Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Raise the cap on H-1B visas

Today marks the annual deadline for employers to submit their H-1B visa applications for 2009. Last year, more than 150,000 applications were submitted in just two days, more than twice the annual limit of 65,000, and many are predicting a similar deluge this year. Unfortunately, due to the artificially low cap on these visas, tens of thousands of highly skilled workers hoping to contribute to the American economy are once again likely to be sent home to work outside of the U.S.

As a technology company, Google's success depends on its ability to attract, hire, and retain the best and brightest wherever they come from. But because of limits on H-1Bs, we are regularly unable to pursue highly qualified foreign-born candidates. Last year, 248 of our visa applications were accepted, but 70 were rejected -- more than 1 in 5 of our total. That's 70 potential U.S. employees who would be creating innovative new Google products, paying taxes, contributing to the U.S. economy, and spurring the creation of additional support jobs at Google.

This year, Google will submit H-1B applications for about 300 potential employees, mostly recent college or graduate school graduates. We know that those employees could have a major impact on Google's future ability to innovate on behalf of our users. From developing products like Google News, Google Maps, and orkut, to managing our business and global marketing operations, highly skilled foreign workers have played -- and continue to play -- a vital role at Google. That's why Laszlo Bock, our Vice President for People Operations, testified on this issue before Congress last spring, and why, as a member of Compete America, we've urged Congress to increase the annual cap.

Several Members of Congress understand that the H-1B cap must be raised if the United States hopes to maintain its status as the world's high-tech leader. Recently Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) introduced legislation that would effectively double the cap in the near-term, and in early March Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) proposed tripling it. And we know that other members of Congress are highly supportive of addressing the H-1B problem as well.

We welcome Congress' work on this issue, and we continue to urge Congress to raise the cap to reflect the growth rate of our technology-driven economy. If Google and other American companies are unable to hire and employ in the U.S. the world's top scientists, mathematicians, and engineers -- many of whom are already here studying at an American university -- foreign competitors will and we will lose opportunities to create more jobs and innovate here at home. As the San Jose Mercury News put it, "we shouldn't close the doors to the Andy Groves and [Sergey] Brins of the future."


Scott Gunsaullus said...

I don't think that immigration controls are the solution to our problems. However, my advice to Google is to hire fewer foreign nationals and more United States citizens.

Wyatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wyatt said...

"Several Members of Congress understand that the H-1B cap must be raised if the United States hopes to maintain its status as the world's high-tech leader. Recently Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) introduced legislation that would effectively double the cap in the near-term, and in early March Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) proposed tripling it. And we know that other members of Congress are highly supportive of addressing the H-1B problem as well.

Importing workers for high-tech jobs pretty much dispels the idea that America is the high-tech leader. Agreed?

Jerry said...

I struggle with this. We claim there isn't enough talent in the country to support the needs of our companies so we bring in enough H1-B talent to solve and immediate problem and at the same time - reduce the wages of IT talent. Very soon after we say we need to do it again because there are even less Americans to choose from because college graduates are having a harder time competing with the lower wage H1-B.

It may seem like a great deal now but just wait until one of these countries goes postal on itself or gets ticked off at us for something and we don't have any local skills to fix mommy's internet.

Soma said...

Unfortunately, companies like Google tend to hire based on qualifications, not nationality.

If Google were to hire only American nationals in order to make it more American, not only would it lose potential for growth and the ability to maintain its position as a leader in internet searching and software (among others) but it would also be discriminatory and thereby unethical. In the spirit of a market economy, let the most qualified applicant get the job, regardless of origin.

Daniel said...

How about this: for every ten H-1B visas a company sponsors, it must also pay the tuition for one bachelor's degree, to be given to a U.S. citizen, in the field they claim is short of American workers. There are plenty of young American citizens completely barred from participating in our field because they cannot afford to go to college. If we are truly short of software engineers, then we should educate and train Americans. I have nothing against H-1B visas in principle. But we must also address the economic disparities that lead to our having a shortage of qualified engineers in the first place.

http://search-engines-web.com/ said...

The priority should be training AMERICANS who live here and have paid taxes all their lives and who will have to fight the wars if they get drafted....

with Outsourcing becoming so popular, it is not necessary to bring more tech workers in the USA

There are many Americans who are trying desperately to save enough to go to college - lets make it easy for THEM as a first priority -

Once they get access to the education they need, you wont have to worry about bringing others into the country.

