Agents at the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services — formerly the INS, and still la migra — believe that 13 percent of H-1B visa petitions sponsored by companies are fraudulent. Big companies like Microsoft and Google are pushing for more visas because they say America just lacks competent tech workers. Worker-rights groups complain that foreign workers create wage depression and mistreatment. Who's right? When your employer has layoffs, watch to see who gets the axe. [BusinessWeek]
Bless their little hearts, TechCrunch50 organizers Jason Calacanis and Michael Arrington have had someone sing the national anthem to kick off each day of their startup demonstration conference. Even we here at Valleywag, who will presumably believe anything, couldn't believe this. Marxists, Objectivists and Kurt Vonnegut can all agree: drawing national boundaries and exciting nationalist sentiment through propaganda was so last century. And to have Arrington's former paramour Meghan Asha try to hit that high note in a room full of pitch-perfect math geeks, as pictured here? Deadly.
Operating-system monopolist Microsoft maintains a campus and a number of satellite offices here in the Valley, and competes voraciously with other local companies for talent from around the world. So what, exactly, do they pay foreign workers? One of the ways the company makes good on regulatory promises is by posting job listings internally. It's part of the government's PERM process to certify immigrants for H-1B and permanent-residency eligibility; companies must first show that they tried and failed to find local workers for the job. The listings provide a peek into the current going rate for different positions, from technical writer to program manager.
The U.S. Department of Labor and law firm Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen & Loewy, which represents clients such as IBM on immigration issues, are in a legal tussle. The department is conducting an audit of Fragomen's practices in helping clients disqualify American applicants — a necessary step before employers can obtain H-1B visas for foreign workers. Now Fragomen has fired back with a lawsuit that calls the Labor Department's rules restricting lawyers' activities unconstitutional. How do lawyers work to make sure no citizen applicant could possibly qualify?In the video above from last year, attorneys from law firm Cohen & Grigsby detailed how the firm suggests a minimum of job opening ads are placed in markets where it's unlikely a qualified applicant will apply, so few are received. The firm also provides the company with a checklist which the employer can use to quickly process — and reject — any applications it may receive so that the company can permanently certify the foreign national. If a citizen passes that test, there are further tricks to making sure something arises from the interview process that disqualifies them. Disqualifying Americans also works in the favor of companies overall, since it allows them numbers to cite when complaining about the need to raise immigration quotas and expedite the process. Fragomen is citing the First Amendment and due process in arguing that it should be allowed to offer counsel to employers. Meanwhile, up to 3,000 applications are on hold pending the investigation.
Never mind that it rejected over a million other hopefuls last year: Google is really steamed that only 210 of its 300 work-visa hopefuls won the H-1B lottery. And Google lobbyist Pablo Chavez has also had it up to here with critics who say Google isn't doing enough for Americans and underprivileged U.S. students, insisting that Google has a diverse workforce and may even have some non-offshored money for black and Hispanic students — once they've proven their worth by completing two years of a computer-science or computer-engineering major on their own with a 3.5+ GPA — this at a time when budgets are down across the board for academic computer-science programs.
Lori Melton is an attorney at the Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen & Loewy law firm, a specialist in "corporate immigration" — that is, obtaining H1-B visas for workers. She's scheduled to share her expertise today on the "Evaluation & Disqualification of U.S. Workers," a $199 seminar led by a liaison to the Dept. of Homeland Security. Think she'll show? On Monday, the U.S. Dept. of Labor announced it has begun auditing all permanent labor certification applications filed by attorneys at Fragomen, the "Corporate Immigration Law Firm of the Year," for improper attorney involvement in the consideration of U.S. worker applicants.
Google salary figures are hard to come by, but the search giant does have to report proposed wages to the government for its H-1B hires — workers granted visa for supposedly special talents — as well as prevailing wages for those positions. A rudimentary analysis of Google's California H-1B data for the last three years suggests that Google may be paying more than a 20 percent premium over what it reports are prevailing wages. According to Labor Condition Application data, the average annual wage proposed by Google for H1-B hires in 2007 was $96,876, compared to an average prevailing wage of $79,777. Which leads to one of those have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-type-questions: Is Google actually paying H1-B employees 20 percent more than they're worth, or is the company understating prevailing wage rates for the positions it fills with H-1B hires?
