 H-1B visas per year... What's the point of making it more attractive if there aren't enough H-1B visas to go around in the first place. Seems some what cynical to me.

I like Massachusetts trade off, if you are going to allow an influx of H1-B's and immigrants, do away with the non-compete.

All it does is allow skim some cream of the top and control labor through myriad of shell companies and outsourcers. The real value if the initial hook up of the labor to the organization. There is no reason to behold a "contractor" to a company.

Next year for certain source countries, some big corps will only sponsor male ICT workers where both they and their spouse have marketable skills. Upon arriving in the US, if the spouse doesn't work for half-wages at the sponsoring corp, the sponsored worker will have their job cancelled, resetting their wait for a green card.

Whether you realize it or not, the US competes with many countries for top talent, including Australia, New Zealand and the UK (which have all done more to encourage skilled migration than our country). If this passes, it's a solid step to making us more competitive.

It is ridiculous that they're focusing on spouses of H-1B holders instead of fixing the innumerable flaws and pains embedded in the H-1B process altogether (six year limit, long wait time for a green card, the restriction an H-1B holder is subject to, etc.)

Would not the companies be wary of hiring people on H4 considering their authorization to work depends on their spouses maintaining their H1 status ? There is an inherent risk that the H-1B holding spouse might lose their job.

Maybe, but I'm not sure if it matters. Like the article says, spouses of L-1s are already doing it, same for the spouses of Australian E-3 holders. From wikipedia: "spouses of E-3 visa holders may work in the United States without restrictions". So they can be baristas if they want to :)

they say "for Indian programmers" like there are no other h1b programmers in the US :)

I thought the same thing at first, but then I realized the reason is because this was posted to the section "India Realtime" of the WSJ :)

Anyone knows if this will apply to O visas too?

No, it does not.

This, and a thousand analogous reasons, is why gay marriage matters.

Does this mean that bodyshops like Infy,tcs,WP, get two for the price of one ?

Lets say ole Raj went to some CS diploma mill in Bangalore. Then got a job at some Infy offshore hub where he learned PL/SQL and how to script in SAP land. Next, fell in love with the sexy girl in a nearby cube. After sweating bullets and pleading ( maybe a few cows were traded in the background), the families approved of the love marriage. Next, the husband bags a H1 via Infy to work in the IT dept at Cisco. Sexy hubby gets ez H1 and a job in IT at Marvel. Bingo! They can afford a 2br in Santa Clara. In fact, now the parents can visit for big chunks of time rather comfortably. Meanwhile, Infy has better margins and the American worker has slipped further into the abyss .

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