Solving the H-1B Visa Issue

One of the big topics that came up on the panel I was on today at the DNC was the issue surrounding the labor supply in the US in computer science and IT.  There is a growing shortage of software engineers in the US that is getting worse as every year passes.  I’ve talked about this in the past as my main motivation for being involved in the National Center for Women & Information Technology as one of the ways to build the long term labor pipeline is to encourage more women and girls to get involved in careers in computer science and IT.

I think the Bush administration has completely missed the boat when it comes to dealing with temporary work visas and permanent residency for high tech software / IT workers.  This issue has come up repeatedly over the past few years as large software and technology companies have finally weighed in to try to impact some of our inane policies.

I think the solution to the problem is really simple.  The US should grant permanent residency to anyone who graduates from a qualified four year university with a computer science degree.  If you are concerned about people gaming the system, you can start out by limiting it to people that receive a post-graduate degree.  Of course, you can easily extend this beyond computer science (e.g. physics, chemistry, etc.)

When I was an undergraduate at MIT, a meaningful percentage of the student body was from other countries.  It never even occurred to me that these folks were "different" and didn’t "belong in our country."  Some of my best friends in college weren’t US citizens and I was baffled by the hoops they had to jump through even back then to work in the US.  In the past eight years, this has gotten dramatically worse and it’s time we got in front of this.

Everyone on the panel seemed to agree that this was a huge issue surrounding innovation in the US over the long term.  Most people seemed to agree that this was a simple solution that would not require a huge bureaucracy to administer.  With your diploma, you get permanent residence status. 

I don’t understand why there would be any rational resistance to something like this – after all, wasn’t the United States built on immigrants?

  • http://www.altgate.com FN

    The key word is “rational.”

  • http://www.coloradostartups.com David G. Cohen

    I watched you talk about this live today, and when you proposed that a real “duh, yeah” hit me. I mean, come on, if you can graduate from a top school in this country in a field where we urgently need talent, don't we want you to stay here? I wonder how the number of students who would fit this proposal compares to the number of H1-B's given out anyway? that's the only possible concern, if it's orders of magnitude higher (although i say who cares, screw the limit).

  • http://www.bouldertolondon.com Tom C.

    I couldn't agree more. I recently did a little research on this and in summary, the process for immigrants (H-1B and otherwise) is difficult and confusing. The US has a clear labour shortage in IT and computer science as well as a number of other fields. To make matters worse, immigrants educated in the US are returning to their home countries to start the businesses they dreamed of opening in the States. Their home country benefits from the creation of new technology, products, jobs and wealth.

    To contrast the US process, I recently moved to London for work. My work permit took 8 weeks to approve and it is good for 5 years. Given my skills and age, it would have also been possible to secure a more permanent working visa through their highly skilled migrant programme as they recognize a shortage of skilled labour in their economy.

  • Jerry

    Brad…you're so silly…being reasonable and rational and all. Yes. This country was built on immigrants but they were the RIGHT kind of immigrants not these folks who want to come into the country now.
    Oh damn…I hope folks reading my comment will recognize my sarcasm.

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    Here, here. A simple solution to falsely complex problems. Another 10,000 of these and we might actually get this country moving at the speed it should again.

    The longest journey starts with the first step, right?

  • Dave

    I have seen your friends the Democrats making a big deal about how IT jobs are being exported overseas and that we need to do something about it – American IT workers are losing their jobs! This is the (wrongheaded) perspective that makes it pseudo-rational in their minds to block immigration. And while it's always fun to bash Bush, unless I'm mistaken the system we have in place has been there a LONG time (including during the first Internet bubble – the Clinton years – when you couldn't hire a software developer to save your life… and I recall dealing with it at the start of my career – mid-Reagan), so the error is truly bipartisan.

    The deeper question is what your rational justification would be for limiting entrants the way you propose. Why not expand to accredited four-year colleges ANYWHERE in the world? Why not ANY four year degree? And why exactly is college a filter anyway? This filter helps YOU, but what about construction businesses in the West that have trouble finding workers? What about the restaurant industry, which also has trouble finding and keeping staff?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      This isn’t about “IT jobs being exported overseas.” I don’t care about that – the IT job growth opportunity over the next 20 years greatly exceeds current (and forecasted) supply.

      The pipeline problem has existed for a while (since the early 1990’s) but is getting worse. In addition, Bush’s policies are much more restrictive than those under previous administrations.

      There’s no good reason to limit it to degrees from US universities – I was just trying to solve an immediate problem with is to get many more qualified high tech workers into the system right now. Diploma + permanent resident status solves this.

      There is a different pipeline issue for computer science than for the restaurant industry. The discussion around this is much deeper than I think I understand, which is why limited it to computer science and other “innovative” areas (which I do understand).

  • Richard Stump

    I believeThe Limit on these visas was 100K during the 90's and a lot of talk had been given to expand them and in fact Bush had talked expansion prior to 9/11. After 9/11 they were cut to 65K and this was supposed to be temporary but I agree with Brad that getting a technical graduate degree should get you in the line for permanent residency or at least I would like to see the cap raised to a more reasonable level or perhaps be set to auto increase over time.

  • Don Jones

    I would have thought that the idea of letting more workers into the US was anathema to the Democratic platform, with Big Labor permanently allergic to anything that “takes American jobs.”

