Should U.S. Scrap H-1B Visa Lottery? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing

Should U.S. Scrap H-1B Visa Lottery?

If your H-1B visa petition was among the 163,000 filed earlier this month, you've got about a 50/50 shot that your application was selected in the government's H-1B lottery the other day. Fifty-fifty odds look great if you're playing lotto. But they're not so hot when you're playing games with people's jobs.

If your H-1B visa petition was among the 163,000 filed earlier this month, you've got about a 50/50 shot that your application was selected in the government's H-1B lottery the other day. Fifty-fifty odds look great if you're playing lotto. But they're not so hot when you're playing games with people's jobs.There are lots of H-1B visa critics out there. We at InformationWeek hear from them all the time, whenever we write anything -- good or bad -- about H-1Bs. There also are many proponents of the program, whom we hear less from in the comments sections of InformationWeek blogs and articles, but who are always loudly banging on doors in Washington, D.C., lobbying for change to the program.

One side wants the 65,000 H-1B cap (which is really 85,000 if you count the 20,000 visas reserved for advanced-degree holders) lowered, the other side wants it raised. But there's one thing both sides seem to agree on. And that's doing away with the random, computer-generated lottery system that the U.S. government uses to select H-1B visa "winners."

That random system was launched a few years ago when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received way more petitions than needed to fill the 85,000 H-1B annual slots. People familiar with the system say it's the fairest way to allocate the visas, as long as all the petitions are valid and properly prepared. These folks also say it's the most practical -- and quickest -- way for USCIS to sort through these mountains of petitions, given the agency's limited people resources.

In a statement released by Compete America, an industry coalition pushing for immigration reforms, including raising the H-1B cap, Robert Hoffman, co-chair of the group and VP for government and public affairs at Oracle, blasted the visa sweepstakes.

"U.S. employers deserve better than a random lottery to determine if they can hire the highly educated candidates they need," Hoffman said. "Congress has failed to address the problem as U.S. universities graduate highly educated individuals who leave to work in competitor nations. This madness must end this year."

Meanwhile, Kim Berry, president of U.S. IT worker advocacy group Programmers Guild. is almost always on the opposite side of Compete America's views of the tech world. However, Berry also thinks the raffle ought to be dumped.

"Before any of these visas were approved, the U.S. government should have made a good-faith effort to match Americans to those positions," he said during a recent e-mail interview with InformationWeek.

Berry says the random lottery should be replaced with "a competitive system where employers compete based on salary -- a reasonable proxy for skill -- just as they must do for the top candidates among U.S. workers." Berry also wants "body shops" prohibited from participating in the H-1B program altogether.

Since it's now too late to change the way H-1B petitions were approved for jobs in fiscal 2009, "at a minimum, the government should promptly post the openings for the 80,000 positions that did not win the job raffle, so that at least Americans can apply for the scraps," says Berry.

What do you think?

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
Commentary
If DevOps Is So Awesome, Why Is Your Initiative Failing?
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  12/2/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
Slideshows
Flash Poll