Also, the USA could make it easier to train adults currently in the workforce by offering to subsidize their education.

Some people work hard and have to live from paycheck to paycheck - they certainly do not have the funds to pay for additional education

There is nothing wrong with being politically correct - but Google, just remember you got started on AMERICAN SOIL

Your founders were educated here and probably had THEIR education subsidized by the taxpayers!!!!

Bailey Hankins said...

"Unfortunately, companies like Google tend to hire based on qualifications, not nationality."

No, I'm afraid this is a lie. I have interviewed at both Google and Microsoft, and they both hire based on cheap labor.

Before you start screaming that I am bitter, let me say that both companies made me offers. Both offers were very substantially less than I currently make as a software developer.

The absolute bottom line truth is that all big corporations want an endless flood of foreigners to reduce labor costs. I was qualified. I simply couldn't afford the pay cut.

Microsoft plan to build in Canada to get around the American visa cap, and I'm sure Google will do the same if the politicians don't open the flood gates and allow them to take advantage of cheap labor.

"Supply and demand" has become a joke in "capitalist" America, because while the American consumer is severely restricted, obstructed, and handicapped by tariffs when it comes to buying foreign good and using foreign services, big American corporations no longer employ Americans unless absolutely necessary.

No, my foreign friends, don't flatter yourselves, think you are better, smarter, etc... If you are so smart, why don't you start up a Google in your own country?

You are here to lower wages, nothing more. My experiences are definitive proof. It is all about money, nothing else. Every penny big corporations don't pay to employees goes into the corporate coffers.

Big corporations like Google and Microsoft, with billions and billions of dollars, could easily pay more than the average employer -- but they pay less. Then they cry to the government that they can't find American workers.


ayan said...

"No, my foreign friends, don't flatter yourselves, think you are better, smarter, etc... If you are so smart, why don't you start up a Google in your own country?"

- How can you be so sure?Have you gone through all the companies that have come up outside US? Adventnet is one company that immediately comes to mind. Its driving out all competition by undercutting the price for their software by a margin of 50$ per user.

You are here to lower wages, nothing more. My experiences are definitive proof.

- Please do share your experiences in more detail.

Big corporations like Google and Microsoft, with billions and billions of dollars, could easily pay more than the average employer

- What data do you have to support this claim?

Texas Instruments just shut down their development on microchips in Dallas this year and in turn will be sending it to Taiwan. The trend is pretty clear. At 5% enrollement in engineering ( this was 2 years back ) , the talent is seriously lacking and if they cannot find the manpower they will have to move out to somewhere where they will.

G said...

Given the somewhat hostile climate to immigration in the United States, I can't see this problem resolving itself any time soon. That in mind, why not take a page from the Microsoft playbook and set up a research center in Western Canada in order to hire foreign workers? That would almost certainly lead to a nearly 100% visa acceptance rate. The ancillary cost benefits would probably make this even more attractive as a proposal...

Arpit Guglani said...

first of all - way to go google!

I was one of the people hit multiple times with this whole h1b mess.
It was bad enough for Bill Gates to make an example of me in his testimony to the US Congress:


for all you "Americans first" people. what if the person hired on an H1B initially takes up American citizenship and becomes an "American"? - this is exactly the path a majority of hires by Google, Microsoft etc plan to follow.

Also, how do you expect to restrict your hiring pool to some 4% of the worlds population and expect to have the "best and the brightest" work for you?

those talking about "cheap labour" - this is only a problem because h1b workers are currently tied to their companies (if they ever hope to get a greencard). people on an h1b are from another country - they are not stupid! they dont *want* to earn less! if they have freedom of movement then they will jump to a company that offers them a fair deal at the first available opportunity!

(btw as someone who got an offer from MS, and has friends in the US who got offers, I can categorically state that my offer was in the same ballpark as many of my American friends)

meh.. too much ranting.. (read my blog if you want more :p)

meanwhile.. way to go google! :)

Daniel said...