  • Bob

    Giving jobs to immigrants doesn't solve the problem of American IT workers losing their jobs? Why are Americans losing IT jobs if there are a shortage of workers? I'm not an Obama supporter, but he's right than companies are wrong in sending jobs overseas. However, he's wrong to think that raising corporate taxes is going to help anything. Raising taxes on corporations is only going to make them want to send more jobs (and plants, etc) overseas so they can avoid Obama's tax hike. There has to be a better answer than more taxes and more visa, right?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I'd love to see real data on American IT workers losing their jobs. My experience is exactly the opposite – there are simply not enough American IT workers to fill the jobs.

      • http://chemorocks.blogspot.com Michael Birdsong

        I'm one of them Brad. Yes, I am an IT worker here in Boulder, and I lost my job (actually have lost a couple: once due to an acquisition, the latest due to too much VC getting burned).

        If you ever use the Cisco VPN Client, you are working with software I helped develop, back in the day. I think I'd be able to hold down most any gig for which an employer would rather hire an H1-B at a lower salary.

        There are plenty of us “non H1-B's” out there still looking. You know, we 'middle class folks who make less than $5 million per year'.

      • ZPH

        Not enough American IT workers? That depends on your perspective. I like to use a car mechanic analogy:

        “Joe” is an American in his 40's and has been a Lexus mechanic for 20+ years. “Boris” is from another country, in his early twenties and just got a certificate from a 6-month program to be an Infiniti mechanic.

        Joe is laid off and applies to a nearby Infiniti dealership, but he won't get the job. The real reason? Because Joe would demand too much money. The stated reason? Joe's “not qualified”. So the Infiniti dealership contracts with an outsourcer who brings in Boris. After all, Boris has the official Infiniti certificate, so he's more qualified.

        This is absurd. There are lots of unemployed American IT workers who would be more than capable of filling many of the open positions out there, but because the employers play ticky-tack with the job description, they can disqualify a lot of Americans and bring in a cheap hired gun from overseas under the guise that there were no “qualified” American workers.

  • http://www.nonconformingmind.com Steve Gotz

    The UK used to be pretty enlightened with their HSMP program…if you graduated from one of the top-50 worldwide MBA programs you were automatically eligible for a UK work Visa which offered permanent residency at the 5-year mark. Under the current political regime they removed the MBA option, instead shifting to a pure points-based system. They also run a Tier 1 Entrepreneurs visa…a bit restrictive but at least its an option. Unless the US gets off its butt it is going to find itself as the outsourced education capital of the world…a mere stepping stone, for the worlds most brilliant people, on the the path to more enlightened political regimes & geographies…

  • http://www.mentations.com Brian Schneeberg

    Brad, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the prevailing thinking that the number of enrollments have been dropping in CS programs due to the offshoring movement which has taken $60/hr. U.S. software engineer positions and shipped them overseas for $15-$20/hr.? I thought the conventional wisdom was that the next generation of potential developers wasn't exactly thrilled by the prospect of having this happen to them, especially as more and more senior level positions get offshored too. In the tech publications I've been reading, these folks have been advised by industry luminaries to go for a more “business analyst” track (versus hard-core tech) and then focus on learning a vertical such as the hospitality industry. The thinking is that this knowledge is not as easily transferable offshore like, for instance, Java programming might be.

  • http://www.mentations.com Brian Schneeberg

    Therefore, I think any perceived shortage of talent in the U.S. is simply a feedback loop of students, when they're picking their major, wanting to have some assurance of stable careers in their chosen occupations (and hence, opting for biz over tech). Granted, in *any* occupation job security is becoming more difficult with globalization. As a result, I don't think the answer is to, in essence, bring offshoring onshore by increasing the H1 Visa cap. I think that perhaps you are just encouraging a subculture of “slave” labor in that case – people that are willing to work for [what used to be] substandard U.S. wages (since they're higher than in their country of origin) and are shackled to that one employer due to their visa status. Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily advocating protectionist measures either, just trying to point out a potential oversimplification of the issue in your line of reasoning… ;^)

  • Joe schmoe

    There isn't a shortage of talent. There is a shortage of talent at the price that most businesses want to pay. If you need a good coder, raise your rates and you won't have any troubles. Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to a company that sounded interesting. Everything went great and then we talked money. I make ~150K as a coder currently and they wanted to pay me 85K. No thanks.

  • kip

    If you can get an h1B should also include spouses. I leave near Yale and there are tons of very brigth and highly educated spouses who could really be helping were they to have work papers.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Great suggestion.

  • Margaret Baratley

    Scientific and technical wages are falling. This is not the indicator of a shortage of workers.

    Global corporations have and are still spending billions of dollars setting up training and R & D centers in Asia, where wages and working conditions are much lower than they are in the US, and after training all those millions of workers, they very understandably want to bring them to the US for on-the-job-training. The H1b visa is great for them, because the visa belongs to the company that brings in the worker, not the worker.

    Those of us in the IT field have been seeing ads for jobs that require more skills than any one company can reasonably require, and often 4 or 5 years of experience in a brand-new technology. We recognize those as phony job ads. I ran an ad for a fairly specialized high-tech position, and got several dozen well-qualified respondents. There is not a shortage of high-tech workers.

    There is a serious shortage of jobs for high-tech workers who have been and are being laid off by the tens and hundreds of thousands. From what I have seen, most of the h1-b people being brought in are entry-level programmers who are in the US for on-the-job training. They are trained by the American work force. After a few years, when they are up to speed, they go back to India, and take the jobs with them.

