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H-1B Visas & Skill Bill Abhored by Programmers

There’s been some talk in computer programmer circles (blogs and Dave Farber’s Interesting People list) about the possible passage of the SKIL Bill (Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership – S.2611, along with its companion, HR5744) and what it will do to the high-tech industry. And what amazes me is that it seems like there aren’t any programmers in favor of this bill. Essentially the idea behind the bill is to gradually increase the number of available H-1b visas and continue with current loopholes that allow these workers to be paid below market wages.

The problems that have been recorded are: a) low pay means companies will seek out h-1b staff rather than pay local citizens fair market value, b) companies don’t go to the trouble to get these people green cards because then they’ll leave and go somewhere they can get higher wages, c) this is reducing the incentive for employers and legal residents to go out and become more skilled themselves so they can get jobs here, and d) the people who work here on the visas then return to their home countries and open up competitive enterprises.

Rather than coming across anti-globalization, suggestions have been positive in favor of more green cards to get skilled workers to come here and stay here rather than go back. I’m not sure how that affects people already here, but it does seem to me from what I’ve heard about companies in Silicon Valley and the immigration process that anyone who has a visa who wants to go through the citizenship process to actually become a citizen is having a more difficult time with it than necessary.

Aren’t these the people we want to come here rather than the unskilled workers who sneak across the border and then work illegally without paying taxes, use medical services that we pay for, etc? This is not a rhetorical question – immigration is one of those sticky issues that I’m not well versed in, so I would like to hear other peoples’ thoughts on this subject.


  1. >P.S. My husband says at eBay (where he works), they pay people with H-1b visas the same as anyone else. Nice to know. He says there are other problems with the current situation and disagrees with what I’ve been reading… I’m trying to encourage him to comment here about it. And if anyone has actually read the legislation as it exists, I would like to hear about that too.

  2. >Being an applicant for the H1-b myself i must agree with your husband. The Legislation REQUIRES companies to pay h1-b workers the PREVAILING wage which is estabilished by the deppartment of labor. What this means is that H1-b’s have to be paid more than the AVERAGE pay for an American in the field they are in.

  3. >Companies like Tata are REPLACING American workers with cheaper foreign workers here in the US. That is a fact. This has happened at GE, Citibank, and most recently Nielsen. Tata pays there workers BELOW market rates. Why else are these companies totally outsourcing there IT and other departments. Companies like Microsoft, Oracle, GE and others have been pushing legislation that makes it legal to replace American workers with cheaper foreign workers.