Our recent opinion piece on H1-B visas has elicited a fair amount of comment. As we point out in that editorial, abuse of H1-B visas has been widespread and has gone on for a long time. Companies abusing H1-B visas affect not just engineers, but also IT workers. So we found a recent piece on the betanews.com site interesting for some of its insights into H1-B abuse.
One of the things it points out is that there are plenty of options for getting real scientists into the U.S. without even worrying about the H1-B:
"There is a misconception about the H-1B program that it was designed to allow companies to import workers with unique talents. There has long been a visa program for exactly that purpose. The O (for outstanding) visa program is for importing geniuses and nothing else. Interestingly enough, the O visa program has no quotas. So when Bill Gates complained about not being able to import enough top technical people for Microsoft, he wasn’t talking about geniuses, just normal coders.
I don’t want to pick on just Microsoft here, but I happen to know the company well and have written over the years about its technical recruiting procedures. Microsoft has a rigorous recruitment and vetting process. So does Google, Apple -- you name the company. All of these companies will take as many of O visa candidates as they can get, but there just aren’t that many who qualify, which is why quotas aren’t required.
So when Microsoft -- or Boeing, for that matter -- says a limitation on H-1B visas keeps them from getting top talent, they don’t mean it in the way that they imply. If a prospective employee is really top talent -- the kind of engineer who can truly do things others simply can’t -- there isn’t much keeping the company from hiring that person under the O visa program.
H-1B visas are about journeyman techies and nothing else."
Thanks to reader James Finkel for pointing us to this article.