April 6th, 2017

H-1B clampdown won’t fix developers’ real problem

Java App Dev, Open Source, others, Programing, Programming Careers, by admin.

It finally hit, a bit of Trump populism designed to appeal to the working class, labor unions, and nativists alike. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly going to clamp down on H-1B fraud. At the same time, policy revisions will make it harder for entry-level computer programmers to qualify for an H-1B visa, tightening the requirements to favor those with greater skills and education, according to a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memo.

The result of all this reform could be even higher wages that actually put advanced computer technology further out of reach of most businesses. And it’s getting worse due to entrenched bad practices in the developer community, no matter where the people come from. Ironically, if the development community understood its bad practices and actually changed them, we’d need fewer H-1B visa holders to fill jobs—too many developer jobs exist to paper over the numerous cracks in the system.

The H-1B economics aren’t so simple

Although there are many stories of U.S. workers displaced by cheaper H-1B visa holders—typically, those working for an outsourcing “body shop”—it isn’t necessarily cheaper to hire H-1B visa holders in high-demand fields. According to a Glassdoor survey, it may be even more expensive, depending on the field. That’s even true in light of evidence that large outsourcing firms have been gaming the system for years (according to the labor movement’s think tank and the New York Times). When you take their lower wage numbers and add the $4,000 to $7,000 in fees, no one saves any real money.

In my experience, if you had the lawyers and were willing to commit outright fraud, you could simply use the bizarre prevailing wage data with job descriptions that appear to have been written by IBM in the 1990s to justify hiring anyone for anything. Those not willing to commit fraud could still manipulate the Byzantine system to their advantage.

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