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Bill Gates's Wish Is Homeland Security's Command 374

theodp writes "PC World reports that DHS has extended the time foreign graduates of US colleges can stay in the country and work to almost two-and-a-half years, an 'emergency' change that drew kudos from Microsoft and other H-1B visa stakeholders. Looks like when Bill Gates says 'Jump,' the government asks 'How high?' Bill Gates's Congressional Testimony, March 12, 2008: 'Extending OPT from 12 to 29 months would help to alleviate the crisis employers are facing due to the current H-1B visa shortage. This only requires action by the Executive Branch, and Congress and this Committee should strongly urge the Department of Homeland Security to take such action immediately.' DHS Press Release, April 4, 2008: 'The US Department of Homeland Security released today an interim final rule extending the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) from 12 to 29 months for qualified F-1 non-immigrant students.'"
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Bill Gates's Wish Is Homeland Security's Command

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 12, 2008 @08:48PM (#23050424)
    Everyone i have worked with is less then useless. They create more work for me...

    Useless... send them back.
  • Re:Why, DHS? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mia'cova ( 691309 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @09:18PM (#23050596)
    They're changing because the H-1B cap is being reached now. An international student who graduates in the US no longer has a clear path to stick around and work. There's no point spending four years training someone only to kick them out when they want to stay. With 29 months, they can at least make a couple of attempts at the annual H-1B lottery.
  • by hkrsld ( 829295 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:09PM (#23050888)
    Actually until a few years ago we did have a surplus of H1-B visas. That's because the Clinton administration temporarily tripled the annual quota, and that resulting number turned out to be higher than needed. When the law expired the quota reset back to its original value, which is less than what we need.

    The situation is pretty ridiculous right now. Every year there is only one week during the whole year (first week of April) during which employers can file H1-B applications. Then a lottery decides which ones get awarded, currently roughly with 3:1 odds, getting worse each year. The "losers" will have to wait for a full year to try again. The winners can be hired in October the same year, i.e. 6 months after the application was filed. The situation is made worse by the fact that the majority of visas are awarded to a handful of consulting companies in India who are gaming the system with "pseudo-consulting" businesses. These long delays are exactly why OPT is so important: it allows companies to higher graduates without having to wait for a full year until April and October come around.

    I cannot speak for all industries, but only for the one I work in, as an engineering manager with hiring responsibility (for highly qualified post-graduate software engineers): in my field that talk about how H1-B visas are allegedly used to force lower wages is just plain nonsense. Visa status has nothing to do with wages. Actually my employer prefers US citizens, then green card holders, then employees with existing temporary work visas/permits (in that order), because it simplifies the hiring process. Keep in mind that foreigners who have spent several years in US colleges and universities are not exactly stupid. They know what the prevailing wages in their industry are, and demand the same payment as US citizens -- and they get it. Don't think that those graduates are in any way dependent on US companies for getting a job. They can get high-paying jobs just as well in Canada, Europe or anywhere else. In this industry employers' biggest concern in high-tech is how to get talent and retain employees, not how much they have to pay for it. Many large companies in the SF bay area have exactly that problem, and I would be surprised if things are different in Redmont.

    If you don't like this then suggest a different solution: US citizens staying in school to get graduate degrees ? Very rare... Companies training employees for a few months before they start their job ? Takes too long, high-tech is too quick-moving for that... Companies outsourcing to engineering teams in India and China ? Yep, already happening, and not even primarily to decrease cost but just to quickly expand engineering capacity with qualified people.
  • Why Single Out Bill? (Score:5, Informative)

    by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:11PM (#23050908)
    Granted, Microsoft is far from alone [] when it comes to relying on the Visa Crutch []. But it was Bill Gates whose pleas were singled out by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff [] as he rationalized the need for 'emergency' action [].
  • by hxdmp ( 448441 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:11PM (#23050914)
    Arthur B. - you're way over the top. There is *plenty* of H1-B abuse. 65% of the H1-B visas go to Wipro, HCL, Infosys, etc.. that is the Indian outsourcing companies. These are for jobs that cannot be shipped overseas and have to be done on U.S. soil. So rather than hire Americans and pay a pervailing wage - they bring over cheap and barely capable Indians. Thats how they can bid so low that their service is so much cheaper to a company using them than hiring their own I.T. people would be.

