Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tens of thousands of highly skilled workers turned away



As was the case last year, tens of thousands of highly skilled individuals hoping to work in the United States recently learned that they'll be unable to do so. About 163,000 H-1B applications were filed this year, significantly more than the 65,000 cap. Those lucky enough to win the H-1B lottery will be allowed to work in the U.S., but the rest will be turned away.

As for Google, this year we submitted 300 H-1B applications, and we're sorry to report that 90 hopefuls were denied. The yearly H-1B lottery continues to affect our employees and our business, which is why we continue to urge the U.S. government to increase the artificially low cap on these visas.

We realize that many people have strong views on the topic of immigration. Some commenters to our recent post on H-1Bs criticized Google for not hiring more Americans. Although we're committed to hiring outstanding American candidates, Google hires employees based on skills and qualifications, not on nationality. Many times our strongest candidates are Americans; in fact, about nine out of ten of our U.S.-based employees are citizens or permanent residents. But if we're to remain an innovative company -- one that is creating jobs in the U.S. every day -- we also need to hire exceptional candidates who happen to have been born elsewhere. After all, if we were to hire only U.S.-born talent, we would effectively close ourselves off from most of the world's population, and tools like Google News and orkut (both of which were invented by former H-1B visa holders) may have never been developed.

Other commenters suggested that Google should fund education for underprivileged American students, to better prepare American students to fill technical jobs. We agree, and that's why for many years we've supported hundreds of students through our scholarship programs, and we've sought to encourage K-12 students nationwide to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math through partnerships with organizations like Citizen Schools, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, and others. We've also worked to build a diverse workforce, recruiting historically-underrepresented computer scientists and engineers and partnering with external organizations committed to diversifying the fields in which we work.

Google receives more than one million resumes each year, and we don't cut corners on talent. Our employees are our greatest competitive advantage and the single most important ingredient to ensuring our future growth and success. Simply put, restricting Google and other tech companies from employing the best and brightest minds is restrictive to our ability to grow and innovate.

We continue to urge the U.S. government to raise the H-1B cap, to ensure that we and other American companies are able to attract, hire, and retain the world's top talent.

28 comments:

William said...

Your position isn't unreasonable, but it would be more persuasive if you had proposals to deal with the abuse.

Google is famed for treating their employees well, but there are other companies in the area that take shameless advantage of H-1B holders. Until there is some solution for that problem, I personally am not comfortable with an increase in the quota.

Scott Gunsaullus said...

Google's intentions may be earnest but your justifications for H1B hires ignore the basic economics of the issue. H1B employees cost less than their American coworkers. Their education, skill sets and experience cannot be denied but neither can the fact that their standard of living and salary requirements make them the default choice, when compared to a US citizen with a similar resume.

US immigration policy for skilled workers has been stalemated because proponents fail to concede the impact of lower salary requirements and opponents fail to concede the shortage of intellectual capital.

Meanwhile, millions of immigrants work illegally in the US agriculture, building trade and unskilled labor markets. They do so under the consent and encouragement of their US employers. These employers flagrantly break the law for the same reason that the tech companies want their H1Bs, to cut labor costs and raise profits. These workers have no rights or protections under the law, further depressing the cost.

It's the unskilled market that is the real elephant in the room here, with hundreds of billions of dollars at stake annually. Leaders have stonewalled on "reform" and talked tough about crackdowns but employers know that a change either way will increase their labor cost drastically. They want status quo and thats what we have.

If Google wants significant progress on H1B, they'll have to tackle the bigger picture.

Pablo Manriquez said...

I appreciate Google for the great products I get to use for "free", but even Americans who've never heard of Google stand to benefit from a domestically-based corporate juggernaut paying its due taxes. That said, if a foreign applicant is the most-profitable hire at Google, it seems that it'd be best for the country as a whole to let said foreigner in, right?

But regarding abuse, does Google pay their H-1B holders the same as they pay a US Citizen? I can only hope so. If the argument is that Google seeks the "Best applicant for the job", then I'm unequivocally down. If it is that Google seeks the "Cheapest applicant...", then I'm still down, but am very disappointed in Google for not spreading the cheese around evenly.

But re: scott--
What of this shortage in intellectual capital? I heard it mentioned the other day in a Congressional hearing on CSPAN. Why is it that the domestic crop is coming up short?

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

///Google hires employees based on skills and qualifications, not on nationality.M

Who do you think subsidized your founders' education when they were getting their degrees?

Did you company ever get any tax breaks in its early day? Who subsidized you?????

