Tech cos to H-1B workers: We feel your pain

February 20, 2009

Technology companies, which have laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, are already feeling the heat from politicians about their support of the H-1B foreign worker program at a time when many Americans are jobless. (Read the Reuters story explaining why, as a result, tech companies might have to tone down their campaign to hire more H-1B workers this year.)

Last month, Microsoft was the specific target of Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who shot off a letter to the tech bellwether saying it should lay off foreign workers before laying off domestic workers.

Microsoft responded it was laying off both H-1B workers and Americans, and that it was extending support equally to all affected employees. While that may be the case, foreign workers often have a harder time if they’re laid off.

Under the H-1B visa rules, a worker who loses his job cannot stay on in the United States without changing to a different visa or finding another job. With layoffs all around, it’s not the best market in which to find a job, which means foreign workers could be forced to drop their American lives and head back home.

But some recruiters say companies are sympathetic to the plight of these workers. Recruiter Adam Charlson, who works at Korn/Ferry International’s Silicon Valley office, said companies have been quite aggressive about trying to protect people on H-1B visas. “Organizations are actively doing whatever possible to keep the loopholes open to help H-1Bs find other employment,” he said.

That could mean setting an employment termination date in the future so that the laid-off foreign worker has some time to look for another job or settle his affairs, he said. It could also include things like outplacement services, including helping people brush up on interview skills and writing resumes, and even emotional counseling.

Outplacement services can be especially helpful for H-1B workers, said John Challenger, CEO of outplacement services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Unlike their American counterparts, foreign workers may not have access to informal networks — such as alumni groups and family networks — which can ofte provide leads for new jobs, he said. Tough times for all.

Keep an eye on:

  • Barry Diller’s IAC. They sold off Internet dating site’s European business and appointed a new CEO. Could more assets be on the block? (
  • Consumer advocacy blog The Consumerist. It was a post on their website that eventually led to Facebook backtracking on its terms of service. Maybe they’ll have something else to say soon. (The New York Times)
  • The New York Times, which killed its dividend for the time being, saying it will help reduce debt. (Reuters)

(Photo: Reuters)


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Those who came here on H-1B visas knew that this was a temporary work visa, not a promise of immigration and permanent employment. If an American company has all American employees, and lets the temps or ‘contingent’ employees go first when times get tough, no one yells ‘discrimination!’ To say that foreign workers have a harder time when they are laid off is highly debatable in our current economy. At least they have a homeland to return to, whereas the citizen workers’ backs are against the wall. Organizations should not go overboard to help H-1Bs while giving citizen workers the heave-ho. An unemployed H-1B worker drops out of status quickly and needs to pack their bags, and they should have known this coming in.

Most of them should never have been brought in anyway. The vast majority are not Einsteins but are ordinary rank-and-file workers who were brought in oftentimes to displace our ordinary rank-and-file workers, and that was never the intent of this visa. They need to go home and build up their own countries, so that their nations don’t need to rely on being given work by other countries but can stand on their own two feet and take care of their own people. As we need to take care of ours now that the wolf is at the door.

Posted by Bart | Report as abusive

[…] REUTERS — Technology companies, which have laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, are already feeling the heat from politicians about their support of the H-1B foreign worker program at a time when many Americans are jobless. […]

Posted by Laid off H-1B tech workers get help » Adotas | Report as abusive

What the companies are doing for H1B holders is great. The question remains, however, what are they doing for Americans? For instance, are they still making American employees train their H1B replacements like Pfizer did in Connecticut? Did they go in front of Congress and beg for more H1B workers and then lay off 5,000 employees 5 months later like Microsoft did this year?
This program has always been a joke. The entire purpose of it is cheap foreign labor. God forbid these companies lose their supply of it. Finally the mainstream public is getting a glimpse of what American IT workers have been complaining about for years.

Posted by P Henry | Report as abusive

Sympathetic to H1B visa holders, are they?


Posted by Born Nthe USA | Report as abusive

[…] and Reuters while acknowledging these corporations are keeping H-1B and L-1 foreign guest workers and firing […]

Posted by | Report as abusive

Some ignorant people and some anti immigrants are blaming H1B program for economic trouble in the country.
I was wondering how can 85000 people per year(That is the limit on number of H1Bs that can come in every year), can account for close to 3 million job losses within last one year! And not all H1Bs go to Fiancial companies!

