The Visa Program Fraught With Problems

The majority of people using H-1B visas during the past decade were born in either China or India, according to a Government Accountability Report.

“Between fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2009, the majority of approved H-1B workers (initial and extensions for both employers subject to the cap and cap-exempt employers) were born in Asia,” the report says.

“Although information on the total H-1B workforce is lacking, data on approved petitions show that, since 2000, most people that were approved to be H-1B workers were born in China or India.”

Over that time, 46.9 percent of the holders of the work visa were born in India, the report found. Roughly 9 percent were born in China.

The vast majority of those H-1B visa recipients work in high technology fields and hold advanced degrees. 40 percent were in the systems analysis and programming field.

But the report also offered suggestions to improve the program that is often criticized for displacing qualified American workers.

The report found that the program is rife with problems. For years opponents of the program have complained that it displaces American workers, exploits foreign workers and is abused by American employers, all of which the report found some evidence of, to varying degrees.

The Government Accountability Report suggested that the government set up a centralized website where employers can post notice of intent to hire H-1B visa workers. That would help root out the problem of employees hiring foreign workers despite American workers of equal qualification being readily available.

Under law, employers are required to make a good faith effort to hire an America, although they are not required to provide proof that they did so.

The recommended website “would help U.S. workers determine if they have been impermissibly replaced by H-1B visa holders and identify employers who may be engaged in a pattern of discrimination against U.S. workers,” the report states.

American companies “should be required to ‘test’ the labor market to determine whether qualified U.S. workers are available and to hire any equally or better qualified U.S. workers who apply,” the report further states.

The report also found that H-1B visa workers are often underpaid, although they are supposed to be paid “prevailing wages,” according to law. Many are “often not paid wages associated with the highest skills in their fields.”

In fact, 54 percent of workers were paid at the very lowest pay grade allowed under the prevailing wage rule.

Although the report stopped short of determining that U.S. companies are exploiting cheap labor at the expense of Americans, it suggested that may in fact be the case.

“The number of H-1B petitions tends to rise when wages and employment for U.S. workers are rising (although the number of approvals is limited by the H-1B cap), and to fall when wages and employment for U.S. workers are falling,” the report says.

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