Who were the ones fighting in wars to keep this country a free democracy - so that one of your founders could leave his oppressive homeland and come to a place where he could use their potential.

He decided to come to America - Is this how you treat the county that welcomed him and gave him freedom from oppression and an educational push?????

Thanks for being so concerned about those who gave so much to you when you were a nobody

rhira said...

The title of this post should be: Google advocates for the destruction of tens of thousands of high-wage American jobs. As Google lobbyists well know, the H-1B and L-1 visa programs are being used to speed up the shipment of jobs to low cost countries. The facts are very clear. 8 of the top 10 H-1B recipients are companies that specialize in offshore outsourcing.
And as the U.S. government data make abundantly clear, most H-1B workers are in fact underpaid.

So, Google advocates that the US government destroy tens of thousands additional jobs so that it can get 90 people it wants.

Sounds like a terrible deal for America but a great one for Google shareholders.

What are the Google lobbyists afraid of? Why not address the well-documented loopholes in the H-1B program? Or will they simply claim ignorance of the practice? If they are claiming the latter, then we are supposed to believe they don't read the NY Times, BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

So, Google lobbyists, why not address the real problems with these guestworker visas? Do you think the $millions you spread around DC and with the media through PR campaigns will simply trump an honest dialogue?

Daniel Tunkelang said...

I'd give Google the benefit of the doubt that they aren't underpaying their H-1B workers--even if I take their "don't be evil" motto with a grain of salt.

But I have seen companies that find ways to pay H-1B workers less than their US citizen / permanent resident peers, e.g., by keeping the H1-Bs in junior positions, knowing they can't really afford to quit. There's no denying that this lowers the market value of American workers competing for those positions.

On the other hand, the alternative may be worse: those jobs go overseas, and the US may lose its dominant position in technology.

So, while I think it's important to press for fair treatment, I think we should a) not jump to conclusions about Google running a sweatshop and b) take a broad perspective on the consequences of policy decisions for American workers.

Atif said...

Why not advocate controlling h1b abuse especially by Indian outsourcing companies? This will allow Google to find 90 more visas.

Studies has proven
- U.S. is producing more than enough STEM graduates for jobs available. Any other explanation on why enrollment is dropping in majors like computer science. If job market was good, students would be flocking to them.

- Most h1b visas are granted to ordinary workers. All Phds/advance degree holders can be accommodated if abuse is stopped.


It seems clear Google and other companies are using h1b as government subsidy to control labor costs.

jtee said...

I see, at least anecdotally, that the protectionist sentiment is still going strong in this country. These highly skilled foreign workers are going to work somewhere. As an American, I'd rather have the foreign eggheads working for an American company than competing against them in a foreign firm. The sense of entitlement from many of my fellow citizens is disturbing.

Pablo Manriquez said...

re: search-engines-web
I don't know that I understand your comment, and I don't want to speculate as to your position. Thus, if you would be so kind as to define "you" and "founders", insofar as each term is used in your comment, I think that it would clarify your position so that the rest of us may reply.



re: rhira
"Google advocates for the destruction of tens of thousands of high-wage American jobs..."

No they don't. That would be a PR catastrophe, especially during an election season as intense as this one.

It seems they do, however, advocate getting the 90 people they want -- regardless of the race, creed, age, gender, orientation, or NATIONALITY of those 90 people. This strikes me as a sound 21st century public policy...that if a company is to hire 90 people, said company hire the 90 they want, as long as the 90 people are willing to be hired. Right?

It is interesting, however, that you would mention "well-documented loopholes" and evidence against Google's lobbyists' position in "the NY Times, BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal..." Admittedly, I get most of my news from Politico and YouTube, and haven't caught the articles you reference in your comment. Perhaps if you would post their links here, they might serve to enliven the discussion.



re: daniel
I'm with you there. If Google can't get a few dozen say...Asians into the country to work, would it not eventually make sense for Google to expand its operation in Asia, and thereby exacerbate the problem for the American tech worker in a de facto shipping of jobs overseas?


re: atif
That the US is producing more than enough STEM graduates does not mean that the US is producing the best STEM graduates. Considering the amount of personal information many Google users entrust the company with, it is really in both Google's and the Google user's best interest that Google hire the BEST applicant they can, regardless of where that applicant is from.

That said, perhaps the questions we should be asking are --
1. Why does Google look abroad for prospective employees?
2. What is comparatively unappealing about the domestic crop?
3. What can be done to bridge the "abilities gap" between the domestic and the foreign applicant, if such a gap does indeed exist?

aria said...

