program is not only being used to undercut the salaries of American
computer programmers, it’s also part of a larger effort to offshore U.S.
high-tech jobs to other countries.
Nine out of the 10 top companies requesting permission to file for H-1B
visas are offshoring companies, according to John Miano, a consultant for
Colosseum Builders, Inc. and the author of The Bottom of the Pay Scale
— Wages for H-1B Computer Programmers, 2004, a report done for the
Center for Immigration Studies. His report also shows that non-U.S.
programmers working here on H-1B visas are paid less than their American
counterparts — $13,000 less.
These statistics fly in the face, he says, of industry claims that the H
-1B visa workers are needed to fill vacant seats in America’s high-tech
companies, and that they will create new technologies that will open up
more jobs for U.S. workers.
”It’s a giant scam going on here,” says Miano, a board member with the
Programmers’ Guild who testified before a House sub-committee on
immigration this month. ”With H-1B, the label is they need highly
skilled workers to promote U.S. industry. If you look at it, this has
very little to do with that.
”This is the engine for offshoring,” adds Miano. ”U.S. companies say
if they don’t get H-1B visas, they’ll move offshore. That’s a load of
manure. In reality, this is what’s driving offshoring.”
Industry representatives say Miano and the pro-worker activists who
support him have it all wrong. The numbers he’s using, they say, just
don’t add up.
”There are basic problems with John’s study,” says Stuart Anderson
executive director for the National Foundation for American Policy, a
think tank focused on trade and immigration issues. ”It’s not a solid
comparison. It’s not valid.”
There is a push underway to increase the cap
on H-1B visa workers from
65,000 a year to 115,000. The bill also says that in coming years if
industry meets the cap limit, it automatically can be expanded by an
additional 20 percent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee already has endorsed the move. The bill is
expected to receive official Senate approval as it comes as part of the
giant immigration bill that Republicans and Democrats have been wrestling
over. However, the U.S. House of Representatives is not expected to usher
the H-1B push through quite so easily. Industry analysts say the
expansion may stall in the House, at least temporarily.
For Miano’s part, he has analyzed data from 2004, and today is working on
a new report based on 2005 numbers.
For his report on the 2004 H-1B figures, which is available on the Center for
Immigration Studies website, Miano used information from Occupational
Employment Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which
estimates wages by state and metropolitan area. He also used data taken
from Labor Condition Applications (LCA) that U.S. companies filed to the
Department of Labor. Companies file LCAs as the step right before filing
H-1B visa applications.
Miano says he would love to use the information from the actual H-1B visa
applications but the government won’t release it. Congress has mandated
the release of the LCAs, but no such law exists for the visa
Miano also explains that he bases his wage calculations on what companies
report they’ll be paying the H-1B visa workers, compared to the
prevailing wage, which is the median wage paid to similarly employed
workers in the same geographical area.
”You can’t even sit there and look at [the Labor Condition Application
data] and say you get anything good about this program,” says Miano.
”They say there is data out there that shows that it’s better. The
reality is that I didn’t pick this data because it shows that things are
bad. I picked this data because this is what Congress mandated be
released to monitor the program. And this data is awful. It’s not sort of
awful. It’s awful.”
Who is Hiring H-1B Visa Workers?
Part of Miano’s study of the LCA information was to look at what
companies are filing applications to bring in the greatest number of
foreign workers. One application can contain requests for multiple
For years now, industry representatives have been saying they need to
bring in H-1B visa workers because there simply are not enough highly
trained and experienced Americans to fill the jobs. In a previous
interview with Rebecca Peters, an attorney and manager of government
relations with the Washington, D.C.-based American Council on
International Personnel, she told Datamation that bringing in H-1B
visa workers actually will help create more jobs for American IT
”These are innovators. They’re coming in and making America more
competitive globally,” says Peters, adding that H-1B workers are filling
jobs that would have otherwise remained empty. She explained that
American-based high-tech companies can bring in highly skilled workers
from other countries to help them create new technologies. And working
on, marketing and selling those new technologies will create more work
here in the U.S.
Miano says government data shows that’s not always the case. Actually,
the data shows that nine out of the 10 companies filing LCAs for the
largest number of H-1B workers are offshoring companies — not software
or hardware companies that might create new jobs.
Today, Miano is analyzing data from the 2005 Labor Condition
Applications. Although he’s still a few months away from finishing the
study, he says the data shows that two-thirds of the high-tech workers
are being requested for offshoring companies. ”At two-thirds, I just
stopped looking,” he says. ”The numbers probably went even higher.”
The 2004 data shows that Wipro Ltd., an offshoring company, filed 153
LCAs for a total of 13,796 H-1B workers. These aren’t the actual visa
applications. These applications are filed before the visa application is
submitted, but Miano says they show companies’ intent. Last year,
Forrester, an industry analyst firm, ranked Wipro as ‘the top offshore
infrastructure management vendor’.
Infosys Technologies Ltd., an offshore outsourcing services company based
in Bangalore, India, filed 137 LCAs for 12,775 workers. Syntel, a
Michigan-based applications and business process outsourcing company,
filed 82 LCAs for 9,302 workers. Tata Consultancy Services, considered to
be the largest outsourcing company based in Mumbai, India, filed 524
applications for 5,200 workers.
Oracle, the only non-outsourcing company on the top 10 list, filed 894
LCAs for 6,462 H-1B workers.