    I tried lobbying and educating my elected officials back in the early 2000's, so I know they know what is going on. They understand that what is really going on is the transfer of the high-tech sector and the jobs that go with it, to Asia. The DNC knows this, as well – they just hope they can keep the American people in ignorance until it's too late.

    This has been going on since the early 90's, and is now nearing the end game.

    Further evidence is the statement that diplomas should grant residency status. The WTO has been negotiating these trades in natural persons discussions for over a decade, and one of the issues they are settling on is that a Bachelor's degree in India should only take three years, not four. Other issues are that guest workers should be exempt from paying Social Security and unemployment taxes. That's a 20% savings right there. The US and India have negotiated the return of some $2BILLION dollars that Indian guest workers paid into the Social Security trust fund, ostensibly because they won't be able to collect it, although a survey done in the early 2000's showed that 25% of the H1-b visa people when on to get a green card.

    This is a complicated debate, I'm limited in my space here, and I find it very ominous that the DNC is so eager to throw American workers out the window, although not surprising, given the reaction I had when I spoke to my elected representatives, who were most Democrats.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Great suggestion.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I'd love to see real data on American IT workers losing their jobs. My experience is exactly the opposite – there are simply not enough American IT workers to fill the jobs.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    This isn’t about “IT jobs being exported overseas.” I don’t care about that – the IT job growth opportunity over the next 20 years greatly exceeds current (and forecasted) supply.

    The pipeline problem has existed for a while (since the early 1990’s) but is getting worse. In addition, Bush’s policies are much more restrictive than those under previous administrations.

    There’s no good reason to limit it to degrees from US universities – I was just trying to solve an immediate problem with is to get many more qualified high tech workers into the system right now. Diploma + permanent resident status solves this.

    There is a different pipeline issue for computer science than for the restaurant industry. The discussion around this is much deeper than I think I understand, which is why limited it to computer science and other “innovative” areas (which I do understand).

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    From an email:

    Oh dear. I do so disagree with you.

    Let's not re-build the broken dyke; let's just put a Band-aid over the hole and ignore the leak.

    The SOLUTION is not to import more educated foreign workers and give them H-1B visas, but to EDUCATE the kids we already have today in schools, and radically shake up the current public school system.

    Coming from the technology sector and holding resident alien status, I switched my profession recently to take up teaching. I have worked thus far in 30 different inner city schools. Quite an eye opener. I recommend every member of congress do a stint in an inner city high school, then come back and make recommendations (and funding cuts).

    Believe me, America is turning out trained monkeys. Monkeys to work in McDonalds that is. Monkeys fully accepting of mediocrity.

    America is pandering to a gangster/hip hop/jive ass/lawyered-up mentality. The American school system is so afraid of being strict, of being sued, and of being politically INcorrect; they are fostering and breeding consistent underachievers, dropouts and failures.

    We don't need more foreign, educated workers; we need to grow some nuts and stand up and call it what it really is: the American [public] education system is designed to spew out dummies by the boat load. The system is broken and snarled up by silly laws, lawyers, and law suits to the detriment of the student body and the nation. We are all guilty of doing our students a grave disservice.

    First, I say segregate the schools based on ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT. Super smart kids, smart kids, not-so-smart kids, and dunces. That way, the thugs don't disrupt and drag down the achievers in the class, and the teacher can concentrate on teaching instead of playing prison guard, babysitter (or gunslinger).

    The super smart kids are groomed for the Ivy League universities and become scientists/technologists. The smart kids become doctors/lawyers. The not-so-smart kids fill all the drone jobs, and the dunces go and do drugs, rob 7-11s, give birth to illegitimate babies, etc. Not every kid has Einstein DNA…

    Second, teach in CONTEXT. Today's kids are plugged into technology: iPods, cell phones, laptops, e-mail, texting, social networking, etc. You can't TEACH technology if the technology is not available in the school for every child to use. (NO MORE FOREIGN AID UNTIL EVERY AMERICAN KID HAS A SCHOOL COMPUTER)! Charity begins at home.

    Third, parents and kids sign contracts with the school stating they understand that being in a certain grade is a PRIVILEGE and that behavior/homework infractions mean a demotion to the next lower grade. (Hello America, it is time to hold kids accountable for their behavior and actions)! Kids need to learn early on that EXCELLENCE is expected of them, and parents are required to enforce that sentiment. No frivolous lawsuits please because Johnnie screwed up and got bumped down. Tough, now Johnnie can EARN his way back up by working harder or altering his bad behavior. Also, teachers won't need to “pass” Johnnie just for the sake of stats or because he's lazy or a problem.

    Let's call a spade a spade. Lousy, lazy, illiterate parents are half the problem. This star-struck fascination with the Britney Spears/50 Cent mentality contributes too, but I believe that kids are not taught that excellence is the ultimate expectation, and that hard work and a good education is the road to success. Kids need to be allowed to excel. They need a school doctrine that strives for achievement, and a safe learning environment in the classroom without the constant interruptions of dunces and thugs. Smart kids need to hang with smart kids and be taught by the best and most qualified teachers…this is the only way we will turn out technologically savvy students.

    Recap:
    1. Classrooms based on academic achievement.
    2. Teach in [technological] context. Update/upgrade school computer equipment.
    3. Raise the standards of behavior and expectations of students, parents and teachers. Emphasis on education.

    Mediocrity is not an option unless America is OK with becoming a third world nation. No. It is time for America to wake up and smell the simmering fish heads, or brush up on Chinese to schmooze the boss.