Even if I say that all H1Bs who came in last six years are in the country, still it is less than 600K!

Posted by Aar Bee | Report as abusive

I don’t worry about the h-1b holders for many reasons.

Even though they don’t all have alumni networks from American schools but they do have very strong networks from their home school. I was told there was an unofficial network in which Indian workers here help recent graduates wanting to work here. I believe the workers here pay the fees and other services. These people are very smart and are doing a much better job helping themselves than we are doing helping ourselves become more successful. When was the last time you helped an American find a job?

In addition, in some companies, entire organization trees are made up of foreign workers. In those areas of a company there aren’t any American workers to keep; the Americans lost (or in many cases “left”) those jobs a long time ago. Many Americans left to find higher paying jobs, so asking a company to fire the h-1b worker who stayed with the company during the times when keeping American workers was difficult, would be ironic. I definitely remember getting only resumes of foreign born workers for week after week while working for a major software firm ($10+ billion in revenues).

The main issue in my mind is that some countries have vastly higher graduation rates of technical people than we do here in the united states. No amount of worry over unfair h-1b visas is going to change that. Eventually, the economy will recover and the percentage of foreign workers will increase in these fields. Instead worrying about layoffs now, we need to focus Americans workers on learning new skills. I have a friend who was unemployed for 1 1/2 years and didn’t improve his skills. He is very smart but his current skills are only valued by a small handful of companies. I’ve offered to help in repeatedly. I’ll call him tonight to do my part. Won’t you do the same?

Posted by Howard | Report as abusive

loopholes.. interesting choice of words.. that usually means finding ways to skirt the laws..

Posted by americantech | Report as abusive

“Under the H-1B visa rules, a worker who loses his job cannot stay on in the United States without changing to a different visa or finding another job. With layoffs all around, itโ€™s not the best market in which to find a job, which means foreign workers could be forced to drop their American lives and head back home.”

that is correct. They get to search for a job in the US market, and if they don’t find one, they get to go home, and search for a job in their own country.

The laid off American, doesn’t get two markets to job hunt in. H1B’s have an advantage over the laid off American worker in this respect.

Posted by americantech | Report as abusive

I am not sure why some people are so against H1B holders. First of all, major financial firms hire their foreign workers on L1 only.

In the last 10 years, H1B holders came up really well and started companies. 26% of Silicon valley founders are Indians and their innovation and entrepreneurship created 4.5 millions jobs in US market (Needless to say Google founders, people work in Oracle, IBM, Microsoft).

Let’s take a fair reason (Greedy of bank executives, Iraq war, Oil price fluctuation, failure of manufacturing) for this economic crisis and not vent your frustration on H1B holders. After all, they too pay big taxes here.

Posted by Indian-Canadian-American | Report as abusive

To all against h1b visa, consider following points before making harsh comments
1. America is built on the foundation of immigration – skilled/unskilled/political and others. Current American’s should realize that they were immigrants some time ago – may be it might be your parents or their parents etc. Current generations have attitude that “OK, we have immigrated and now are citizens of America, let’s make sure we don’t allow anyone else to become citizen or even permanent residents”. This attitude is abusive and wrong, America lures people for study and good jobs and then when country simply can’t turn back on immigrants.

2. More important thing that you guys should understand is following: The non-immigrant folks out there aka people on H1b and other non-immigrant visa categories are contributing to economy and YOUR well being more then you think. How? Non-immigrants pay Social Security, Medicare, buy cars, homes, other amenities, pay bills, spends money – who do you think is getting benefiting more? YOU THE AMERICANS. WHY? Again, most of non-immigrants on H1b will go back home eventually. Most countries benefiting from H1b visa, like India, don’t have any social security treaty with US. RESULT? People going back to India after completion of H1b term dont’ take back paid Social Security and Medicare tax with them, this result in great contribution to American security to folks like you who are bashing H1b.

I can go on and on. Truth is, everyone is taking hit at H1b folks because bashing H1b is quick, easy and cheap shot – and everyone likes to do that. I suggest think before you say and widen your thinking horizon and more importantly your own roots in this country.