According to Miano, Microsoft Corp. sits at #23 on the list of companies
filing LCAs for the largest number of H-1B workers. IBM comes in at #33,
Motorola Inc. at 61, and Cisco Systems Inc. at 100.
John Bauman, president and co-founder of The Organization for the Rights
of American Workers (TORAW), claims offshoring companies bring in foreign
workers under the H-1B visa program so they can learn a job. Then the
outsourcing company ships the job offshore and the worker goes back home
to fill the position.
”We’ve been trying for years to connect the dots between offshoring and
visa workers,” says Bauman, himself a project manager who has worked
only 10 months in the last three and a half years. ”We see all these
statements from companies saying they don’t have the skills. But, hey, if
we’re training our foreign replacements, we do have the skills.”
Mike Emmons, an applications developer with the State Attorney’s Office
in Orlando, Fla., says he knows this scenario all too well.
In 2002, Emmons was working as a contractor for Siemens ICN in Lake Mary,
Fla. He says one afternoon nearly 20 highly skilled, full-time employees
and contractors were let go. Siemens had contracted with Tata Consultancy
Services to bring in replacement workers from India. Emmons adds that he
was told that in order to receive a better severance package, he would
need to stay on and train his replacement — an H-1B worker.
”I saw one reading Intro to Progress 4GL,” he says. ”And I had
13 years of experience… I’m sure there are some of them who are the
best and the brightest. But 80 percent to 90 percent of these people are
no better than anybody else. They’re here to push wages down.”
And Emmons says the H-1B visa program is just a cog in the offshoring
”They can’t move jobs out of this country unless they have these
visas,” he says. ”They bring them here to let them learn the work and
then they move it to India where it can be done a whole lot cheaper. If a
company wants to move jobs out of this country, fine. See yah. Do it and
I’ll do business with another company. But to buy off Congress to get
these visa workers is wrong.”
Anderson says Miano and Emmons have it all wrong. He says there are no-
layoff protections in place to safeguard American workers. What’s
happening to skew the figures, he explains, is that the outsourcing
services and consulting companies appear to be filing LCAs for a large
number of workers because they may need to move their H-1B employees from
city to city in the U.S. and approval is needed for each location.
”They may not know which cities people will go to,” he says. ”They
have to have these applications filed ahead of time so that person can
work in all different cities. It’s in the law because there’s concern
that someone could get hired in Pittsburg, where the wages are less, and
then moved to Silicon Valley… It would be too much of a wage
Read on to see what Miano’s analysis turned up when he compared wages for H-1B workers with their American counterparters.
Anderson and Miano disagree about the wage differential, as well, when it
comes to H-1B workers and U.S. workers.
According to the data that Miano analyzed, H-1B visa workers are paid an
average of $13,000 less than a comparable American worker. He points out
that some companies do better, but some do worse.
For instance, Oracle, a major enterprise software company based in
Redwood Shores, Calif., has one of the worst disparities, according to
the 2004 figures. Calling Oracle a ”low payer”, Miano says the company
pays its H-1B workers an average of $18,000 less than the median U.S.
wage. Motorola Inc. pays $8,000 below the median, and Sun Microsystems
Inc. pays $6,000 below the median.
Pay for H-1B visa workers at Microsoft Corp. runs about average, Miano
notes. However, he calls Apple Computer Inc. a ”good payer” — nearly
$18,000 above the median. IBM is another ”good payer” — about $10,000
above the median. But Miano is quick to note that doesn’t extend to IBM’s
Indian subsidiary which handles offshoring. That part of the company pays
$14,000 below the median.
”These are the numbers,” says Miano. ”I didn’t single out Oracle. I
ran a query and these are the numbers that popped out.”
Oracle takes exception with the calculations.
In a written statement to Datamation, Bob Wynne, an Oracle
spokesperson, said, ”The interpretation of the CIS study is grossly
misleading because it is based on the wage survey data rather than actual
wages paid by Oracle or any other company. The fact is, Oracle employees
earn market competitive wages.”
When asked to make the wage data available to prove their point, Oracle
declined, citing ‘confidential employee information’.
Bob Cohen, senior vice president of the Information Technology
Association of America, an industry association with 325 U.S.-based
corporate members, says the calculations simply can’t be accurate.
”These are people with advanced degrees,” says Cohen, who supports the
move to increase the H-1B visa cap, adding that unemployment levels for
IT professionals are very low. ”It seems very unlikely that they are
being hired at rates that are not competitive. The way the H-1B program
works is you have to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage,
whichever is higher. You’re meeting prevailing or competitive wage,
you’re paying competitive benefits, so there are protections that are
built into the program.”
Anderson, from the National Foundation for American Policy, says Miano is
basing his report on the wrong numbers.
”The problem with what John did is he only looks at the prevailing
wage,” says Stuart, who wants the H-1B visa cap raised to the former cap
level of 195,000, adding in exemptions for foreign workers with Masters
degrees or PhDs. ”The problem is you can’t claim [the prevailing wage]
is what people are actually being paid.”
Miano argues that neither the government nor industry make anything other
than the prevailing wage information available. Freedom of Information
Act claims have been filed against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services to get that data, he says. So far, nothing has been disclosed.
”This is what employers are submitting to the government,” he adds.
”The government puts lists out and we’re just summarizing what they’re