March 19, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Programmers Guild Proposes Alternative to the H-1b Lottery

SUMMARY

The Programmers Guild agrees with Bill Gates that the H-1b lottery does not serve U.S. national interests. The guild advocates that priority be given to higher skilled H-1b candidates, and that U.S. employers be given preference over foreign consulting firms. These simple changes would provide a means for Microsoft and other U.S. employers to have every H-1b that they submit on April 1, 2008 approved.

Sacramento, CA March 19, 2008 -- On March 12th Bill Gates appeared before Congress calling for an increase in what he deemed the "arbitrarily set base cap of 65,000 H-1B visas." By March 14th, without soliciting comments from the U.S. workers who are impacted by the H-1b program, Congress introduced two bills that would double or triple the H-1b base cap:

a) The "Innovation Employment Act," (H.R.5630) introduced by Representative Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, would increase the cap in H-1B visas from 65,000 a year to 130,000 a year in FY 2008, and up to 180,000 in subsequent years. [(202) 225-2542]

b) Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas [(202) 225-4236] introduced the "Strengthening United States Technology and Innovation Now" (SUSTAIN) Act (H.R.5642) that would increase the H-1b cap to 195,000.  also sponsored by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, [202.225-2815].

"Neither of these bills provide meaningful protections for U.S. workers," according to Kim Berry of the Programmers Guild.

During his March 12th testimony Gates lamented that, due to the "USCIS H-1b Lottery" in April 2007, "Microsoft was unable to obtain H-1B visas for one-third of the highly qualified foreign-born job candidates that we wanted to hire." On March 16, 2006 Gates had told the Washington Post that salaries for H-1b jobs at Microsoft start at about US $100,000 a year.

In a recent letter Compete America chairman Robert Hoffman also opposed the H-1b lottery, writing: "As was the case last year, not only is the annual supply of H-1B visas virtually assured to be exhausted on the very first day applications are accepted, half of those applying will lose out in the visa lottery, denying U.S. employers access to tens of thousands of highly skilled and badly needed professionals who could contribute to economic growth and job creation in this country."

In this instance the Programmers Guild agrees with Bill Gates and Robert Hoffman: The H-1b lottery is not serving the interests of U.S. employers. In FY 2007 the lottery awarded over 4500 H-1b visas to Indian outsourcing firm "Infosys Technologies Limited," while denying a few hundred of Microsoft's applications.

Accordingly, Kim Berry of the Programmers Guild advocates that USCIS apply two criteria in determining which H-1b visas to approve in the April 2008 filings:

1) SKILL: H-1b workers with the highest skills should be given priority. In no case should a "PhD genetic researcher" lose out to a "$16/hour accountant." "The best proxy for skill is salary. If H-1b were granted with a preference for salary, every $100,000 H-1b that Bill Gates filed would get approved," according to Berry. "Any business with a critical need for an H-1b candidate could be assured of approval by paying a higher wage. Since the median H-1b salary is about $55,000, any H-1b paying more than about $65,000 would be approved. We are not aware of any statute that mandates that USCIS use lottery versus some other selection criteria when over 65,000 applications are received on the first day."

2) NATIONAL BENEFIT: Bill Gates specifically addressed "H-1b visas available to U.S. companies," stating that "Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities." This is certainly not true when H-1b are granted to Indian consulting firms. According to Ron Hira, "[Outsourcing firms hire almost no Americans and their entire business model rests on shifting as many American jobs overseas as fast as possible." The Programmers Guild agrees that any use of H-1b should serve the broad U.S. national interest. "U.S. firms that will create U.S. jobs should have preference for U.S. H-1b visas," according to Kim Berry.

In his testimony Gates stated "If we increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to U.S. companies, employment of U.S. nationals would likely grow as well." The Programmers Guild disputes this. "Gates did not address that eight of the top ten users of H-1b are not U.S. companies - they are foreign consulting firms that undermine U.S. consulting firms and displace U.S. nationals from the employment rolls," according to Berry.

Before Congress considers increasing the H-1b cap based upon the testimony of Bill Gates, U.S. tech workers should be granted equal time. "U.S. Citizens should have an equal voice in Congress as multi-national corporations," states Kim Berry, president of the Programmers Guild. "There are many highly skilled American tech workers being overlooked because they do not have the precise skill experience cited in job ads - and because Microsoft and others only considers new graduates for entry-level positions."

If any Congressman is unaware of the harm that H-1b is causing, Berry recommends that they review the "H-1b Harm Report" at www.HireAmericansFirst.org, where hundreds of U.S. tech workers have detailed their personal experiences.

ABOUT US

The Programmers Guild advocates for the interests of U.S. computer programmers and other tech workers. See www.programmersguild.org for more information.

REFERENCES

Pending bills to increase H-1b cap

www.inrich.com/cva/ric/news/politics.apx.-content-articles-RTD-2008-03-16-0116.html

www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2276297,00.asp

Gates "Salaries for H-1b jobs at Microsoft start at about US$100,000 a year"

www.computerworld.com.au/index.php/id;1770888992

In a recent letter Compete America chairman Robert Hoffman also opposed the H-1b lottery

www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/03/spring_is_in_th.html

4500 H-1b visas to Indian outsourcing firm "Infosys Technologies Limited"

www.computerworld.com/pdfs/editorial/h1b.pdf

Ron Hira statement

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/10/AR2008031002456.html

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