Give us more H-1B visas and we'll give you innovative products. That's the pitch Google exec Laszlo Bock made to Congress as he decried the H-1B visa cap. Projects like also-ran social network Orkut, which was created (or stolen, depending on who you ask) by H-1B hire Orkut Buyukkokten (pictured, right) represent a boon to the U.S. economy, added Google lobbyist Pablo Chavez as he echoed Block's plea for more visas.
Last week, iGate Mastech was fined $45,000 for placing 30 online job listings in the spring of 2006 with the condition that only H-1B visa holders need apply. The company helps foreign workers obtain a visa (often for a fee), and then contracts out their labor to companies at a tidy profit. The contracting company doesn't have to worry about dealing with immigration authorities, paying health benefits and can lay the worker off without cause or severance — often resulting in a revoked visa and possible deportation if the worker can't find new employment quickly enough. As our tipster points out, iGate Mastech VP of immigration and compliance Tripti Noorani has successfully processed 20,000 H-1B visas for iGate Mastech employees since 1990. Maybe the company was just trying to help H-1B holders currently in the country stay in the country?
the relaxation of H-1B immigration quotas as an "innovation" issue, not the exploitation of a global labor market to depress wages, claims UC Davis computer science professor Norman Matloff. He attempts to present a quantitative case to demonstrate that foreign skilled-worker visas don't go to genius inventors but to average, entry-level employees, in a paper for the Center for Immigration Studies. But his methodology is flawed, and a racial undercurrent bubbles beneath the surface of his argument.
Score one for Lord Balaji, known to some Indian Hindus as the "Visa God." The Department of Homeland Security changed its rules Friday so as to allow U.S. businesses to employ foreigners for up to 29 months before they must obtain an H-1B visa. Previously, the limit had been 12 months — and the DHS used "emergency" provisions to avoid public review of the change. The foreigners must be students who attended American schools and earned a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, employed in their field of study. Either that or they have to supermodels, reports the WSJ. Because who said the huddled masses can't look like the Indian/Irish/French Saira Mohan?
Laszlo Bock, Google's vice president for
Caucasian affairs people operations, didn't make a great impression on Congress when he lobbied for more H-1B visas last summer. Representative Maxine Waters asked Bock how many black employees Google had, and Bock proved curiously short of numbers. But Google has since acquired a token clue. Paul Brathwaite, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, now works for the Podesta Group — and has registered to lobby for Google on immigration issues, as the following Senate registration shows:
It's no secret Google has painfully few black employees. Why lie about it? Laszlo Bock, Google's exceedingly Caucasian vice president of people operations, assured members of Congress last June that Google, which was lobbying for more H1-B visas for immigrant workers, had plenty of black employees. "We have a very strong internal Black Googler Network," he said. "We actually view it as our obligation to reach out to underrepresented communities in our industry, particularly women in engineering, particularly African-Americans. "How many [of Google's employees] are African-American?" asked Representative Maxine Waters.
Is former eBay CEO Meg Whitman impacting John McCain's immigration policy? Currently, the U.S. government refuses to raise the cap on H-1Bs, the visas which allow foreign engineers to work at American companies. This despite the fact that By 2010, Asians will account for 90 percent of the world's engineers. In this clip McCain says he'll fix that problem. Though not without due concern for the terrorists, of course.
A correspondent writes to remind Valleywag that new applications for H-1B specialty worker visas will be accepted starting April 1. Management loves immigrant workers who are often cheaper and less prone to sassback. Meanwhile, homegrown developers and engineers see wage competition and job loss, and can get downright xenophobic. Immigrants catch it in the wash and the rinse, facing the prospect of abusive bosses and prejudiced coworkers. Immigration officials will penalize employers trying to game the lottery by submitting multiple applications for the same candidate, while two bills are up in Congress to double or triple the current quota of 65,000.
Indian tech services firm Patni Computer Systems was ordered to pay $2.4 million in back wages to 607 workers in the U.S. on H-1B visas after a widespread underpayment of wages was discovered. Vishal Goel, a worker, profiled by BusinessWeek, is suing Patni, saying he was paid half what he was promised when he signed up. The company threatened to brand him a "troublemaker" and said his parents in India would be harassed unless he kept quiet. How does this affect Americans? H1-B employees are required to be paid the "prevailing wage" for their job position to prevent salaries from being depressed. Instead of the $44,000 wage which was common for his position, Goel was paid $35,000 — and that only after 552 hours of overtime.