H1B is the skilled worker visa which allows American companies to hire talent from abroad and sponsor them to work on-site in the country. The preparations for the next year filing has already begun as is apparent from the flier which I got in-my in box few days back.
The issue of foreign workers has always been a contentious one. Although the opinion is still divided on whether the country needs such a program, the issue often gets clubbed with the debate of illegal immigration & reforms and gets buried down in the process.
Most of the big tech companies are a strong proponent of the skilled worker program, the chiefs of Intel, Microsoft etc have at one time or the other strongly voiced their opinion in favor of the program.
Having seen the industry first hand, I genuinely think that it helps US or US based companies by letting them hire the best people in the world and often times filling up positions when no local talent is available.
But like any system, this program too has its fair share of those who indulge in abuse. Recently there was a story in Business Week about how Patni (mis)treated one of its employees on H1B visa in US. Class action suits have been filed by former employees of Tata alleging systematic abuse and underpayment. The program also becomes a suspect in the eyes of some since top outsourcing companies from India file record number of applications.
Below is a flier from one of the “staffing” companies based in US whose prime operations consist solely of hiring foreign workers and then contracting them out to clients for project based assignments.
Click on the image it to blow it up. You will further get an option to maximize the view once again.
The interesting thing to note in the flier besides the company information and benefits are the conditions listed out –
A. Very low security deposit
B. You are required to continue employment for 12 months after successful visa stamping
C. We’ll withhold $500 and return all of the security deposit if not selected in the lottery.
The security deposit here is the money taken from the prospective alien worker to pay for the lawyer fees and file the requisite paperwork.
The clause to keep the worker on the payroll for 12 months is to ensure s/he does not jump ship midway after the staffing company has worked so hard on getting the worker to United States. (Note, this when the employee is actually bearing all sorts of expenses).
The lottery in the third point is the process which US labor dept resorted to after record applications were filed by the second or third day itself.
The “staffing” firms are lowest in the proverbial food chain and hence take measures to protect their interests (as we saw in the conditions outlined above). Above them are the outsourcing companies like TCS, Infosys etc. and though not all them take such measures, some do. As the Business week story reported regarding Patni’s class action suit, the company was accused of under paying and holding the passport of the employee. Most American software product and services companies play by the rules.