Posted by kk | Report as abusive

There ain’t no reason to blame H1B holders for bad economy or job loss. We created the H1B program for our own betterment. We brought in highly qualified and trained foreign workers because we could not find skilled people to do the job. Higher study isn’t made affordable to us so how can we have skilled people?

Only 1% workforce is H1B holders in this country who are also spending in the same economy so how can they be accountable for the economy we are going through right now?

Posted by Carol | Report as abusive

The only way is to remove restrictions on H1b employment. Cap the no of visas but remove restrictions that the H1B employee requires company sponsorhip and million other rules which make them employer dependent. If a company knows they can petition for a H1 worker but the H1 worker is as free as an American worker once he starts his employment, then they will only recruit out of a dire need where they can’t find Americans. Now if a H1 worker loses his job and he needs to find another job or leave US..Im an employer who is facing tough economy..the H1 worker is a good target for exploitation because he is going to be desperate. I can easily negotiate a pay that is marginally less than market plus i get an employee who dances to my tunes, works extended hours without a question, can’t quit unless I fire..

Posted by Techie | Report as abusive

kk, why are you trying to tie the H1-B Visa programme with the immigration history of this country?

You said it yourself. The H1-B Visa holder is a non-immigrant guest worker. You are being disingenous in your arguments.

Posted by huh | Report as abusive

There are some interesting dicussion (link below). There is no doubt H1b and L1 visas are fraud. Do not blame H1/L1s candidates as they are just pawns in this third rated game played by companies and consultancy companies. BTW, L1 is worse, compared to H1. Their (L1) spouse on L2 can work immidiately in US for any employer, and there is no limit on L1!!

Blame the companies and the corrupt staffing firms, who sacrifice americans for their greed, and continue to this unethical business recklessly. I work for a multi billion dollar telecommunication company, and H1/L1 are being poured into the system every day!! enly-paying-attention-to-h-1b-abuse-arre st-11-2009-2 ash/content/feb2009/ m?chan=top+news_top+news+index+-+temp_ne ws+%2B+analysis

Posted by Read More | Report as abusive

When the economy was booming, no one looked in the direction of H-1B visa holders. When the economy tanked, all of a sudden, they became cheap targets. I just can’t figure out how 85000(max) H-1B employees could have resulted in 3million American job losses within a year. Are people that ignorant!?

Posted by wesley | Report as abusive

A lot of Americans are unemployed and are burdened with mortgage, taxes and healthcare costs. They cannot compete with the lower wages because h1b workers just want a green card.
Please help American unemployed IT workers FIRST before helping temporary guest workers. That’s why they are temporary, they were not meant to replace American Workers.

Posted by debug | Report as abusive

Some things to think about:

A. H1B workers cannot get mortgages in the US – the same mortgages that have contributed to the current turmoil of the US economy.
B. H1B workers cannot vote for Senator Charles Grassley or any other incompetent leader who did not do their job of protecting jobs or who even contributed to the loss of jobs we are all experiencing.
C. H1B workers cannot tax evade like most Americans do (it’s all W-2 forms)
D. When an H1B employee gets terminated there is no grace period before s/he has to leave the country. What the article calls “loophole” is effectively an attempt by a corporation to deal with the lack of compassion in the law governing H1B visas.
E. In justifying hiring someone on H1B visa, the rationale is that no American can be found with the skills. Then why do H1B visas get paid at much or less than their American peers? After all the skills are short in supply – shouldn’t that shoot their salaries up? So who is taking advantage of whom?
F. Employers who lay off Americans and outsource to other countries are not criticized.
G. H1B workers pay regular income taxes including Medicare, Medicaid, SS. If they are temporary what is the purpose of paying for long-term services they will never receive? Half of medical care payments in the US come from this programs. H1B workers subsidize Americans health, infrastructure, services, wars…
H. Nobody bothers to discuss the ease with which employers lay off employees (at will employment laws) to preserve ‘shareholder’ value [e.g. companies laying off people and at the same time giving dividends out). As if the US is run by shareholders rather than taxpayers! The true role of government Senator Grassley is to protect working people from the abuse of shareholders.
I. The H1B program complaints can be easily resolved by just accepting even less foreign students in top graduate programs in US universities and don’t allow them to work in the US.
J. US employers who lay off H1Bs should be penalized as well. Don’t forget if MSFT gets an H1B then IBM loses an H1B because of the yearly quota. Not fulfilling the 3 year commitment that H1B visas have should be deemed as an anti-competitive practice.
K. Many of you say “they knew they were temporary..” but forget that immigration law also states “that an employer can sponsor permanent residency” after a number of employment there… THE LAW is the LAW and it is very ignorant to just state part of the law and not consider it in its totality.

