H1B Visa Abuse: What Do Software Engineers Earn in India and Pakistan?
H1B Visa Abuse:
The visa category was originally intended to help fill gaps in the high-tech workforce with highly skilled employees from abroad in situations where there aren’t enough Americans. Instead, it has given rise to body shops that bring in workers from overseas, mainly from India, to replace higher-paid American workers.
Recent examples of the firing of American IT workers and their replacement by Indian workers at UC San Francisco and Walt Disney and Co have received a lot of media attention. What has particularly incensed the American public is the practice of forcing the American workers to train their replacements.
Labor Cost Savings:
A loophole in H-1B legislation that US companies are taking advantage of allows them to outsource jobs to Indian body shops without even looking for Americans, if those jobs pay approximately $60,000 or higher. Similar jobs in Silicon Valley pay an average of $110,000 a year.
The average salary of a software engineer ($110,000) in Silicon Valley is about 20X more than the average salaries in India ($6,875) and Pakistan ($4,770), according to Glassdoor.
Indians Gaming H1-B System:
Indian body shops are masters of gaming the H1-B system. Most of India's IT exports to the United States are made up of wages of H1B workers brought to the United States by a handful of Indian body shops like Cognizant, Tata Consulting Services (TCS) and Infosys. In 2014, 86% of the H1B visas for tech workers were granted to Indians, according to available data.
The Indian body shops like Cognizant, TCS and Infosys that rely on the H1B visa program in the US are "the shining star" of the Indian economy, and the country's largest export, according to an Indian-American professor Ron Hira who is a strong critic of the abuses of H1B program. By complaining, the Indian government and firms that rely on the program are trying to "build up a firewall so that no other reforms can come through and constrain the program in any way."
|Average Salaries of Software Engineers in Major Cities Source: qz.com|
Indian Code Coolies:
H1B workers brought in by Indian body shops are described variously as "code coolies" or "H1B slaves". Some call them "indentured servants", like the ones from India who replaced slave labor after the British empire abolished slavery.
“’Indentured servants’ is a pretty accurate term because in many cases that’s exactly what’s going on,” said Phillip Griego of San Jose’s Phillip J. Griego and Associates. Over the years, Griego and his law partner, Robert Nuddleman have represented several H-1B workers in lawsuits against body shops.
Along with cracking down on illegal immigration, a key campaign promise of President Trump has been to create lots of American jobs for American workers. “You’ve heard me say the words, and I’ll repeat them, right now: Buy American and Hire American. It’s not just a motto, it’s a pledge. It’s a pledge to the working people of this country. The era of economic surrender for the United States is over -- it's over,” Trump said at Michigan earlier this week.
Right after the CBS 60 Minutes segment on H1-B visa, Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted: "If u just saw CBS 60minutes abt ripoff H1B visa program is replacing AmWorkers u shld know my/Durbin bill will correct this injustice."
The abuse of H1B visas to replace American workers and depress wages is drawing both legislative and executive attention under the Trump administration. High profile cases like the firing of American workers at UC San Francisco and Disney and their replacement by Indian workers has energized the support for cracking down on abuse.
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