Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Migration: you can't stop it - II

American Consular Officer: "How do we know you'll come back to India?"

Student: "Sir, my roots are here - my family, my property, my business... I want to study in America, but I will come back and put my education to good use."

Hundreds and thousands of Indian students have given this earnest answer at their visa interview. A significant number never return. You have to wonder - why bother to ask? Because the idea of America, to a large extent, is to attract the brightest and the best from around the world.

But I guess can't give out the impression yahan visa party chal rahi hai -'everyone's invited'. We don't really want your tired, huddled and poor. That's so last century.

So both sides play out the charade but the visa officer knows there's a 95% chance the guy on full scholarship to Stanford is unlikely to return anytime soon. That in a couple of years his parents will be applying for 10 year multiple entry visas instead.

The H 1 B tangle
Of course, getting a job after a Bachelor's, or Master's in the US is apparently not a cakewalk. An employer needs to prove there is no American citizen or permanent resident skilled for enough to take on that particular job, in order to sponsor your visa. The company must want you pretty badly to go to that much trouble.

With Indian IT companies cornering more and more H1B visas in recent years, things seem to be getting tougher.

Businessweek reports: When Abhishek Sehgal came to the U.S. to pursue an MBA at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, he expected to get some work experience in the country. But the second-year MBA student from India didn't anticipate it would be so difficult to get a visa to work after graduation.

Citigroup (C), the 28-year-old's future employer, submitted his H-1B visa application on Apr. 2, the first day petitions were accepted. But the pool of applicants was already oversubscribed, and Sehgal's application wasn't chosen in a random computer selection.


Abhishek has a few options. After completing his degree requirements, he can try his luck in a visa pool for candidates with Master's degrees. That's 20,000 visas above and beyond the H1B - for students who've completed advanced degrees in the US. Citi could also take him for a one-year "practical training" under his student visa and he can reapply for an H1B next year.

Sehgal is one of many international MBA candidates who's caught in a visa bind. With only 65,000 H-1B visas available for professional-level workers across all sectors for the 2008 fiscal year, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services received 123,480 eligible applications on Apr. 2 and Apr. 3. After a computer lottery, about half the applicants were rejected.

The H1 B issue also affects another student group- the ones who've studied in India but secured the much hyped 'foreign placement'.

So even as the papers went gaga over the Lime group picking up IIT grads for $90,000 a year, the reality is that some of those who got the job never made it to New York. They did not get an H1 B visa.

Says one affected student: "Microsoft hired for US positions (at IIT) and then almost simply dropped their new hires because of the H1b mess (did not even give India positions), Merril Lynch took people to UK, same with Deutsche Bank, Capital One kept few people in India and moved rest to England and Canada.

LimeWire opened an India office. This year also many companies are in trouble including Bloomberg".

Not that working in India or Europe isn't a good experience. But the free flow of labour - at both lower and higher end of the job spectrum - remains more of a dream than tangible reality.

The Change Ahead
But thinking Americans are worried - talent migrating elsewhere to work and study may affect the land built on Immigrant Energy in the long run. Reforms are now being considered.

A new proposal - the Skilled Worker Immigration and Fairness Act - introduced by Senators Chuck Hagel (Republican) and Joseph Lieberman (Democrat). This act seeks to raise the existing cap on H1B visas to 115,000 and go upto 180,000 in years to come.

More importantly, the proposal seeks to allow a limitless number of H1B visas and green cards for foreigners with master's degrees or higher in any field from an American university. Or for anyone with such credentials in maths, science, technology or engineering from abroad.

This news was gleefully highlighted on page one of the Times of India late last week. They may as well have headlined it 'Chalo America'! Aapka bachpan ka sapna ab poora ho sakta hai.

Will the bill actually get passed? I am doubtful.

Because however attractive the proposal may be to industry and acadmia, there is a strong possibility of a backlash from the average American. When you let more immigrants in - using the 'talent' argument - there is a natural fear that 'my job could be at risk'.

The new guys may not be attractive only for their skills...

