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Originally Published: 7/4/2011

By The Issue Wonk

We’ve all been concerned about the outsourcing of jobs and what it has done to American workers. Manufacturing, the bulwark of the middle class, has been shifted to other countries.1 Information technology, software development, and other tech fields are being outsourced at an incredible rate.2 But what about bringing foreign workers into the U.S. to do our jobs, displacing American workers? There are 2 ways they do this: H-1B and H-2 visas.

H-1B visas allow non-immigration, temporary workers into the United States. U.S. employers import the workers for what is considered “specialty occupations.” A specialty occupation is defined by the regulations as an occupation that requires “theoretical and practical application of a body of high specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor.”3 Examples of the kinds of jobs that are specialized are: “architects, engineers, lawyers, physicians, teachers in elementary or secondary schools, colleges or seminaries.”4 Examples given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are “scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.”5 How many of these jobs are going to foreign workers? The U.S. government caps the number of H-1B visas that can be issued.5 For 2012 the cap is 65,000 for those with bachelors degrees (or the equivalent in another country), referred to as the “regular cap,” and 20,000 for those holding master’s degrees. That’s 85,000 high-paying jobs going to people from other countries every year. The H-1B visa is generally good for 3 years but it may be extended for an additional 3 years resulting, supposedly, in a 6-year maximum. The worker must then leave the U.S. for a year before returning. So, we potentially have between 255,000 and 510,000 American jobs being given to foreign workers in any single year. However, there are ways around this and some workers may stay indefinitely.6 Why would corporations go through all the trouble to file, get permission, and recruit workers in other countries? Well, it’s about the wages, of course. According to law, employers must pay the “prevailing wage.” This, of course, is meant to keep corporations from bringing in workers from other countries and paying them less - but it isn’t working. Every year the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center, under contract with the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Foreign Labor Certification, develops the Wage Library.7 Employers are supposed to follow this. However, “an employer who is unable to offer prevailing wage for the job it offers to a potential foreign H-1B worker has options. There are ways to work around the prevailing wage such as researching alternate occupation categories and offering part-time employment.”8

H-2 visas are used for temporary agricultural workers. The migrant workers. The people who pick the crops. These visas are only good for one year.9 Wages are regulated by the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, but, once again, we know that employers easily get around these. According to Verité, the use of brokerage fees is facilitating migrant indebtedness prior to their arrival in the U.S., leading Verité to label the process “forced labor.

When you add the foreign workers being given our jobs to those jobs that have been shipped to other countries, you can easily see why we have such a high unemployment rate. When you hear politicians talking about “creating jobs,” you’ll know what they’re talking about - jobs that pay low wages with little, if any, benefits. It’s just another arrow in the corporate quiver that’s destroying the U.S. middle class. And don’t forget the proposal to raise the retirement age, which would put thousands more people in the job market, driving wages down even more. It’s all about corporate profits. Nothing for us.


1  G. Scott Thomas. 99 of Top 100 U.S. Markets Lose Manufacturing Jobs Since Onset of Recession. The Business Journals On Numbers, June 9, 2011.

2  Thibodeau, Patrick. IT Hiring in India Outpaces U.S.: Is the Recession Making Outsourcing More Attractive? ComputerWorld, January 21, 2010.

3  U.S. Code Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part II § 1184. Admission of nonimmigrants. See Cornell University Law School.

4  H-1 Visa Requirements. Immihelp.com.

5  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Cap Season.

6  Guide to U.S. Immigrantion for Physicians and Scientists. MDgreencard.com.

7  Foreign Labor Certification Data Center, State of Utah. Online Wage Library.

8  Abdullah, Hasan. Money Saving Options for H1B Employers. Shah, Peerally Law Group.

9  U.S. Department of Labor. Work Authorization for Non-U.S. Citizens: Temporary Agricultural Workers (H-2A Visas).

10 Verité Fair Labor Worldwide. Help Wanted: Hiring, Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery in The Global Economy. A Verité Research and Advocacy Initiative, June 2010.

© The Issue Wonk, 2011 

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