    As an additional thought, I would like to see companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, etc., pony up and fund technology institutes for budding software engineers/technologists.

    Let them INVEST in conscientious students; let the students COMPETE for a scholarship, and let the tech companies FUND the student's education.

    Let the tech companies be part of the SOLUTION too!

    • Bradley Joyce

      I tend to agree with this for the most part.

      If there are two things I hope our next president does is make marked improvements to education in the United States and not tax me into oblivion.

  • Nicky

    I have been working in US for 10 years now. I have a Masters in Computer Science from US university. Till now they have not granted me a Green Card. I am not sure how many people will hold up like me. Many would say, 'I had enough, I am out of here'. Opportunities abound in many places now. Its not just the US. So people can find good jobs elsewhere.

  • http://www.kidmercuryblog.com kid mercury

    i think the comment about education above is correct and worth emphasizing — although it is worth noting that the concept of my tax dollars going to educate someone else's kids (i don't have kids) is a fairly new concept. homeschooling and private education is where it's at. the public “education” system is really an indoctrination system designed to turn out a bunch of robots that will make great slaves for the federal government. i find the fact that my tax dollars go to fund this nonsense to be truly disgusting. for more on how terrible the education system is, and how this is done intentionally, go to deliberatedumbingdown.com. the author of that site is a former member of the dept of education during the reagan years.

    as always, all political solutions begin with understanding that capitalism is freedom, and capitalism requires limited government. downsize it!

    more interestingly, what's up with b feld going all political on us?!?!! that's awesome though, brad. keep it up. too many of your peers are afraid of talking about this stuff, in spite of the fact that it affects their portfolio more than anything else. keep it up, and don't let the haters get you down.

    9/11 was an inside job,
    kid mercury

  • Hari Swaminathan

    It's a bit naive to suggest that residency be granted to any student with a 4 year degree. What this will definitely do is fill up the coffers of all Universities in the country. Every potential candidate who can summon up their family's savings from India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and several countries from South America will flock to every US university. While this may seem okay at first, this creates tremendous social, and demographic effects for the future. Simply increasing supply will not create demand. Irreversible global forces are at play that have increased education levels and opportunities in hitherto developing nations, along with cost arbitrage, a bloated sense of taking things for granted in the US, and yes the education system (as one reader has pointed out succinctly ) all have to be viewed in a holistic sense to understand the issues.

  • http://blog.offbeatmammal.com OffBeatMammal

    As someone going through the process (finally approved after hitting the cap a couple of years so stuck here as a “non resident alien” with all the problems that offers) I'd certainly like to see it become much more streamlined and predictable.
    I have a degree and 20 years experience. I'm not coming here to bludge off the healthcare system but to be a productive consumer. Heck, I've even bought a Mustang!
    Now we're approved I still have to leave the country (with wife and daughter in tow), go to a US embassy and get another stamp in my passport and come back… knowing a border guard could still turn me away!
    And then I've got the green card process to look forward to… and if I actually want to become a citizen that might be done in time for one of Obamas kids to be running for office!

  • http://www.adaptiveblue.com Alex Iskold

    Amen

  • ITGuru

    I suppose the problem I have with this is that we will largely be rewarding mediocrity. There is a big differential between being competent enough to earn a degree and being competent. Giving residency to anyone who completes a 4 year degree rather than bringing forth better quality candidates we will be diluting a fairly thin talent pool as it is with a large number of C- graduates. The fact is a lot of the fairly “low-skill” work (billing systems, hr systems, db admins, report writers, simple web apps) we used to import H1-B people to do is now being out-sourced entirely overseas. That has actually freed up a fair number of what I would classify as semi-skilled IT resources. The signal-to-noise ratio is already pretty bad, this would make it worse. My experience is that the real shortage has been in talent, not resumes. Don't think this proposal will help there.

  • JaipalJeph

    Dear friends,

    I just got a waiver approvel.Thankyou so much for your co-operation.
    As you knowreason behing getting waiver was filing H-1 papers.
    But i need proper assistance from your end.

    I have couple of queries regarding my H-1 papers filing.

    As you already know that i got a waiver. And now my company is ready to sponsor me for H-1.

    As far as i know if i have to file papers for H-1 ,i can file it in April and it(H-1) will be activated in October.

    My internship with this company is finishing in feb 15 2009.I have visa till JULY 31st 2009. I cannot work on that visa after 15th feb because i have my contract with this company till feb 15 th.

    So if i file my papers in april, is there any way i can stay till october to start my H-1 visa. May be i could continue with the same company having some kind of extention till october.

    I mean i need to cover that 6-7 months which is in between feb-april and october.

    Could you please suggest me proper way so that we can get extention till october.And at the same time we can file H-1 visa in april.

    Warm Regards!!!
    Jaipal Jeph

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    As an IT pro and long time programmer, it is hard for me to fathom how H1B can be justified when so many American tech workers have gotten the shaft. Over the course of my 20+ year career, I've seen wages slashed, consulting/contracting rates lowered, and lots of career changes as a career as a programmer/software developer is most precarious, especially as one gets older — then you may as well as have a big red X marked on you.

    I have nothing against bringing in the best and the brightest, but what really is happening is that the bulk of these non-immigrant visas go to “body shops” importing entry level programmers that could easily be manned by young (or any career changing) Americans. Within a short drive of my Phoenix area home, I easily tally thousands of jobs that once were staffed by Americans, now filled by a combo of non-immigrant visa workers here on-site and offshore programmers in India or other Asian/global locales.