A December 2005 study by the Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS) found that 85% of those working in the US on H1B visas get paid less than US workers in the same occupation and state. $13,000 less, on average. This is against the law.

The study found that 36% of all H1B visas were issued to Indians, and occupation wise computer professionals dominate (25% of visas).

Based on this report, 9 Indian companies have been asked to provide details of how they use the H1 B. As Shubham Singhal notes in his blog, there is definitely some gochi. He writes:

Last year Infosys requested 22,590 H1b visas. Infosys has a total strength of around 70,000. Is it sending more than 25% of its employees overseas? I don't think so.

Moreover Infosys generally sends people overseas who stick with the company for sometime and hence L1 visa is suited for them. Then why do they want H1b?s? Plus let me add that they also have H1b visa holders from previous years. Have all these people left? I think this is just a pure misuse of the visa program.


Now, one may argue, as Basab Pradhan does, that for IT companies whose revenues come chiefly from the US, H1-B visas are like 'raw material'. "If they don’t have them they can’t start projects and this impacts revenue immediately"

Anil comments, in response: Wipro are trying to retain staff. I just came to know from an insider that Wipro has filed H1 B visas for all their employees in a particular practice (for which the count runs in hundreds) for a specific project even though the requirement is only for 2 persons. And those 2 persons are already in US under L1.

Cynical but could be true, because the chief carrot for IT staffers remains "foreign jaane ko milega".

There's so much desperation in this community for H1Bs that a desi consultants racket has apparently sprung up. Brijesh has an insightful post on his blog where he details how all it takes is $4000. These guys will create a fake resume loaded with work ex, fake job, fake paycheque - the works.

Within the first 5 minutes he will ask you this question “How old are you?” Why? The older you are the more experience they can show in the fake resume they prepare. My wife is 25 years old and many desi consultants are ready to hire her. When we told them that she doesn’t have any experience in the IT field this is what one of the consultant told us:

”Any year you lived after the age of 18 can be converted to relevant experience by making a fake resume. So to apply for H1B you need to be only 23 years. Any one above 23 years can easily get a H1B visa”.


Many of these consultants are frauds, making them no different from the agents who promise labourers jobs in theGulf or middlemen who weave dreams of a safe passage to Greece to the youth of Punjab. And now, our 'honourable' MPs as well...

Education is no barrier to being conned. The dreams are the same - only the sales pitch and the spit n polish different.

The Bitter Truth
The Americans are hotly debating the issue here . One gentleman argues: "Labor is work, not product, and if you are going to stand up and tell the US government you cannot possibly find a US Employee to do the job, and must bring in someone from another country to do it, you should be paying an abjectly high premium".

He adds: Look, here is EXACTLY how H1B works the vast majority of the time, and I know this because I’ve been in the meetings where the decisions were being made to do it! List for a job posting offering 50-80% of the market rate for the skill set you need... of course you can’t find anyone with decent skills to take the job.. so you then hire someone H1B and pay them 50-80% of what you should be paying.

You weren’t in a situation where you couldn’t find an american to do the job, you set up a situation where you couldn’t find an american to do the job for WHAT YOU WANTED TO PAY... not that there was no american who could do it... so instead of the company being forced to simply adjust to market situations, you give them a trump card to avoid the market forces, using government interference.

That’s all you have going on with H1B... its a COMPLETE and total scam, its a short circuit of the market, and to argue its “free market” is repugnant.


Well it may be repugnant but that is life. Skills are important but immigrant labour is attractive because it is willing to work for less. And longer and harder hours, as well

This holds true whether it's a Mexican restaurant worker, a Pakistani cab driver or an Indian IT engineer. Or the Biharis and UPites who stream in to Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. Not to forget the Bangladeshis who simply jump our border - no passport, no visa.

No quick and easy solutions here.. the debate continues!

Migration : you can't stop it! - part 1

34 comments:

  1. Nice Entry! It defintiely captures a lot of faces about the issue and presents them the right way.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome Post Rashmi!!!!! Good insight into the Immegration Business... Which involves the MP's MLAs....


