H-1B Abuse

By Deane Barker on October 26, 2005

The H-1B swindle: The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to apply for a visa for a foreign worker if they can’t find anyone qualified to fill the position they need filled. The idea is that people shouldn’t bring in overseas workers unless they’ve tried to find a U.S. worker to fill the job. Sadly, it’s abused.

It appears there is hard evidence to prove that employers are using the H-1B visa program to hire cheap labor; that is, to pay lower wages than the national average for programming jobs.

H-1B visa workers were also concentrated at the bottom end of the wage scale, with the majority of H-1B visa workers in the 10-24 percentile range. “That means the largest concentration of H-1B workers make less than [the] highest 75 percent of the U.S. wage earners,” the report notes.

To get an H-1B worker, the employer has to publicily advertise a job for a certain period of time — 90 days or something. If he gets no qualified applicants, then he can ask the government to allow him to bring someone in from overseas.

However, if the employer is a tool, he doesn’t want someone from overseas because he can’t find someone in the U.S. He wants someone from overseas because he can pay them less — as this study proves.

(Note that I’m not slamming H-1B workers or their employers in general. I’m sure this program gets legitimate use every day. However, like any set of rules, it gets abused.)

So what does the employer do? He posts an absolutely un-fillable position. Pointing out this very thing got me in trouble about two years ago.

There was a company that had advertised a position that was so outlandish, even God himself couldn’t have qualified for it. They wanted a top-notch graphic and interactive multimedia artist, who just happened to be an Oracle DBA with several years experience, and was a seasoned Java and Visual Basic programmer on top of that. You had to read the copy for the job posting — it was ridiculous.

I pointed this out just for the humor value, and I sent the post to a Web site devoted to these things. That site published the job posting, and explained to me how the H-1B scam works.

In the end, I got a call from an attorney representing the company threatening me with…well, something. In retrospect, he was bluffing, but I took the post down because — completely coincidentally — they were a local company and I have to do business in this city.



  1. Wow, that post took a hard turn. I guess you could say that was partly my fault since I was the one looking for a job and I sent you the link. Can’t even remember the name of the company any more.

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