    We need real H1-B reforms to stop the blatant abuse. And we should not just be opening the floodgates to purpitrate the abuse.

    Now, I'm with you for truly talented and capable engineers. These are the ones that work for Microsoft, Google, and all the other big companies needing programmers and EE's.

    AND if you get a Masters Degree or Ph.D. from a U.S. accredited university - you should get an automatic Green Card (after background check).
  • Re:Disingenous tripe (Score:3, Informative)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:30PM (#23051062) Homepage Journal
    "Microsoft pays standard salaries to H1-B visa holders. They are required to, by law. And they all get the same benefits as citizens and residents. That the industry at large is not willing to pay half-decent wages to qualified people is another thing. "

    Maybe MS does, but, even though standard salaries are technically required by law, in my experience it isn't working out that way. First, who is to say what the standard salary is? I've seen it where the H1-B's get much lower pay than the US citizens. And...if they want to complain, they pretty much know that they will lose their job, and without the job, they get sent back home, and they don't want that. That often doesn't happen even without the threat of a job. The H1-B's see even the lowest salary here as a fortune, so they often live like crap (to a US citizen at least), and work and send their $$ home. Later, they can move back home, and live like a king...but, the effect of their depression on US tech salaries remains and kills the industry here.

    If our citizens can't make a decent living after putting in $$$ for education here, well, it creates brain drain in the long run since no kids want to follow on in the tech industry since no money can be made in it. We still have surplus of talent here, b ut, I see brain drain taking its toll on the country.

  • by mrbooze ( 49713 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:42PM (#23051148)
    Which small US work pool is this? I've been unemployed for 6 months, and during my job search around the Chicago area I hear the same thing from employers and recruiters: every IT job they post they get flooded with applicants. They have the freedom to be *very* picky. Don't have specific industry experience? Too bad because someone else will. Meet 95% of the skill requirements? Probably not good enough, half a dozen other applicants will meet 100%. Spent some time teaching yourself new skills? Too bad, you don't have actual job experience and a lot of other applicants do. Try to apply for a more junior position instead? Sorry, they won't even talk to you, they have enough junior applicants and don't want to take the chance you'll just jump ship if you find a better job elsewhere.

    I can't blame the employers for taking advantage of an overabundant supply to pick the best employees who they think will need the least on-the-job training, but I don't see any evidence of a so-called shortage. It's not even a salary issue, me and lots of others are perfectly willing to take a pay cut rather than not working at all, but employers are very skittish about that, I guess out of fear we'll just jump ship to some mythical better job later.

    Former co-workers in the SF Bay Area have it even worse. Hiring managers there have claimed to routinely get *thousands* of resumes for any IT job posting. People opening entry-level jobs are getting resumes from former VPs and Directors.

    I don't see where this so-called shortage comes from. Even granting that maybe me and the couple people I know are just horrible unhirable schleps, are we to believe this is true of the thousands of people trying desperately to get *any* IT job just in the SF Bay area alone?

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @10:42PM (#23051152)
    Read further [], my friend. Bachelor's degree with an F-1 is all it takes, which can be accomplished with one academic year [] at a less-competitive school []. Perhaps you're confusing this latest action with the H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption [], which sets aside 20,000 H-1B visas for foreign workers with a Master's or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution.
  • I'm not talking about immigration. We're talking about something akin to 'ringers' being brought in to drive down wages. H1-B workers are not immigrants, they are not coming here to work to become US citizen and stay here, they are temporary workers that drive down wages, send money home and leave eventually.

    I know a lot of H1-B workers that use the H1-B just as a way to try and get themselves into the USA.
  • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @11:49PM (#23051512) Journal
    American real wages aren't rising - if anything, they are going down [].
  • by vinn01 ( 178295 ) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @12:50AM (#23051792)
    "ask yourself why companies are willing to pay so much for that connection..."

    You disproved your own point - companies are *not* willing to pay for that connection. Immigration processing expenses are a heck of a lot cheaper. So that's what companies choose.

    The reason that the grandparent is right on target has to do with two business trends:

    - trend towards disposable tech workers
    - trend away from paying any relocation expenses to new or current employees

    The first trend should be within most everyone's experience. The tenure of tech workers used to be measured in years. Now it's measured in months. H1-B workers better fit this trend.

    The second trend needs no explanation. Relocation used to be common for engineering/tech jobs. Now, it's rare. Again, H1-B workers better fit this trend.