If Google seeks to hire more and more foreign workers, why not simply move its entire operation to other countries? Google is not an American company anymore. The problem is not lack of pool of talented engineers; I have personally worked on many projects with American kids and foreigners and our people by far outperform kids with other educational background. Had it been the job created somewhere else, it wouldn't bother me much, but the job assigned here, should stay here for Americans. If the position is placed somewhere overseas, then there is no complain.

Google is patently trying to hide this fact, as likes of Microsoft, by crying foul that American universities and industries are not producing skillful workers. Bottome line for conglomerate companies like Google is required to pay marginally less to the H1B employee, period. The problem with American companies is that they need to hammer it through a competitive business environment; once they have saturated their potential in improving or innovating new products, their next strategy becomes cost saving -- under the guise of "superb" management.

And the products you mentioned, Google News... I mean who reads that unlitigated hogfog? Orkut, utterly disdainful and pars with many other flagitious crappy products out there that merely promote Myspace-Cleavage shots. The whole Google's motto has become to pump more specious API's. Google Map? Has anyone done an editing with it lately? Even MS Live map does a better job in basic functionalities. MS! For crying out loud.

Many years ago, I read a congressional report of 400 pages on such issue and the prospects didn't sound promising. American companies have been marginalizing its own university students and over more than decade and half, it has begun to reveal its ugly face. It's a snowball effect: you take away jobs from the industry, disposition them, more and more college students would no longer consider such fields viable, and even those who do choose these majors, are left with no mentor to pass the torch on. In an essence, companies like Google are killing the much needed innovative force in America. And it pains me because we have so many qualified people that time after time have shown their resiliency yet, they are being viciously depredated.

Bottom line, Google has gone from a refreshing face in the IT industry in its infancy and early millennium to yet another backstabbing MS company in cloak of insubstantionality.

Daniel Tunkelang said...

Folks, if we're going to bash Google here, let's at least stick to criticizing their public policy, rather than their technology.

Pablo: I'm mostly with you, but I think you're also being a bit willfully naive, or perhaps just oversimplifying the argument. The world doesn't offer full freedom of movement to workers, or full freedom of moving capital to employers. Plus different countries have their ups and downs for both workers and employers. So it isn't really true that Google can just ship jobs overseas without other consequences.

In any case, while I believe Google tries to do right by its own employees, not all companies do. And Google, by injecting itself into the public policy debate, does need to consider the implications of that policy beyond the walls of the Googleplex.

Seth Miller said...

I'm not very knowledgeable about this type of thing but I would assume setting up an office in another country would get around the Visa issue.

Just build a satellite office in a country that is very open on immigration and import all the new hires with Visas to that country.

Arkar said...

i guess they already have many your country Google Inc.s :D

sudeep said...

What the protectionist sentiment on this blog ignores is, that anywhere from 30-60% of all STEM graduates from American universities getting a Masters degree or higher, are foreign nationals.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffas.org%2Fsgp%2Fcrs%2Fmisc%2FRL33434.pdf&ei=LY1JSLzWC5ys8ATNqZjNAw&usg=AFQjCNFYDJcvoatbdCxknkZYMkgL0wd1hQ&sig2=hJvI2FdCeZStM4J16P8rjg

These students are not going to vanish from the face of this earth if they are denied H1s/work permits. They will simply go to a place that offers them the best buck for their skills and is reasonably open minded.

This will effectively reduce the jobs that are available to American engineers, perhaps never to be regained again.

Lastly, H1s have been portable for years now, if your employer doesnt pay you enough, you can change your employer. Employers know this too, and offer salaries and benefits that will attract the best employees they can afford.

Admittedly, there may be abuse in the system, but no system is foolproof and the onus of proving that abuse is so widespread, that its overtaken the intent of the original legislation is on the detractors of the system. [And please dont post that cohen grisby video, its about green cards and labor certification applications, nothing to do with H1Bs]

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.

Stop bashing again the H1B program. Urge your House representatives to change the lottery game.

CA said...

RE: H1B workers cost less. Well, I came into the US on a student visa, and know a number of others who did so. And, as with many of us at business school, there were a number of job offers to both foreign and US graduates. I can honestly say that (1) in no cases did I hear of any company that was hiring more than one grad offer less to the foreign student than the US one and (2) for students who got a number of offers, the salary range was pretty consistent given background. In fact, I ended up costing my company more money, because they paid for my H1B and then my green card - something they would not have had to do if I were a US employee. I work in the same sector as Google (although not at Google), and everyone in this industry is in the same boat - we need top people, regardless of where we live. And, by the way, we are hiring - pretty much everyone is hiring - so if you want one of those top jobs going to an American like yourself, then better get out there and apply for them.