Posted by TheThinker | Report as abusive

wesley, every year since this program was introduced (1999?), it has been controversial. This is nothing new. The difference is this year, so many Americans have been losing their jobs and replaced by H1-B’s it has unified the people’s resolve.

Couple that with the latest trends by Indians to badmouth Americans as lazy, or not smart enough for the jobs, and you stir up their anger as well.

Americans are very generous to a fault, but when they feel they are being taken advantage of, they come together. This anger has come to a head now that H1B’s are starting to run HR Departments, where unless you are an applicant with an Indian sounding name, your resume will more than likely go directly into the trash. Or, at least that is the growing perception.

Posted by bitwise | Report as abusive

Wesley just flunked “maths” – there are over a million jobs lost to H-1Bs because a) the cap was raised to nearly 200K in 2000 and left there for three years, b) the H-1B is for three years, then it can be renewed for another 3 years after that, then in one year increments afterwards, so there is a cumulative effect in that each year’s cap results in many who try to stay permanently. And, when the economy collapses, in most cases the H-1Bs are kept on (because they usually earn less) while the American workers are let go (Microsoft’s denials notwithstanding).

Posted by Bart | Report as abusive

– H1B can get mortgages. But, they are NOT the cause of this mess. age.html

– If we need H1 to support our medicare, infrastructure, why not bring more? Why stop at 65k? What if, H1 supply runs out? ๐Ÿ˜‰

– Most Americans do NOT evade tax. They honestly pay Tax just like folks on H1, or any the legal visas. It is a select few rich/business folks, who evade taxes. Let us not confuse the subject here. We are discussing H1 issues here, not Tax evasion.

– Punish those staffing firms and companies who are manipulating the H1/L1 candidates, and getting tax benefits too.

Posted by FIx Visa System | Report as abusive

Bart, your statement is incorrect, and Wesley is right.

H1B’s need to return to their home country after 6 years. So Wesley is right in that there is six years worth of H1B’s around. After 6 years a H1B would need to get a green card or citizenship – and are out of scope of the “H1B vs American” debate.

Posted by MAR | Report as abusive

– H1Bs cannot get mortgages and if any bank gave them one was with the intent to take advantage of them. Just think: why would you give someone who can only be around for 6 years a 30 year loan? In general H1Bs don’t have the FICO scores to qualify given that they have very short credit histories.

– H1Bs are not the problem. Labor Law in the US is the problem. The “law” is geared towards favoring “shareholders” over “people” even at the expense of “taxpayers.” For example, “at-will” employment creates the systematic risk that once every employer finds an excuse to cut down labor that it can spiral down to economic stagnation. In the meantime “shareholders” still get dividends even under these market conditions. If that is not a slap at the face of hard working people then what is? Where are the senators defending their tax base? But their tax base does not pay for their fancy trips and perks they all enjoy. Makes it easier for Senators to blame the “foreigners” rather than accepting responsibility.

Posted by TheThinker | Report as abusive

Why do we need to intellectualize American jobs goto Americans?
Was the US falling apart before these racist incompentants came along.

Don’t lecture me, I’ve worked with them and maybe a handful out of a hundred know what they are doing, but boy, oh boy, are they cheap and quiet and will work 24 hours a day until they get it right, and even if they can’t get it right, their managers will say they got it right.

I’ve been interviewed by hundreds of them over the last six years and there’s no way an Indian will hire a non-Indian.

Our economy is collapsing and even the business that make a buck off them are collapsing!
CitiBank, AIG, J.P. Morgan Chase.
We’re creating a minute number of billionaires and turning the rest of the country into beggars.

Replace Congress; we can’t wait another 2 years for people who actually care about the US.

Posted by David | Report as abusive