    I write from firsthand experience, having, on multiple occasions, my position eliminated and I charged with training my offshore/NIV workers in U.S. to assume my responsibilities. Many of my colleagues and former work mates have been forced into early retirement, premature career changes, or are simply counting the days to retirement (though that is a tenuous affair in 2008-2009). I am in a minority that still works in the field I studied for in college (I have a degree in Computer Science) as I am witness to the many that due to pushed out or exploring careers with greater long term upside (though those that jumped into real estate are not looking so grand now).

    Young Americans do not exist in a vacuum and they see what happens to aging software developers — for every Web 2.0 superstar raking it in, there's a hundred just getting by or cautious about long term prospects. Other professionals — lawyers, doctors, even many business oriented disciplines (i.e, Marketing, Accounting) are much more secure in their career lot. Even before the advent of offshore worker migration and imported non-immigrant visa workers, age discrimination was rampant in the industry. This is why enrollment in CS programs is in decline, as it will only appeal to the diehard — otherwise, it's tackling a weighty course path with payback that ends up over the long haul, less than a teacher.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    As an IT pro and long time programmer, it is hard for me to fathom how H1B can be justified when so many American tech workers have gotten the shaft. Over the course of my 20+ year career, I've seen wages slashed, consulting/contracting rates lowered, and lots of career changes as a career as a programmer/software developer is most precarious, especially as one gets older — then you may as well as have a big red X marked on you.

    I have nothing against bringing in the best and the brightest, but what really is happening is that the bulk of these non-immigrant visas go to "body shops" importing entry level programmers that could easily be manned by young (or any career changing) Americans. Within a short drive of my Phoenix area home, I easily tally thousands of jobs that once were staffed by Americans, now filled by a combo of non-immigrant visa workers here on-site and offshore programmers in India or other Asian/global locales.

    I write from firsthand experience, having, on multiple occasions, my position eliminated and I charged with training my offshore/NIV workers in U.S. to assume my responsibilities. Many of my colleagues and former work mates have been forced into early retirement, premature career changes, or are simply counting the days to retirement (though that is a tenuous affair in 2008-2009). I am in a minority that still works in the field I studied for in college (I have a degree in Computer Science) as I am witness to the many that due to pushed out or exploring careers with greater long term upside (though those that jumped into real estate are not looking so grand now).

    Young Americans do not exist in a vacuum and they see what happens to aging software developers — for every Web 2.0 superstar raking it in, there's a hundred just getting by or cautious about long term prospects. Other professionals — lawyers, doctors, even many business oriented disciplines (i.e, Marketing, Accounting) are much more secure in their career lot. Even before the advent of offshore worker migration and imported non-immigrant visa workers, age discrimination was rampant in the industry. This is why enrollment in CS programs is in decline, as it will only appeal to the diehard — otherwise, it's tackling a weighty course path with payback that ends up over the long haul, less than a teacher.

  • FN

    The key word is "rational."

  • Dave

    I have seen your friends the Democrats making a big deal about how IT jobs are being exported overseas and that we need to do something about it – American IT workers are losing their jobs! This is the (wrongheaded) perspective that makes it pseudo-rational in their minds to block immigration. And while it's always fun to bash Bush, unless I'm mistaken the system we have in place has been there a LONG time (including during the first Internet bubble – the Clinton years – when you couldn't hire a software developer to save your life… and I recall dealing with it at the start of my career – mid-Reagan), so the error is truly bipartisan.

    The deeper question is what your rational justification would be for limiting entrants the way you propose. Why not expand to accredited four-year colleges ANYWHERE in the world? Why not ANY four year degree? And why exactly is college a filter anyway? This filter helps YOU, but what about construction businesses in the West that have trouble finding workers? What about the restaurant industry, which also has trouble finding and keeping staff?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/richard_st59861 richard_st59861

    I believeThe Limit on these visas was 100K during the 90's and a lot of talk had been given to expand them and in fact Bush had talked expansion prior to 9/11. After 9/11 they were cut to 65K and this was supposed to be temporary but I agree with Brad that getting a technical graduate degree should get you in the line for permanent residency or at least I would like to see the cap raised to a more reasonable level or perhaps be set to auto increase over time.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dgcohen dgcohen

    I watched you talk about this live today, and when you proposed that a real "duh, yeah" hit me. I mean, come on, if you can graduate from a top school in this country in a field where we urgently need talent, don't we want you to stay here? I wonder how the number of students who would fit this proposal compares to the number of H1-B's given out anyway? that's the only possible concern, if it's orders of magnitude higher (although i say who cares, screw the limit).

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/don_jones3607 don_jones3607

    I would have thought that the idea of letting more workers into the US was anathema to the Democratic platform, with Big Labor permanently allergic to anything that "takes American jobs."

  • Tom C.

    I couldn't agree more. I recently did a little research on this and in summary, the process for immigrants (H-1B and otherwise) is difficult and confusing. The US has a clear labour shortage in IT and computer science as well as a number of other fields. To make matters worse, immigrants educated in the US are returning to their home countries to start the businesses they dreamed of opening in the States. Their home country benefits from the creation of new technology, products, jobs and wealth.

    To contrast the US process, I recently moved to London for work. My work permit took 8 weeks to approve and it is good for 5 years. Given my skills and age, it would have also been possible to secure a more permanent working visa through their highly skilled migrant programme as they recognize a shortage of skilled labour in their economy.

