Vox Day had some rather trenchant things to say about the H-1B "worker visa" programme yesterday, on the back of an interesting article that pointed out that companies are now using the H-1B system to force domestic IT workers to train their foreign replacements. Now, the thing is, I generally agree quite readily with Vox about most issues related to free trade and immigration. The fact is that the entire doctrine of free trade is based on very shaky foundations and simply does not hold up to close scrutiny. Free trade is not a mutually beneficial system; comparative advantage is not a logically sound doctrine; and it is not possible to support complete free trade without also supporting completely open borders.

And if you support completely free trade, you cannot, by definition, also support the concept of a nation state. It just doesn't hold up.

However, Vox's dislike of the H-1B system- as thoroughly justified as it is- tends to miss the wood for the trees.

In this regard, I have a very different perspective. I am here on an H-1B visa. I have been for the last six years- and because of the system and its immense flaws, I will soon be leaving, possibly for good.

As a result I can see that the H-1B system, for all of its faults and problems, does in fact exist to solve some very real problems- it just does a terrible job.

As the article that inspired Vox's ire points out, companies tend to use the H-1B as a "training visa" of sorts. This is quite simply an abuse of the system and of the original intent of the visa itself, and it absolutely should be banned. The biggest offenders, by far, are IT companies- in fact, in the US, IT companies and banks make up the lion's share of corporations that apply for H-1B visas for their workers. (As readers may know by now, I work for one of those banks.)

The H-1B programme was never intended to be used to bring foreign talent over and train them for a few months before sending them right back to lower-cost locations to take jobs from highly qualified but expensive domestic workers. Instead, the programme was designed to provide a way for highly qualified foreign graduates of American colleges and universities to stay and contribute to the American economy.

To that end, the original programme was set to cap H-1B visas issued in any one calendar year to about 120,000, if I recall correctly. That cap was almost never reached back before 2001. After 9/11, though, Congress altered the cap to 65,000 for college graduates, with an additional 20,000 visas available for people with advanced degrees, such as Master's and PhDs. There are a number of other stipulations and the cap itself has a lot of wiggle room, but the basic idea behind the system has always been to provide a way for talented foreigners to stay and contribute to the American economy.

From what I have seen, when the H-1B is used for the purpose for which it was originally intended- i.e. students come here, study at American universities, do well, graduate, and then find high-paying jobs in growing industries- then the programme tends to succeed quite admirably at reaching those limited goals.

One thing you have to understand about the H-1B is that it is in fact quite an expensive proposition for any company that applies for one for a given worker. The employer has to prove that the employee is better-qualified than similar American graduates. He has to prove that the employee will be paid at least as high a wage as the "prevailing wage" in the industry. He has to pay significant legal costs in getting all of the paperwork filed; if he pays for expedited processing, that can add up to quite a hefty sum in terms of billable hours for attorneys and paralegals. He has to deal with the long lag-time between the day that applications can be filed- usually April 1st every year, and yes, I'm aware of the irony there- and the day that the approval is granted by the USCIS. He has to then wait for the applicant to secure a US work visa, if he is outside the US- a process that can take over a month, thanks to your country's perpetually FUBAR'd immigration system.

Also, when the employee's contract or employment with the company ends, the company itself is responsible for paying for a one-way plane ticket for that employee back to his country of origin. Those flights ain't cheap, y'know.

And don't forget that because H-1B employees tend to be, let us just say, pretty well paid by the standards of their industries, we pay a LOT of money in taxes. A damn sight more than the average American, actually- something on the order of 35% of my pay routinely disappears down the gullets of various Federal, State, and local tax collectors. That's getting on European levels of taxation.

Also, let us keep this in mind- we legal, highly-educated, law-abiding, non-immigrant, non-resident aliens are paying for your welfare and education and healthcare systems, while you let tens of thousands of illiterate, uneducated, law-breaking Mexicans and Central Americans stream through your Southern border and take up residence in your country and then mooch off those same systems.

And yeah, that really rankles.

Which is why, when an American hauls off on the abuses of the H-1B system, guys like me tend to get our backs up a bit. We come here to work, and we pay your exorbitant tax rates, and if we lose our jobs, we can't resort to the American welfare system for a safety net. I know. I've been laid off, twice, in the last 6 years. Both times, I left the US and only came back in after I had legal authorisation to do so.

Once you take all of this into account, you're quickly going to realise that an H-1B employee who stays with a company for a while is an expensive proposition. Far more expensive than just hiring local talent.

Yet, in the banking industry in particular, for technically demanding positions that require significant advanced qualifications and skills, virtually the only applicants that we can look at are foreigners. Almost always with H-1B requirements.

Why is this? Surely a bank could hire just anyone, right?

Actually, you might be surprised at just how difficult it is to find really skilled talent to fill in various positions within most banks. My own team is something of an extreme example; we have two or three roles that have been open for over a year, and because of what we do and how we do it, we're forced to look mostly at people with advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science.

It just so happens that the vast majority of those applicants are from India and China. And they are here on H-1Bs.

It was a similar story in my Master's program, by the way. Over half the class- I would wager somewhere on the order of 60%- were foreigners. Most of them were from India, China, and France. Every single one of us found a job in an American or European company. We had to beat out significant competition to do so- some of it domestic, but most of it from foreigners just like us, looking to get a foot in the door.

And why is that? Simple: because you Americans just don't study technical subjects to the degree, and in the numbers, that would satisfy the requirements of domestic industries that actually need those talents. Don't forget what I wrote above- hiring an H-1B is, on balance, more costly than hiring a domestic worker provided that the H-1B employee stays in the US. From an economic perspective, it makes no damn sense to hire a more expensive foreign worker to do the same job when a less expensive domestic worker will do the job just as well.

The bottom line is that your immigration system is more f***ed up than a football bat. But it's only one symptom in a much broader malaise that is scourging your society. You people have become just like the Romans in the later stages of their degeneracy, when they outsourced the jobs of defending and maintaining the empire to foreigners because they themselves lacked the virtue and the will to do those jobs.

From the perspective of someone looking to hire people, and quickly, I can tell you this- we would love to hire someone right away. But we can't, because most homegrown talent simply would not be able to meet the requirements of the job. We've had positions open for over a year which we've been unable to fill, just because we can't find sufficiently qualified people willing to work at the rates that we're offering.

There is nothing particularly wrong with an easy-to-use, fast-track, limited "guest worker" program that requires a non-immigrant worker to come to your country, stay as long as the job requires, and pay taxes and stay clean and obey the law, et cetera- provided that there is absolutely no recourse to citizenship in the process. That's how you get people like me into the country- people who fundamentally agree with the ideas that founded it, people who believe in liberty and freedom and who refuse to sponge off others, people who are willing to earn their right to stay as guests in a country that accepts them and generally leaves them alone.

There is everything wrong with a system that encourages companies to simply train up people, send them back to lower-cost locations, and then replace expensive American jobs with cheaper Indian or Chinese ones.

If you want to start fixing these problems, you have to start from the ground up. You have to revamp your entire education system to start teaching maths and science, the hard way- the only way. You have to close down your borders and stop giving these illiterate peasants from the south a free ride just because they managed to cross your borders while a Democrat was in charge. You have to tear up your free trade agreements with the rest of the world and adopt a universal tariff system that gathers revenue and protects the domestic economy to some extent.

And you have to abandon this ridiculous, ahistorical belief that you people seem to have in your mythical "melting pot" concept, which really doesn't hold very well and which certainly does not apply to most Asian immigrants who come here- not least because Asian-Americans tend to be politically liberal and hence directly opposed to the very principles and ideas that keep civilisation strong and healthy.


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