    The Back up Business for IT co.s will be Immegration!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rashmi,

    Very interesting, relevant and well researched post! Its been a while since I saw some high quality content here - this one takes you right back on top.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  4. A real good post from you. Many facts & many more findings.
    :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent posts, lots of fact, great analysis

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bang on the day I get my H1's status out of the lottery system, I find an amazing post from you!

    ( If you are wondering, my luck didnt desert me this time, and I did get lucky with the Lottery system ).

    Does H1 really matter to me? The answer is NO!

    Does does an interntional exposure matter and the Answer is Yes!

    Not all people who apply for a H1 in an Indian IT company want to leave Good Old India forever. It is more of the fact that you get to see the world beyond India, and along the way you get to earn some quick money in dollars.

    When not every employee in an IT co is working everyday ( the so called bench is very much a reality even today) , why do these companies hire like mad? The reason is Expected Business in the coming years.

    Likewise, not every H1 holder travels to the US of A and settles down there.

    Maybe getting to actual numbers would startle many that out of the 65 K h1's not even 50% would ve travelled. In the end everyone wants to play safe and that is what the It cos are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very insightful ! I never knew that luck has such a major role to play. Almost like a 50-50 chance !

    And the fake business is rather intriguing ! you had fake armanis, fake Guccis, fake people..But fake to H1 B ! Well, well, well !

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am one of those MS guys from a Top 5 school, who had interviews from
    G Sachs, Bloomberg, Google and Qualcomm dropped on April 1st, thanks to Indian IT and Desi Consultants.
    Trust us Indians to rape any system !

    ReplyDelete
  9. and poor sheila dikshit had to eat hat for stating the same truth u state in your last line!! :p

    ReplyDelete
  10. The other problem of H1B is that occupations outside of IT who depend on H1B visas have a really hard time getting them.

    So you have Nurses, Fashion Models, Bankers, Management Consultants who are dependent on H1B who get a shaft.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Linking this article on http://www.bestofindya.com.

    Vote for this article at BestOfIndya

    ReplyDelete
  12. Rashmi,

    I whole heartedly agree that the IT companies are misuing H1B.
    I remember reading some where [probably in your blog ] itself as to how only a very small percent of H1b bisas from IT companies actgally move to full residency status.
    The stated objective of H1b is that the applicant [who must be highly skilled, & similar skills were not available in US], post expiry moves on to become US citizen or moves back to his home country.
    The IT companies do not do this. They misuse H1B program purely as outsourced labour and ahve no intentions of shifting thier H1b to citizenship positions.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello!
    My name is Tanja and I'm a student at the university of applied sciences in Graz, Austria (Europe).

    I'm writing you because I'm doing at the moment my diploma thesis in Journalism. Therefore I also do an anonymous online-survey about the cultural differences in picture-reading-behaviour of Indian and Austrian women. It's all about pictures in women-magazines.

    200 Austrian women have already participated, but unfortunately only 30 Indians did. So my question to you: Do you know a lot of Indian women between 18 and 30 to whom I could send the link to my online-survey. I have to make sure, that only women take part in it because otherwise it would hoke up my results...

    I would be pleased if you could help me with that!

    Greetings!
    Tanja

    ReplyDelete
  14. Rashmi..very well researched and presented facts. Glad to such elaborate views :-). Few aspects of the issue which you missed out

    1. H1 B visa was launched in 1990, to date there would be max 20 lakh visa issued under this category. In the total workforce of America which is upwards 60 million, this is a very insignificant number. There is a very big political angle to this issue for the upcoming presidential election.

    2. All dependant H1 visa's also come under the H1B cap. This means the actual strength of professionals getting visa is lesser.

    3. All data only talks about no.of applicants from IT industry, INS doenst talk about the break-up of visa issued over a period of time and the Industry they belong to. Teh reason the two senators say is INS is not equipped enough to give such data, so they are requesting Indian IT companies alone.