  • Bob

    Giving jobs to immigrants doesn't solve the problem of American IT workers losing their jobs? Why are Americans losing IT jobs if there are a shortage of workers? I'm not an Obama supporter, but he's right than companies are wrong in sending jobs overseas. However, he's wrong to think that raising corporate taxes is going to help anything. Raising taxes on corporations is only going to make them want to send more jobs (and plants, etc) overseas so they can avoid Obama's tax hike. There has to be a better answer than more taxes and more visa, right?

  • Jerry

    Brad…you're so silly…being reasonable and rational and all. Yes. This country was built on immigrants but they were the RIGHT kind of immigrants not these folks who want to come into the country now.
    Oh damn…I hope folks reading my comment will recognize my sarcasm.

  • Steve Gotz

    The UK used to be pretty enlightened with their HSMP program…if you graduated from one of the top-50 worldwide MBA programs you were automatically eligible for a UK work Visa which offered permanent residency at the 5-year mark. Under the current political regime they removed the MBA option, instead shifting to a pure points-based system. They also run a Tier 1 Entrepreneurs visa…a bit restrictive but at least its an option. Unless the US gets off its butt it is going to find itself as the outsourced education capital of the world…a mere stepping stone, for the worlds most brilliant people, on the the path to more enlightened political regimes & geographies…

  • Will

    Here, here. A simple solution to falsely complex problems. Another 10,000 of these and we might actually get this country moving at the speed it should again.

    The longest journey starts with the first step, right?

  • Brian Schneeberg

    Brad, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the prevailing thinking that the number of enrollments have been dropping in CS programs due to the offshoring movement which has taken $60/hr. U.S. software engineer positions and shipped them overseas for $15-$20/hr.? I thought the conventional wisdom was that the next generation of potential developers wasn't exactly thrilled by the prospect of having this happen to them, especially as more and more senior level positions get offshored too. In the tech publications I've been reading, these folks have been advised by industry luminaries to go for a more "business analyst" track (versus hard-core tech) and then focus on learning a vertical such as the hospitality industry. The thinking is that this knowledge is not as easily transferable offshore like, for instance, Java programming might be.

  • Brian Schneeberg

    Therefore, I think any perceived shortage of talent in the U.S. is simply a feedback loop of students, when they're picking their major, wanting to have some assurance of stable careers in their chosen occupations (and hence, opting for biz over tech). Granted, in *any* occupation job security is becoming more difficult with globalization. As a result, I don't think the answer is to, in essence, bring offshoring onshore by increasing the H1 Visa cap. I think that perhaps you are just encouraging a subculture of "slave" labor in that case – people that are willing to work for [what used to be] substandard U.S. wages (since they're higher than in their country of origin) and are shackled to that one employer due to their visa status. Don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily advocating protectionist measures either, just trying to point out a potential oversimplification of the issue in your line of reasoning… ;^)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    From an email:

    Oh dear. I do so disagree with you.

    Let's not re-build the broken dyke; let's just put a Band-aid over the hole and ignore the leak.

    The SOLUTION is not to import more educated foreign workers and give them H-1B visas, but to EDUCATE the kids we already have today in schools, and radically shake up the current public school system.

    Coming from the technology sector and holding resident alien status, I switched my profession recently to take up teaching. I have worked thus far in 30 different inner city schools. Quite an eye opener. I recommend every member of congress do a stint in an inner city high school, then come back and make recommendations (and funding cuts).

    Believe me, America is turning out trained monkeys. Monkeys to work in McDonalds that is. Monkeys fully accepting of mediocrity.

    America is pandering to a gangster/hip hop/jive ass/lawyered-up mentality. The American school system is so afraid of being strict, of being sued, and of being politically INcorrect; they are fostering and breeding consistent underachievers, dropouts and failures.

    We don't need more foreign, educated workers; we need to grow some nuts and stand up and call it what it really is: the American [public] education system is designed to spew out dummies by the boat load. The system is broken and snarled up by silly laws, lawyers, and law suits to the detriment of the student body and the nation. We are all guilty of doing our students a grave disservice.

    First, I say segregate the schools based on ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT. Super smart kids, smart kids, not-so-smart kids, and dunces. That way, the thugs don't disrupt and drag down the achievers in the class, and the teacher can concentrate on teaching instead of playing prison guard, babysitter (or gunslinger).

    The super smart kids are groomed for the Ivy League universities and become scientists/technologists. The smart kids become doctors/lawyers. The not-so-smart kids fill all the drone jobs, and the dunces go and do drugs, rob 7-11s, give birth to illegitimate babies, etc. Not every kid has Einstein DNA…

    Second, teach in CONTEXT. Today's kids are plugged into technology: iPods, cell phones, laptops, e-mail, texting, social networking, etc. You can't TEACH technology if the technology is not available in the school for every child to use. (NO MORE FOREIGN AID UNTIL EVERY AMERICAN KID HAS A SCHOOL COMPUTER)! Charity begins at home.

    Third, parents and kids sign contracts with the school stating they understand that being in a certain grade is a PRIVILEGE and that behavior/homework infractions mean a demotion to the next lower grade. (Hello America, it is time to hold kids accountable for their behavior and actions)! Kids need to learn early on that EXCELLENCE is expected of them, and parents are required to enforce that sentiment. No frivolous lawsuits please because Johnnie screwed up and got bumped down. Tough, now Johnnie can EARN his way back up by working harder or altering his bad behavior. Also, teachers won't need to "pass" Johnnie just for the sake of stats or because he's lazy or a problem.