CA said...

RE: H1B workers cost less. Well, I came into the US on a student visa, and know a number of others who did so. And, as with many of us at business school, there were a number of job offers to both foreign and US graduates. I can honestly say that (1) in no cases did I hear of any company that was hiring more than one grad offer less to the foreign student than the US one and (2) for students who got a number of offers, the salary range was pretty consistent given background. In fact, I ended up costing my company more money, because they paid for my H1B and then my green card - something they would not have had to do if I were a US employee. I work in the same sector as Google (although not at Google), and everyone in this industry is in the same boat - we need top people, regardless of where we live. And, by the way, we are hiring - pretty much everyone is hiring - so if you want one of those top jobs going to an American like yourself, then better get out there and apply for them.

Weaver said...

Sudeep wrote:

[And please dont post that cohen grisby video, its about green cards and labor certification applications, nothing to do with H1Bs]

The PERM program has a lot to do with H-1B and L-1 visas.

The department of travel data show that of the 140,000 Employment based visas available, only the following numbers were issued at foreign ports.

Employment-Based Preference Total (issued at foreign service ports)
2002 = 39,289
2003 = 29,712
2004 = 28,656
2005 = 21,290
2006 = 15,706

http://travel.state.gov/pdf/FY06AnnualReportTableII.pdf

The employment based preference total for 2006 was 133,623

http://travel.state.gov/pdf/FY06AnnualReportTableVPart1-3.pdf

The data tells us that the majority of PERM applications are for H-1b, L-1, OPT and J-1 workers already in the U.S.

The speaker in the Cohen&Grisby video was explaining that his firm can change the LCA (application) in the case that a qualified American applies for the job.

Wyatt said...

Someone brought up the point of why the workers need to come to the US. Why do they need to be physically located in the US? For years we have been told about the wonders of telecommuting, virtual meetings, collaborative software...So why the relocation?

Not that there will ever be a response, but worth a shot.

Tobias said...

a few facts:
66% of all doctor graduates are foreigners who have to leave the country after they got the degree. only 8% of the 34% permanent american residents actually stay in the united states.

on the other site the number of migrants coming to the united states each year, legally and illegally, grew very rapidly starting in the mid-1990s and is now up to over 1.1 million each year. unskilled workers, of course.

no wonder that almost everything in the united states gets manufactured outside the country if its about quality or high tech. i guess i dont have to name car brands or fashion labels to proof this but it's not only normal customer brands. also weapon manufacturers couldnt build weapons like the cruise missle without the optical sensors from germany or other parts all over the world.

america should learn that there is a whole world outside america that are much more advanced in general, live much healthier and have more quality in average.
america should also learn to act like a first and not look and act like third world country.

adaminnj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Weaver said...

Here is big problem with temporary worker programs.

Employment growth can be defined in terms of year to year growth in the employed labor force. By multiplying the number of guest-worker visa by the duration, we can compare the temporary work authorizations to employment growth.

Initial work authorizations for temporary workers in years.
(Number of visas multiplied by initial duration of visa)

2003 = 810,999 (65% of same year employment growth)
2004 = 908,487 (60% of same year employment growth)
2005 = 897,848 (36% of same year employment growth)
2006 = 991,137 (37% of same year employment growth)
2007 = 1,128,142 (70% of same year employment growth)

Initial work authorizations with single renewal for temporary workers in years.
(Number of visas multiplied by initial duration plus renewal duration of visa)

2003 = 1,425,163 (114% of same year employment growth)
2004 = 1,622,802 (107% of same year employment growth)
2005 = 1,595,185 (64% of same year employment growth)
2006 = 1,710,500 (63% of same year employment growth)
2007 = 1,923,835 (119% of same year employment growth)

http://immigration-weaver.blogspot.com/2008/06/labor-authorizations-in-terms-of-years_08.html

adaminnj said...

The cap was set too high!

There needs to be an initiative by the government to compel companies to train and or educate U.S. citizens for the jobs being filled by foreign nationals on Temp Visas, Os, Hs, Fs, and the much abused J program.

I know that a portion of the processing fees are supposed to be some sort of fund for education.
I tried to track it last year to see how to access it and I ran into dead ends. it looks like some of it goes to schools no strings attached.