    4. What about US MNC operating out of India who are applying for H1B visa's. No one questions the IBM/ Accenture/ Delloite/ EDS etc; of the world. Why are they not being questioned about theri ethics.

    5. I see a similarity in political system in India and US of A. People who are making noise about the system have not seen what the industry is, they are aligning the issues for their political gains. The so-called study which talks about $13000 lesser salaries for H1B forgets doesnt list any concrete data. Moreover the survey was done by a think-tank, which has a political lobby behind it. In US such white collar lobbying is ETHICAL. Did u give this a thought.

    6. Blaming Indian IT companies for the SCAM is outragious. The H1B visa schema was the primary driver for growth of Intel/ Cisco/ Microsoft name any US major company. Today Indian companies have mastered this art of visa. This is foul cry that is happening now, by politicians and not even by Industry. Senses should previal in the upcoming immigration bill.

    One solution which seems possible -create a seperate visa program for high end-technical skills, dont club it wiht other professions.

    I am sure this debate will go on for years to come.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rashmi,
    Great article indeed, no doubt. But a word of caution: I hope that the certain 'insider' from Wipro will vouch what he/she said about the IT Giant; or else even before you know Messers Wipro will be line up to your door with a legal notice. So be careful, will ya? before stating or naming any big companies in public forums like blogs, unless you have strong proof and not relying on an 'insider'!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Yes
    Its defined to be good entry as it captures a lot and lot f faceses about the issue and they come to know about right direction

    ReplyDelete
  17. And the Mexicans can jump the american border.

    I got denied a US TOURIST VISA because I just turned 18 and I might migrate! I've applied for a green card! How sad that even though my intentions were NOT to migrate, I cant get the visa.

    ReplyDelete
  18. the H1B visa is most definitely misused...

    whatever be the stated goal... companies use this as what we call a *gajar* to retain employees...
    first, it is the assurance that we will apply for your h1b in the next visa cycle... then it is we have already filed if it is rejected we'll apply again in next cycle(secretly hopin that it is)...
    in case it gets approved then it is like we r looking for suitable opening for you... and finally when the employee *frustrated or whatever* threatens to leave(which of course he won't) then off he goes to phoren lands...
    its a common way for these companies to retain employees for years...

    more like a game between employer-employee with both parties knowing the rules... and secretly enjoying the ride

    __
    []_.-' (Q_,._
    (o)_(gauraV__(o)Z>

    ReplyDelete
  19. hi Rashmi
    Another wonderful article though i wish u would write more frequently. Got tired seeing the Big Adda guy on ur page for the past few days. Keep up the good work...
    Madhavan

    ReplyDelete
  20. Lottery haha..man am I glad Im not tangled in that mess ;p Good informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Rashmi,
    Really well researched and written....By the way, today i was reading in Times of India that there might be a reduction in the number of H1B issued to skilled people.....Dont understand the logic....

    Abhishek

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hello

    I agree with ur views

    ReplyDelete
  23. A very nice research done by you.
    It really helps peoples to get more close to the indian youth.
    I must say " Awesome".

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is a never ending saga. H1b or no H1b, there will always be people getting an entry into US.

    I myself being a fresh MBA passout frm NITIE, had been to Chennai for visa processing a few months back- and was alarmed at the number of people applying (sea of humanity) and the way one was treated at the counters (cattle?!)..

    Old people, young kids (15,16 yrs), parents with babies hoarded- waiting for the elusive stamp (visa) on their passports.. This just left me wondering- Is all this worth for the dollar dreams...

    Cheers
    Harsha

    ReplyDelete
  25. Awesome Post Rashmi!!!!! Good insight into the Immegration Business... Which involves the MP's MLAs....


    The Back up Business for IT co.s will be Immegration!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Take a look at a petitioner's perspective...

    http://man-gimme-a-break.blogspot.com/2007/06/221g-on-h1b.html

    ReplyDelete
  27. I was hired by Microsoft and didnt get the H1B.. dont know what lies ahead ...

    here is my story:

    http://awesomearpit.blogspot.com/2007/06/life-is-lottery.html

    ReplyDelete
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