Large companies are starting to hog the H-1B visas that are given to highly-skilled foreign workers in order to bring talent to the United States. With only a limited number of work visas that can be given out, lotteries are often used to determine which companies can hand out the work visas. While small startups might only have one entry in the lottery, massive corporations will enter thousands of times, giving them a major advantage. These corporations are then able to outsource jobs to foreigners in order to save money.
Despite the promise that the H-1B program would help employers obtain workers with highly-desirable skillsets, the program is often failing in that regard. Instead, large outsourcing companies are dominating the program, obtaining tens of thousands of work visas for foreigners. Currently, the United States limits the number of H-1B work visas to 85,000 per year.
Outsourcing companies know the rules of the program, which gives them a major edge. The application window opens on April 1st of every year, and they swamp the program with thousands upon thousands of applications. Often, the companies don’t even know who exactly they will hire yet. They just want the potential to make hires. The smaller firms who maybe just want one to two foreign employees who they have already identified are out of luck.
Professor at Howard University Ronil Hira said, “The H-1B program is critical as a way for employers to fill skill gaps and for really talented people to come to the United States. But the outsourcing companies are squeezing out legitimate users of the program. The H-1Bs are actually pushing jobs offshore.”
Meanwhile, the program is also causing problems for Americans. Many American workers have said that they have been replaced by foreigners or that their jobs have been relocated overseas.
According to research conducted by Professor Hira, 13 of the 20 companies that received the most H-1B visas last year are nothing more than global outsourcing companies. Additionally, the top 20 companies on the list represented 40% of the visas that were given. As for smaller companies, they hardly received any visas, and they were often rejected entirely because the quota had already been reached.
When a company’s request for H-1B gets denied, they often have to move jobs to other countries. Some companies aren’t using the program to save money, but rather they need a very specific worker who speaks a certain language and has a confirmed skill set. When the company cannot find such a worker in America and their request for H-1B is turned down, they often have no choice but to move jobs abroad.
As for the companies that game the system and know the rules, they have no problems obtaining such visas. They outsource jobs to places like India all the time.
Lawyer Bruce Morrison said, “They have spent a lot of time and money creating a business model that fits within the rules so they can use the visas to offer cheaper labor.”
Making matters worse is that the practice is continuing to increase in popularity. This year, more than 233,000 visa applications were received during the week of April 1. Even with their quick applications, about two-thirds of these requests were denied since the maximum number of visas had already been handed out. Meanwhile, immigration officials are in denial about large corporations abusing the system.
Spokesperson for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Shinichi Inouye said, “The selection process is completely random. We cannot speculate as to why one company has more petitions selected in the cap.”
Many large companies want to expand the program. Large corporations like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM have urged Congress to increase the annual limit. They say that the current limit is not in favor of their business models. However, Congress is fearful that further increasing the limit will take more jobs away from Americans.
Basically, the program needs some adjustments. Currently, large corporations are blatantly taking advantage of the rules at the expense of small startups. And American workers are also being taken advantage of because their jobs are being outsourced. The program has good intentions, but it’s clear that it just hasn’t worked out the way that lawmakers originally imagined.