    Let's call a spade a spade. Lousy, lazy, illiterate parents are half the problem. This star-struck fascination with the Britney Spears/50 Cent mentality contributes too, but I believe that kids are not taught that excellence is the ultimate expectation, and that hard work and a good education is the road to success. Kids need to be allowed to excel. They need a school doctrine that strives for achievement, and a safe learning environment in the classroom without the constant interruptions of dunces and thugs. Smart kids need to hang with smart kids and be taught by the best and most qualified teachers…this is the only way we will turn out technologically savvy students.

    Recap:
    1. Classrooms based on academic achievement.
    2. Teach in [technological] context. Update/upgrade school computer equipment.
    3. Raise the standards of behavior and expectations of students, parents and teachers. Emphasis on education.

    Mediocrity is not an option unless America is OK with becoming a third world nation. No. It is time for America to wake up and smell the simmering fish heads, or brush up on Chinese to schmooze the boss.

    As an additional thought, I would like to see companies like Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, etc., pony up and fund technology institutes for budding software engineers/technologists.

    Let them INVEST in conscientious students; let the students COMPETE for a scholarship, and let the tech companies FUND the student's education.

    Let the tech companies be part of the SOLUTION too!

  • kip

    If you can get an h1B should also include spouses. I leave near Yale and there are tons of very brigth and highly educated spouses who could really be helping were they to have work papers.

  • Nicky

    I have been working in US for 10 years now. I have a Masters in Computer Science from US university. Till now they have not granted me a Green Card. I am not sure how many people will hold up like me. Many would say, 'I had enough, I am out of here'. Opportunities abound in many places now. Its not just the US. So people can find good jobs elsewhere.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kidmercury kidmercury

    i think the comment about education above is correct and worth emphasizing — although it is worth noting that the concept of my tax dollars going to educate someone else's kids (i don't have kids) is a fairly new concept. homeschooling and private education is where it's at. the public "education" system is really an indoctrination system designed to turn out a bunch of robots that will make great slaves for the federal government. i find the fact that my tax dollars go to fund this nonsense to be truly disgusting. for more on how terrible the education system is, and how this is done intentionally, go to deliberatedumbingdown.com. the author of that site is a former member of the dept of education during the reagan years.

    as always, all political solutions begin with understanding that capitalism is freedom, and capitalism requires limited government. downsize it!

    more interestingly, what's up with b feld going all political on us?!?!! that's awesome though, brad. keep it up. too many of your peers are afraid of talking about this stuff, in spite of the fact that it affects their portfolio more than anything else. keep it up, and don't let the haters get you down.

    9/11 was an inside job,
    kid mercury

  • Michael Birdsong

    I'm one of them Brad. Yes, I am an IT worker here in Boulder, and I lost my job (actually have lost a couple: once due to an acquisition, the latest due to too much VC getting burned).

    If you ever use the Cisco VPN Client, you are working with software I helped develop, back in the day. I think I'd be able to hold down most any gig for which an employer would rather hire an H1-B at a lower salary.

    There are plenty of us "non H1-B's" out there still looking. You know, we 'middle class folks who make less than $5 million per year'.

  • Margaret Baratley

    Scientific and technical wages are falling. This is not the indicator of a shortage of workers.

    Global corporations have and are still spending billions of dollars setting up training and R & D centers in Asia, where wages and working conditions are much lower than they are in the US, and after training all those millions of workers, they very understandably want to bring them to the US for on-the-job-training. The H1b visa is great for them, because the visa belongs to the company that brings in the worker, not the worker.

    Those of us in the IT field have been seeing ads for jobs that require more skills than any one company can reasonably require, and often 4 or 5 years of experience in a brand-new technology. We recognize those as phony job ads. I ran an ad for a fairly specialized high-tech position, and got several dozen well-qualified respondents. There is not a shortage of high-tech workers.

    There is a serious shortage of jobs for high-tech workers who have been and are being laid off by the tens and hundreds of thousands. From what I have seen, most of the h1-b people being brought in are entry-level programmers who are in the US for on-the-job training. They are trained by the American work force. After a few years, when they are up to speed, they go back to India, and take the jobs with them.

    I tried lobbying and educating my elected officials back in the early 2000's, so I know they know what is going on. They understand that what is really going on is the transfer of the high-tech sector and the jobs that go with it, to Asia. The DNC knows this, as well – they just hope they can keep the American people in ignorance until it's too late.

    This has been going on since the early 90's, and is now nearing the end game.

    Further evidence is the statement that diplomas should grant residency status. The WTO has been negotiating these trades in natural persons discussions for over a decade, and one of the issues they are settling on is that a Bachelor's degree in India should only take three years, not four. Other issues are that guest workers should be exempt from paying Social Security and unemployment taxes. That's a 20% savings right there. The US and India have negotiated the return of some $2BILLION dollars that Indian guest workers paid into the Social Security trust fund, ostensibly because they won't be able to collect it, although a survey done in the early 2000's showed that 25% of the H1-b visa people when on to get a green card.

    This is a complicated debate, I'm limited in my space here, and I find it very ominous that the DNC is so eager to throw American workers out the window, although not surprising, given the reaction I had when I spoke to my elected representatives, who were most Democrats.