I sincerely hope that any engineer or researcher who wants to be an American citizen should be able to achieve that goal within about four years of working here. The absolute worse are cases of visa holders who come here just for a few years experience and go back to India, as one recent example in my experience. But I also want the United States to possess universal education as well as health care. The dialog written down by this VP was biased and blind to the problems of their own employees that I was actually astounded to read it. I honestly think they thought it was normal to say something like that when so many of us are suffering without adequate health care, losing our homes, and crushed under massive student loan debt just so we can compete for jobs that find a way to glut by going to Congress and making up these stories. So I mentioned, sure, if they want to flood the labor supply because "they can't find enough talented engineers" (which is bs in my opinion both as an engineer and an academic), then they should actually do something about it and start funding educations for our brightest underpriveledged students. It would be hard to argue against that. For every ten visas, they pay for one bachelor of science degree in the field and specialty they say is short. It would even improve public opinion of these VPs. But it seems, as usual, they really only care about driving down salaries and not wanting to actually compete for the best American engineers (and there are none better that us, perhaps equal with Europe, but certainly none better).

The thing about this article that really depressed me was that I like Google very much. Much of my academics falls into subfields in which they find ways to make an inordinate amount of money and add value to peoples' lives at the same time. I am not naive but it saddened me read this blog entry to remind me that the Google BoD and executive officers are solely interested in profit even if it means driving down wages, thus reducing quality of life for the very people who made them great. I guess it depend upon your definition of 'evil'.

To the people who posted who are clearly xenophobic, or worse, it does not help any of us to talk about visa holders like that. They are human beings who want the same chances at middle class life as the rest of us. Just because we have to compete with them to keep them out so that our quality of life does not continue to slide, does not mean we need to hate them.

Ernesto said...

Well, the AMERICAN need to study harder a be smarter, because genius can be born on whatever place of the WORLD, not only in the US. Think about it!!!

tech said...

Fewer American kids prefer studying technology than kids in other countries. This, combined with the high standards of living in the US and the subsequent high demands from professionals make American employees "high maintenance". The solution is ironically to provide even more incentives for people to work in the technology fields (as if having a Silicon Valley or a Redmond was not enough).

If it becomes difficult to do well despite such professional encouragement, there is no choice but to invite people from other nations to work in the USA, to outsource work to other countries, or to diversify into businesses which many Americans hold expertise in. In either scenario, business agility is a key to continue to make profits.

ramesh said...

I can tell you something based on my experience being in the country for the past 8 years and someone who has spend at least 3 years in college in the United States.
My experience/observation on how things are:
1. Go to any school to see the number of students graduating in engineering--very few compared to the demand of engineers.
2. Being on H1-B, my pay is in the same ball park as my American friends.
3. A Lot of engineers who are on H1-B go to school in the united states for their masters.

Those are some of my observations.

To the point of American companies hiring Americans.

American economy is based on capitalism. The companies are always going to look for cheaper labor and higher profits within the framework of the law. If people are going to complain about corporations hiring cheap labor--then change the law. Change the legislature.Do not blame foreigners like me for getting hired by american companies. Do not carry the slogan of free markets or capitalism.

If the citizens in the country are that concerned about it--bring in some new laws.For companies hiring foreign workers:
1.Remove tax cuts for companies outsourcing.
2.make companies pay for a fund which goes into scholarship for engineering education.
3.Transfer the social security tax collected from foreign workers who leave the country and not live here any more.

If citizens in this country become xenophobic then it will only drag America down to the gutter than bring positive things. Immigrants have always brought positive things to this country.

Goto www.dice.com. Check out the number of jobs out there. As an American if you see a job posting for lets say SAP consultant, would you learn SAP in the next 6 months and give it a shot? I doubt it in my opinion. But, people from other countries might work hard learning and training in new technologies with their own money and try to get that job.

My point is- do not blame foreign students,workers for the opportunities this country gives.
And also take some responsibility onto yourself-do not wait for a company/govt to give you subsidy for training etc. Invest in yourself for a better future.
Take a loan. Not all foreign students/workers are rich. Quite a lot of them do not have the opportunities as citizens of this country have.Cheaper loans, scholarships etc.

Some of my thoughts on H1-B. And one last thing.
If a foreign worker is hired by an American company and wants to get a green card/citizenship, he has to be tied to the company for at least 4 years with the possibility of layoffs,no growth etc.

The foreign worker can only do one job.
If he loses the job he has to leave the country right away.
If he leaves the country, all the social security tax he pays is gone-pretty much donated.

It is not always pretty to being a foreign worker in the united states.

Drools said...

I must say, this is a great discussion. I'd simply like to add this...

