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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

VISA DATA BUSTS MYTHS

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The antis regularly trumpet the argument that we need to slash visa numbers to protect jobs for Americans looking for work. But if employers are seeking to slash payrolls and immigrants were a source for cheap labor, shouldn't we see visa applications increasing?

The numbers tell a stark story - visa applications in key categories are plummeting.

Eighteen months ago, H-1B applications for university educated workers were in such high demand that nearly 200,000 applications were received on the first day the annual allotment opened up. This past April, only 40,000 applications for the basic H-1B quota were received and demand since has been so light that only about 5,000 more applications have been received. At the current pace of applications, the entire fiscal year could pass without all the numbers being used.

This past week, USCIS made the extraordinary announcement that it was REOPENING the H-2B quota because only 40,000 out of 66,000 visas for skilled and unskilled workers have been used. Employers must use the visas up by September 30th, the last day of the fiscal year. 

And we've also just learned that employment-based green card applications are also way down. Applications received in 2008 and 2009 are only half the number as received in earlier years. 

What this tells us is that the market works. Visa petitions increase when it is hard to find qualified American workers. When Americans are available, employers don't bother with recruiting overseas workers. And it also tells us that employers - properly - perceive that foreign workers are MORE expensive than American workers. Expensive visa fees, prevailing wage requirements, lawyer fees, travel costs, communication challenges and more all make foreign workers an expensive proposition best utilized when addressing a serious worker shortgae.

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  1. Jack's Avatar
    'When Americans are available, employers don't bother with recruiting overseas workers.'

    Because they're not hiring period. When there's no new job for anybody, of course visa applications are down. But this doesn't mean that Americans weren't available when there was lots of hiring. You make it sound like it's abuut worker availability when isn't it simply (lack of) job availability?

  2. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    During the good times, we heard the antis provide spotty anecdotal evidence of Americans being laid off and replaced by cheaper foreign workers. If you were right, we should be seeing this trend accelerating as American employers desperately look around for ways to cut more costs.

    It ain't happenin'.
  3. Grace's Avatar
    While market factors are clearly the main drivers for the drop in H-1B and H-2B filings, one factor that USCIS does not account for is the lack of approved labor certifications being issued by DOL. The vast majority of I-140 petitions are labor certification based, and with DOL now sitting on a massive backlog of PERM applications (anything filed since November 2008 has not been touched by DOL), there is a large pent-up demand. If DOL's processing times had not plummeted so dramatically in the past year (from 92% of cases completed in 6 months to 11% in 6 months), the volume of I-140s filed with USCIS would not have dropped as much as it has.
  4. Mandy's Avatar
    Visa applications are not increasing because employers do not want to open their books to USCIS and risk auditing, massive financial fines and imprisonment like Vision of NJ.
  5. Roger's Avatar
    'employers - properly - perceive that foreign workers are MORE expensive than American workers'

    'spotty anecdotal evidence of Americans being laid off and replaced by cheaper foreign workers'

    - Greg, please. There is ample evidence of good American jobs being outsourced or replaced by H1/L1 workers en mass. 40k new H1s (and god knows how many more L1s, since there is no record) when the unemployment rate is above 9% and soon expected to be more than 10%? What a shock indeed..that 16.5 million Americans are unemployed and 40k educated, experienced and trained Americans cannot be found in this economy to fill these positions! I respect your opinion and your thought leadership. However, this is anything but. Frankly, your comments are an insult to willing and able Americans who are struggling to find a job, any job at all in this economy.
  6. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Roger - Please enlighten us on this ample evidence you seem to think exists. H-1B usage is running at this point at about 20% of 2007. There are 150,000,000 workers in the US economy and 45,000 H-1Bs have come in this year. Only about 40,000 H-2Bs have come in. You can blame foreign workers for the joblessness, but the numbers are minuscule in comparison to the size of the work force. Scapegoating is not going to change the data.
  7. proamerica's Avatar
    How much does NASCOM pay this shill?
  8. Vincenzo's Avatar
    Greg - it couldn't be because the USCIS has made several busts where H-1B visa fraud existed, could it? Please, Greg.