There is no need to hire outside of the U.S. The reason Google and M$ are whining about the cap is that they don't want to pay higher U.S. salaries.

For every H-1 employe a company has, there should be some sort of educational scholarship fund that is equal in time to term of employment of each foreign national employed.

The cost of education in the U.S. is higher than any place that the foreign nationals are coming from.

Level the playing field if you want free trade.
Educate the U.S.

blueskyadf said...

I'm mostly with Pablo Manriquez, but I think you're also being a bit willfully naive, or perhaps just oversimplifying the argument. The world doesn't offer full freedom of movement to workers, or full freedom of moving capital to employers. Plus different countries have their ups and downs for both workers and employers.

Michael said...

There is an option for Google's issue of visa caps. The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands (CNMI) is the closest US soil to Asia. The CNMI recently lost its local control of immigration due to concerns stemming from Homeland Security. Although President Bush signed PL 110-229 into law, it contains provisions that provide an exemption for H-1B and H-2B visa caps for the CNMI and Guam beginning June 1, 2009 for a transition period through 2014, and may continually be extended beyond that time.

As it stands, the CNMI maintains local control of immigration through 2009 and has a waiver on visas caps through 2014 (more than likely beyond that time), it falls under the jurisdiction of US law, has adequate infrastructure to support operations, has a generous tax abate program for qualifying businesses, and has the lowest US based tax structure available. Not too many people know about us out here, but it is a definite option to address Google's issue regarding visas. For more on the CNMI's advantages, visit www.commerce.gov.mp.

Larry said...

H1B Abuse by Nielsen Media is a look at the future of the American Job Market.

Nielsen Media in Florida has taken the H1B Visa to an extreme level of abuse, and this tactic will probably be used by many others if the expansion of the program is allowed.

Nielsen Media is replacing higher paid existing American workers with lower paid contractors from their Indian contracting partner. These replacement workers will work in the USA on H1B Visas, after being trained by the American workers that they are replacing.

This tactic will allow for corporate entities to lower wages and therefore the standard of living for ALL Americans. American workers have had level wages for the last decade, and now with efforts to expand the H1B Visa program, the Corporate Infrastructure is working to lower those wages through foreign worker replacements.

I believe that the H1B Visa program has a place in our society to supplement the intellectual inventory of industries, but the way the program works it is now it can be used to destroy the fabric of our middle class working families.

Why should American voters support efforts by multinational corporations to replace (not supplement) American workers with lower paid H1B Visa workers. The Nielsen Media efforts should be condemned by those who support the program.

The program needs to have loopholes fixed before it is expanded.

Joy said...

I really can't understand US govt views in terms of visa. US govt had and has DV1 lottery type of visa opportunity, where i have seen from my country, Bangladesh, lots of very very low skilled guys were able to enter USA, whereas, lots of high skilled couldn't..now the funny 'lottery' thing came for h1-b as well, the most funniest joke around the world..now USA is going to get less "high skilled talent", as we as more "low skilled talent", possibly. Its bad for USA eventually, as high skill talents will find their way in other countries, but day by day, USA will have a big amount of junks form international resource...my opinion is the quota (fixed number of visa) thing for skilled guys should definitely be removed as well as the lottery, so that companies like Google, Microsoft can pick more and more talents from the world, as well as mid range companies can expand themselves.

Nicholas said...

The US immigration system for highly skilled immigrants is severely messed up. If you hold an advanced degree (a MSc or a PhD), even if from a US university, you should seriously look into opportunities in other countries.

With US, you will be facing years of uncertainty, stress, and reduced quality of life due to the immigration laws that do not directly favor skill and talent. There will also be the ever-present possibility that you might be forced to permanently leave the country on a short notice. Do you think starting a family, making friends, and building yourself a new life in US is a good idea under such conditions?

On top of that, US public opinion has somewhat shifted recently, and it is now even less favorable to letting highly skilled foreigners enter the US work force - as many posts on this blog attest. There have been abuses of the H1B program which the US government and congress have been unable to fix, resulting in a lottery-based system that ignores the skills of a particular candidate. Also, the unskilled illegal immigration plays an important role in blocking legal highly skilled immigration. Illegals immigrants are many and loud, while skilled legal immigrants are few and virtually powerless when it comes to their immigration rights. It is a big interconnected conundrum that US will have a very hard time resolving - and it doesn't appear any solutions are coming any time soon.

You might be better off just staying away from all of this. If you have the skills, employers in other countries (Canada, EU, etc.) will recognize them. Many of these employers can offer a quality of life comparable to the one in US. Give it a shot.