Free Market Capitalism doesn't care if you are American, Indian, Chinese, or from Mars. There are specific rules that determine a corporation's decisions--primarily profit motive. Do not claim that you are a capitalist of this sort, extolling capitalism's virtues all the while, and then complain when the rules work against you. FMC's only interest is the bottom line. If you, the American worker, pose too expensive an option, then why is it such a surprise when you are ousted? Perhaps you're not such a big fan of capitalism after all? Or at least the free market variety. Besides, aren't most Americans large proponents of competition? I suppose if you really want those jobs, then you will have to comport yourselves in a manner that will most likely result in your hiring. Reduce your standard of living so that you can live on similar wages that your competition does. Wave good-bye to your $50,000 cars, ATVs, multi-television festooned five bedroom houses, and $5 lattes. The farcical American dream isn't dead, but just on a diet it seems.

Srinivas said...

I agree with a lot of what Ramesh is saying. However the gripe is that H-1b workers are being worked for a pittance by so called sweat shops (you can read my manager's nightmare caused by NRISoft at their website nrisoft.com , blog)
I used to work hard for one of the largest consulting companies, where I was paid a mere $36,000 while the company was billing me at $79/hr or $160,000 per year. My new company NRI soft, calling itself "the un-sweatshop" is attracting good h-1b workers and paying them up to 92% of billing. My new pay has jumped from a mere 36000 per year to and whopping $144,000 per year.
Real solution to the problem is companies like NRIsoft to come forward and help these H-1b visa holders and put an end to the big sweatshops who are raking in billions.
H-1b workers are the victim and not the enemy.

Daniel said...

Re: what Srinivas was saying:

How to support Hunger Strike of Indian Migrant Workers

Srinivas said...

thank you Daniel, I will request my company to post the link on their website at http://www.nrisoft.com

we need to help h1b visa holders. They currently have little or no representation.

Daniel said...

Srinivas, I don't want to let my secret identity out too much.. But just be warned that this campaign is organized by a group that falls under the umbrella of democratic socialism. Unlike other regions (like Europe for instance), association with this ideal elicits some pretty negative behavior from the very people who's xenophobia you are worried about.

Ran said...

The real problem is DHS/USCIS does not do their best to stop abusing the H1B program. Ordinary foreign-born nationals get these visa numbers while talents lose. They use lottery to solve the problem of H1B subscription but staffing firms have hundreds of ways to beat Google in this lottery game.

There is only one way to satisfy both unemployed/underpaid US citizens and understaffed companies like Google. This solution is as old as the lottery and is widely used in stock markets, auctions, and many other places. Yes, I am proposing the bidding system. Employers who pay the highest salary get the most valuable employees. Cheap labors will no longer stand any chance to steal US jobs from US citizens. Earnest companies like Google will be able to retain their most valuable asserts by simply increasing their bids.

So, if you're a US citizen who take s it serous, please just urge your House representatives to change the rule of the H1B game. All else is nonsense.

Daniel said...

Indeed Ran. Let's make this an even playing field and compete on education and skill. A lot of Americans are uneducated because of a system that cares little for them. But there are plenty of us who are well-educated, well-trained, and experienced. I would go toe-to-toe against any comparable software engineer in my areas of expertise. But this is not what Google wants. They want to crush labor prices down which both screws us Americans and exploits the foreigners trying to make a better life for themselves.

Daniel said...

Also, I am sitting on a lot of graduate education focused on computational linguistics. Talk about outsourcing. There are people overseas willing to pay a lot of money for n-gram generators that can beat Google's Bayesian filter even a little better. I am not saying I can do it, or would do it. But I don't think it is impossible. And these guys pay more than Google.

JB said...

Regarding Arpit's claim that his offer from microsoft was comparable to those of his american classmates: that is exactly the point. The availability of H1B applicants lowers wages for all, since the H1B applicants do not have the option to change sponsors without difficulty, the level of their wages is significantly un-free, as in "free market". The lowering of wages and continual news of reduced job prospects discourages local talent from choosing the field, further exacerbating the alleged problem.

The answer to this is clear, free H1B employees from the indentured-servant aspect by allowing them to take their H1B visas with them and freely movw to another job. This would force employers to pay comparable wages for comparable skills.

I suspect this would make them much less attractive as grunt labor in the software industry.

Myc said...

I got a project through Myconsoft last month and they filed for my H1b Petition last month, My H1b transfer through myconsoft is still pending, I am paid for last month even though I do not have an approval. Myconsoft has a great attorney which presents my case very effectively.

How much time it's going to take for my GC, Can I apply my GC through myconsoft even though my H1b is not approved yet.