    And don't give us this crap about "market". If you're so enamored with "the market", tell us why we need this "prevailing wage" crap rather than letting the market dictate wages. While you're thinking about that, maybe you can tell me why an H-1B visa beneficiary's Green Card application processing needs to start from the very beginning again when he changes employers. Spare us with this "market" crap.
  9. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    Vincenzo, aka Roger, do you want me to tell you how I changed jobs while being a beneficiary of an immigrant petition, took a job on EAD (at the market rate, obviously, just like I did on H1 - twice), filed an AC21 request, and got my green card a year later? Maybe, you should check your own crap before going through others.
  10. George Chell's Avatar
    "'When Americans are available, employers don't bother with recruiting overseas workers.'

    Because they're not hiring period. When there's no new job for anybody, of course visa applications are down. But this doesn't mean that Americans weren't available when there was lots of hiring. You make it sound like it's abuut worker availability when isn't it simply (lack of) job availability?"

    Dont agree with either of these statements. I think they actually move jobs abroad because it is a lot cheaper than applying for H1-B or employing an American...and they may get better qualified people too. Australian employment is already picking up and Singapore's is expected to pick up soon. A lot of these jobs are from US based corporations establishing offices abroad. If they dont want to hire Americans, they will find a way of not hiring Americans, just like racist employers in Georgia or Louisiana will find a way around affirmative action, by shipping jobs to other states where enough white employees are available, by hiring white women, or both! There are units in the federal and state governments where racist managers avoid hiring blacks by hiring white women or by hiring someone from within the federal government. The same is true regarding immigrants. If they dont want to hire Americans they will not! End of story!


  11. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Vincenzo/Roger - In my ideal world, I wouldn't be an immigration lawyer because we would have a much freer system of trade in services. I am not a fan of quotas, wage requirements, labor market tests, etc. because these are all forms of protectionism. I think US workers in the aggregate are better off the freer trade is. But I also am a realist and understand that restricting trade for political reasons is better than abolishing trade all together. And if restrictions like the ones noted above make it possible for employers to have access to needed workers to keep our country competitive, than they should be accepted.

    By the way, with respect to having to refile a green card application when a worker changes employers, I'm in complete agreement with you. There should be more portability than there is. Hopefully, Congress will address this.
  12. George Chell's Avatar
    "What a shock indeed..that 16.5 million Americans are unemployed and 40k educated, experienced and trained Americans cannot be found in this economy to fill these positions!"

    And it is very interesting people like you and CIS and FAIR make a big issue of 40,000 jobs out of 4 million such jobs in the US, while twice that amount is lost to foreign countries every month...CIS does not care much about it and neither does FAIR..as they are only concerned about changing skin color complexion, and not about American workers. Dont know what your motivation is.
  13. Durbin's Avatar
    "How much does NASCOM pay this shill?"

    As much as KKK paid to you.
  14. CodeCorrector's Avatar
    The reason why we don't need more H1-B applications is because the job market is already flooded with cheap foreign labor (all of those H1-bs from previous years) that are trying to stay and not go home.

    Greg, how many more Americans need to be unemployed? Just for the sake that you can drive your Mercedes Benz everyday. For once be an American.
  15. s's Avatar
    "Greg, how many more Americans need to be unemployed? Just for the sake that you can drive your Mercedes Benz everyday. For once be an American."

    My Indian lawyer still drives a Toyota camry irrespective of the fact that he runs a law firm that employs around 20 people. What is wrong , if a successful attorney drives a luxary car. Going by your logic CIS and FAIR are more "american" than Kennedy and Durbin.

    "The reason why we don't need more H1-B applications is because the job market is already flooded with cheap foreign labor (all of those H1-bs from previous years) that are trying to stay and not go home."

    Most h1bs are leaving if they lose their job, Who want to stay in this economy? Do you have a problem if someone stays here legally?

  16. Vincenzo's Avatar
    Greg, I'm glad to see that you concede that portability is a problem. You must also concede, however, that the H-1B visa is being used for cheap labor. Please see this link:

    http://www.cio.co.uk/article/527/the-next-wave-of-globalisation-offshoring-rd-to-india-and-china/

    From the link:
    "Entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa is up front about his use of offshoring and importing foreign talent in a previous professional life as founder and CEO of two technology companies. 'I was one of the first to outsource software development to Russia in the early '90s. I was one of the first to use H-1B visas to bring workers to the U.S.A.,' Wadhwa says. 'Why did I do that? Because it was cheaper.'

