H1B Visas and Indentured Servitude

Update: There is a ton of nuance this post has brought to my attention. Yes, you can transfer your application to your new employer, see this quote:

Generally, if your I-485 application has been pending for 180 days or more, you are eligible to change jobs and continue your green card application.

Search Google for A21 or read some Quora.

The last thing I want to do is mention politics here, but talking to friends over the weekend and reading the news today, I’m pretty convinced that the only people benefiting from the H1B are the employers (or owners). The effect on workers is a reduction in salary as the number of H1B visas go up.

This isn’t about immigration or saving US jobs or preventing offshoring, it is simple economics. The system is rigged to screw everyone involved except owners. Breaking it down:

  1. H1B workers have limited mobility (yes, there is the H1B transfer, but you have to start over on your green card application).
  2. Unwillingness to restart the green card application limits mobility.
  3. Limited mobility paves the way for abuse Рlower salaries, no raises, fewer benefits.
  4. The H1B holder is thus more appealing than the American, thus lowering her salary.

We should be letting more foreigners into the country, so how do you do that?

  1. Allow H1B holders to transfer the green card application to the new employer.
  2. A possible minimum salary threshold, but this is a slippery slope.

The other suggestion is to set a minimum salary threshold (75th percentile), this means you have to pay big bucks for the H1B so you must really need that person. Yes, this will probably do away with the bullshit hoops companies have to jump through – advertise the opening, prove there is no qualified US citizen, etc. – but still erects an artificial barrier. We would miss a newly graduate Einstein.

Really, in the end I believe in less border, more meritocracy.

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