    I'm old enough to remember -
    -The "newer" workers at my first job had been there 10 years. The old timers had been there 25 years+. And there was no 401K. People who stayed got a pension. And the pension plans were generous and safe.

    -National and multi-national companies relocated people for almost 50% of all open positions.

    That was my experince.

  • Re:Disingenous tripe (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Sunday April 13, 2008 @12:55AM (#23051824)

    Microsoft pays standard salaries to H1-B visa holders. They are required to, by law

    But the "standard" itself is depressed by the existence of the H1-B workers. Hell, it's not even just the fact that they're willing to work for less, but also just the fact that they're there: if you increase the supply of workers, wages go down. Full stop. This is fucking microeconomics 101; it's not negotiable or debatable. It's a fact!

  • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @01:23AM (#23051950)
    err because of labor shortages you dumbass, that's why. not enough people to do the work.

    The "labor shortage" in the IT world is a myth. Perhaps you've not seen the infamous Cohen & Grigsby video?
  • Re:Why, DHS? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @02:08AM (#23052148)
    You, like many other people that bring out the "racism" crap in an effort to neuter any meaningful discussion about immigration, keep losing sight of an important issue: assimilation. And if you want to talk about racism as applied to immigration policy, the United States and its people make a poor example. We allow thousands upon thousands of people from every country on Earth to emigrate here every year, and to try to become citizens if they so wish. Calling us racist demonstrates a remarkable degree of ignorance on this subject. Try emigrating to Japan, for example: unless you can show that you are as Japanese as humanly possible you will never be a citizen. That's a far more "racist" approach to immigration than U.S. policy has ever been, but you know what? It's their country, and it's their right to decide who they want to live there. Allow us the same privilege before you call us racist: contrary to what you may believe, you do not have any intrinsic right to come here. We get to decide that, not you.

    Put it this way: no matter what country you hail from, granting citizenship to all comers is a mistake that few nations make. That's not to say that illegal immigration isn't just as big a problem for other countries as it is for America, but so far as legal immigration is concerned, the citizens of any nation have a stake in who is granted citizenship. The process of assimilation doesn't happen overnight, and just because someone is a "best and brightest" absolutely does not automatically qualify them as an asset, someone of benefit to our society. Bill Gates and his ilk would like you to believe otherwise, but only because they are insulated from the effects of their manipulations, and by their past actions have shown they don't care one whit about this country and its people. Their opinions in this matter are not to be taken seriously.

    Citizenship should be earned, not handed out willy-nilly. Whether you're English, French, German, Venezualan, Russian, Chinese ... you want to know that the people you are allowing in to your country understand your culture, accept your culture, and are willing to give their allegiance to it. That takes time, often lots of it, and has nothing whatsoever to do with your technical skills and knowledge, or whether you're willing to work for half of a domestic worker's pay. It has to do with who you are, what you believe in. If you don't believe in America, don't believe in the Constitution, don't believe in us ... we don't want or need you. You're a liability.

    My fiancee is a naturalized U.S. citizen who spent many years in this country before she was sworn in. She's proud of the fact that she worked hard, proved her worth, and is now a citizen of this great nation. However, she bitterly resents the fact that thousands of other foreign-born individuals (not to mention tens of millions of illegal Mexican immigrants) are being given rights and privileges that they have not earned and do not deserve.
  • by gbutler69 ( 910166 ) on Sunday April 13, 2008 @10:49AM (#23054110) Homepage
    We need fewer H1B visas, not more. I am currently working on a government (ironically funded by DHS) project. We have a team of about 10 developers. 1/2 of the developers are H1B candidates. Not one of the H1B candidates have made ANY meaningful contribution ot the project. They are all being paid an enormous sum of money to "learn". It has actually had a negative impact on the project because I, and others, spend so much time mentoring them, teaching them, and fixing their inevitable screw-ups. This is a fraud on the American public, American Citizenry, and American Taxpayers. Meanwhile, here in the rust belt, while these supposedly necessary H1B candidates who produce NOTHING get paid salaries in the top 5% of the North-Eastern Ohio, the people born and bred here, see their incomes decline year after year while they are told their skills are not worth something, that there is no way for them to obtain new skills, and that "Oh, well, that's just global competition". It's a recipe for failure of the greatest magnitude. People won't stand for it for much longer.

Forty two.