  • Hari Swaminathan

    It's a bit naive to suggest that residency be granted to any student with a 4 year degree. What this will definitely do is fill up the coffers of all Universities in the country. Every potential candidate who can summon up their family's savings from India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and several countries from South America will flock to every US university. While this may seem okay at first, this creates tremendous social, and demographic effects for the future. Simply increasing supply will not create demand. Irreversible global forces are at play that have increased education levels and opportunities in hitherto developing nations, along with cost arbitrage, a bloated sense of taking things for granted in the US, and yes the education system (as one reader has pointed out succinctly ) all have to be viewed in a holistic sense to understand the issues.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/offbeatmamm4340 offbeatmamm4340

    As someone going through the process (finally approved after hitting the cap a couple of years so stuck here as a "non resident alien" with all the problems that offers) I'd certainly like to see it become much more streamlined and predictable.
    I have a degree and 20 years experience. I'm not coming here to bludge off the healthcare system but to be a productive consumer. Heck, I've even bought a Mustang!
    Now we're approved I still have to leave the country (with wife and daughter in tow), go to a US embassy and get another stamp in my passport and come back… knowing a border guard could still turn me away!
    And then I've got the green card process to look forward to… and if I actually want to become a citizen that might be done in time for one of Obamas kids to be running for office!

  • Joe schmoe

    There isn't a shortage of talent. There is a shortage of talent at the price that most businesses want to pay. If you need a good coder, raise your rates and you won't have any troubles. Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to a company that sounded interesting. Everything went great and then we talked money. I make ~150K as a coder currently and they wanted to pay me 85K. No thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bradleyjoyce bradleyjoyce

    I tend to agree with this for the most part.

    If there are two things I hope our next president does is make marked improvements to education in the United States and not tax me into oblivion.

  • Alex Iskold

    Amen

  • ZPH

    Not enough American IT workers? That depends on your perspective. I like to use a car mechanic analogy:

    "Joe" is an American in his 40's and has been a Lexus mechanic for 20+ years. "Boris" is from another country, in his early twenties and just got a certificate from a 6-month program to be an Infiniti mechanic.

    Joe is laid off and applies to a nearby Infiniti dealership, but he won't get the job. The real reason? Because Joe would demand too much money. The stated reason? Joe's "not qualified". So the Infiniti dealership contracts with an outsourcer who brings in Boris. After all, Boris has the official Infiniti certificate, so he's more qualified.

    This is absurd. There are lots of unemployed American IT workers who would be more than capable of filling many of the open positions out there, but because the employers play ticky-tack with the job description, they can disqualify a lot of Americans and bring in a cheap hired gun from overseas under the guise that there were no "qualified" American workers.

  • ITGuru

    I suppose the problem I have with this is that we will largely be rewarding mediocrity. There is a big differential between being competent enough to earn a degree and being competent. Giving residency to anyone who completes a 4 year degree rather than bringing forth better quality candidates we will be diluting a fairly thin talent pool as it is with a large number of C- graduates. The fact is a lot of the fairly “low-skill” work (billing systems, hr systems, db admins, report writers, simple web apps) we used to import H1-B people to do is now being out-sourced entirely overseas. That has actually freed up a fair number of what I would classify as semi-skilled IT resources. The signal-to-noise ratio is already pretty bad, this would make it worse. My experience is that the real shortage has been in talent, not resumes. Don't think this proposal will help there.

  • JaipalJeph

    Dear friends,

    I just got a waiver approvel.Thankyou so much for your co-operation.
    As you knowreason behing getting waiver was filing H-1 papers.
    But i need proper assistance from your end.

    I have couple of queries regarding my H-1 papers filing.

    As you already know that i got a waiver. And now my company is ready to sponsor me for H-1.

    As far as i know if i have to file papers for H-1 ,i can file it in April and it(H-1) will be activated in October.

    My internship with this company is finishing in feb 15 2009.I have visa till JULY 31st 2009. I cannot work on that visa after 15th feb because i have my contract with this company till feb 15 th.

    So if i file my papers in april, is there any way i can stay till october to start my H-1 visa. May be i could continue with the same company having some kind of extention till october.

    I mean i need to cover that 6-7 months which is in between feb-april and october.

    Could you please suggest me proper way so that we can get extention till october.And at the same time we can file H-1 visa in april.

    Warm Regards!!!
    Jaipal Jeph

  • http://www.immigrationvisaus.com Immigration1

    Although there is shortage of science and IT workers yet it is not easy to get H1b visa for the applicants.I don't understand then why not they take it seriously and do something.

  • http://broomfieldbugle.blogspot.com/2009/04/unwelcome-guests.html Manoj Joseph

    I agree with you. But I doubt if this is going to become reality in the next few years, unfortunately.

    I have written a blog about the visa issue, if you are interested.
    http://broomfieldbugle.blogspot.com/2009/04/unwel

    Disclaimer: I am on a non-immigrant visa wondering how coax my employer in to applying for a green card for me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Super post – thanks.  I’m hoping there are enough of us focusing on this that we’ll get a groundswell of support.  Having talked to a few congressmen and heard what is coming with immigration reform proposals, I’m more optimistic than I was a few weeks ago.

  • Oleg

    The lack of technical talent is a myth. There is an oversupply of computer programmers in the US. They myth was invented by the US corporations and executives trying to reduce labor costs and import cheap labor into the US. It has benefited countries like India and China, as wells as thickened wallets of the US executives.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I completely disagree.  As someone involved in creating hundreds of startup companies over the past 15 years, there has always been more demand for software engineering talent in the US than there is software engineers.  In addition, all of the work that we’ve done at the National Center for Women & Information Technology shows this trend getting worse over the next decade.