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For each H-1B visa, US tech firms hire 5 Americans: Nasdaq

Last updated on: July 29, 2011 15:06 IST

For each H-1B visa, US tech firms hire 5 Americans: Nasdaq

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Lalit K Jha in Washington


Refuting the allegations of United States lawmakers and certain quarters here that H-1B visas take away jobs from Americans, Nasdaq's chief has claimed that studies show that for every H-1B visa, technology companies increase employment by five workers.

"Let me take the job-stealing issue head on," Nasdaq CEO Robert Griefeld told Senators at a Congressional hearing on immigration reform early this week.

"Opponents of enhanced legal immigration argue that when a foreign-born, highly skilled immigrant gets a job, American graduates are the losers," he said.

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Image: Nasdaq CEO Robert Griefeld.
Photographs: Reuters
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"But my research and experience tell me quite a different story. For example, the National Federation for American Policy says that for every H-1B worker requested, US technology companies increase their overall employment by 5 workers," Griefeld said.

The Nasdaq CEO argued there was a case to enact a more flexible and stable regime for legal immigration.

"Reform must convey economic priorities about job growth and global competitiveness. Increasing H-1B visas is simply not enough. We need to admit and keep entrepreneurs here so that the creative dynamic of our economy is enhanced by the very best skills and minds," he said.

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"Whether in Silicon Valley, Austin, Chicago, or anywhere else in the United States, I hear from CEOs that the H-1B visa system is inadequate for today's human capital marketplace and the backlog for green cards and what they mean to the quality and the uncertainty of the lives of these foreign-born employees is a legitimate threat to their businesses," he said.

"Many companies can, if needed, locate people in Canada, Europe, India or any country that wants those jobs and the benefits they bring," he said.

Puneet Arora, the vice president of Immigration Voice, told lawmakers that frustration with the US immigration system sent Wharton graduate Kunal Bahl back home in 2007 where he went and founded SnapDeal.com.

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This is a rapidly growing company with over $20 million in annual revenue, over 400 workers and growing at the rate of 70 workers a month.

This, India's equivalent of Groupon, has major US venture capitalists like Vinod Dham, the father of the Intel chip, investing significantly in it.

"Reports from India and China suggest that this is not an isolated example. This is a growing trend. We often hear concerns that foreign-born workers are taking jobs and stalling the economic recovery," Arora said.

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Ronil Hira, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology said to meet the needs of both the US economy and American workers, the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes need immediate and substantial overhaul.

"The goal of these programmes is to bring in foreign workers who complement the American workforce. Instead, loopholes have made it too easy to bring in cheaper foreign workers, with ordinary skills -- these are not specialised skills, these are not the best and brightest, these are ordinary skills -- who directly substitute for, rather than complement, American workers," he noted.

"The programmes are clearly displacing and denying opportunities to American workers. The H-1B and L-1 programmes have serious design flaws and legislation is needed to fix them. Administrative changes alone such as stepped up enforcement, while necessary, are simply not sufficient to correct the problems," Hira said.

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In his remarks, Senator John Cornyn said there is a scarcity of qualified people for many jobs, particularly high-tech jobs requiring special skills.

"And those, of course, should be the target of the H-1B programme. But we should assure every American and all Americans that we will never hire, never allow to be hired, a foreign national under an H-1B Programme where there is a qualified American ready, willing and able to do that job," he said.

Senator Grassley said there is a need to plug the loopholes in the H-1B and L1 visa programmes. He and his other colleague in the Senate have introduced a legislation in the Senate in this regard.

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"Among other things, the H-1B and the L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse and Prevention Act would ensure American workers are afforded the first chance to obtain the available high paying jobs and high skilled jobs," he said.

"The bill would strengthen the wage requirements, ridding the incentives for companies to hire cheap, foreign labour. Our bill would also require companies to attest that they have tried to hire an American worker before they hire a foreign worker," Grassley said.

Grassley said the efforts he and others have put into the H-1B programme have already had an impact, without the legislation being passed.

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"Our efforts have increased scrutiny, forced bad actors to find other ways to enter, live and work in the United States under false pretenses. The increased oversight of the H-1B programme, for instance, has caused the businesses to quote-unquote "think creatively" to get around the programme, using both the L and the B-1 visa to bypass the requirements and protections under the H-1B visa programme," he said.

"Recently, this scenario came to light when an employee of Infosys filed a complaint alleging that his employer was, quote, 'sending lower level and unskilled foreigners to the United States to work in full-time positions at customer sites, in direct violation of immigration law,' end of quote," Grassley said.

"The complaint further states, quote, 'Infosys was paying these employees in India for full-time work in the United States without withholding federal or state income taxes', end of quote," he said.

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Infosys, one of the top 10 H-1B petitioning companies, has worked to creatively get around the H-1B programme by using the B-1 business visitor visa in order to bring in low-skilled and low-wage workers.

"That plaintiff, Jay Palmer, has written a statement. And I ask unanimous consent, as I've already done, to put that in the record. The courts will decide if the activities of Infosys were illegal. But I can definitely say that their actions don't comport with the spirit of the law," the Senator said.



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