    "That tactic is even more lucrative for corporations today, says Wadhwa: 'When you have a person on H-1B waiting for a green card, you have them captive for six to 10 years.'"

    This isn't "spotty" evidence. This is coming straight from a former high-tech executive.
  17. CodeCorrector's Avatar
    Hey, we know we also read immigration voice and trackitt. As soon as we hear somebody is going home - we have a toast for good riddance. Nothing beats a guest worker going home and a job opening for an American.
  18. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    To the extent employers are using H-1Bs to provide cheap labor, it is against the law. And long time readers of this blog know that I've emphasized many times that better enforcement of existing H-1B laws is better than scrapping the H-1B program or adding on numerous other restrictions (and why would they be enforced if the current rules aren't).

    The game changer, however, has been a dramatic increase in enforcement that began about two years ago and that has caused many of the dicey consulting companies to abandon the market. Strictly from a self-interested point of view, that's very good news in my book. My clients are interested in playing by the rules and have the visas they need. Antis who want to cut down on H-1B applications get what they want.

    I remind people about an article I wrote listing ten ideas for using immigration to help the economy. The following are still on point - http://www.visalaw.com/08dec1/10dec108.html:

    5. Bonus H-1Bs for employers that have expanded their US work force

    Sure, we can get in to another argument over H-1Bs and get in to the age old arguments over how protectionist we should be when it comes to insulating the American labor market. But let's put that aside for the moment and think about places where there might be some room for agreement.

    Today I read about one of the country's biggest banks laying off 35,000 workers. How about rewarding companies that expand the number of American workers on their payroll with bonus H-1Bs? Maybe something along the lines of a formula where for every four or five workers a company's work force grows, they get a cap exempt H-1B slot? Maybe more slots for companies that expand in higher than average unemployment areas or in indigent communities.



    6. Eliminate the H-1B cap for occupations with less than 4% unemployment

    Why 4%? That's a figure economists often consider to be "full" employment where workers have a relatively easy time finding employment and rates below this figure have an inflationary effect. If an employer can demonstrate it is filling jobs with H-1B workers in an occupation with full employment, then there should be little concern about displacing American workers. And jobs for Americans in the industry are saved because employer unable to find needed workers frequently shut down their US operations and move abroad, causing American and non-immigrant workers alike to lose their jobs.

    ****

    And a bonus idea I've had - no H-1B caps for employers that pay at least 25% higher than the prevailing wage certified by the US Department of Labor.

    These ideas would reward employers that create jobs for Americans and pay top dollars. And it would also help employers in super shortage fields who can easily document that Americans are easily finding work in the field (such as medicine which still has a near 0% unemployment rate).
  19. George Chell's Avatar
    "The reason why we don't need more H1-B applications is because the job market is already flooded with cheap foreign labor (all of those H1-bs from previous years) that are trying to stay and not go home.

    Greg, how many more Americans need to be unemployed? Just for the sake that you can drive your Mercedes Benz everyday. For once be an American."

    Obviously you do not have much brains. The same nonsense that countries are closed economies. More Americans will be unemployed if you keep foreigners out. Why do you think unemployment is only 3.3% in Singapore while foreigners make up 25% of the workforce while the US unemployment is 9.5% while the foreigners make up barely 10% of the workforce if that and declining? Obviously nothing goes into your brain. If a firm does not want to employ an American, it wont, even if the country shuts out all foreigners. They will outsource, move jobs abroad, lead to higher outflow of foreign direct investment etc. Shut foreigners out and you will have more Americans unemployed as they move entire facilities to other countries. This is what happened in Germany with huge losses in tax and social security revenues. Obviously you want this to happen in the US. You are a joke with a very low IQ.

  20. George Chell's Avatar
    "Nothing beats a guest worker going home and a job opening for an American."

    Nothing beats a guest worker going to Canada and taking the job and tax revenues with him and unemploying more Americans. You are pretty ignorant!
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