Why the H-1B System is Broken

Though the H-1B visa opens up opportunities for immigrants, outsourcing companies tend to monopolize the visa, pay low wages, and award it to non-specialists.

Vandana Menon

July 22, 2020

Why the H-1B System is Broken
(Tom Coe)

For three years, Isha Raut, 24, and her employer applied for the H-1B visa — which enables temporary employment for non-U.S. citizens — only to be rejected twice. This year, the H-1B visa lottery finally selected her application. But just a month later, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending temporary worker visas, including the H-1B, until the end of the year.

The recent executive order comes on the heels of another executive order, signed in April, that barred immigration for 60 days — claiming to preserve jobs for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Many saw the order as an election gimmick because its vague language created confusion instead of having a tangible impact. Since then, the unemployment rate has fallen to 11.1% — due to leisure and hospitality, sectors hard hit by the coronavirus, recovering. But around 12 million Americans who had jobs in February are still out of work and 44 states have hit record-high unemployment. Trump’s June executive order is in line with his administration’s hardline stance on immigration and assertion that H-1B jobs could go to American workers instead.

Almost 75% of H-1B visas issued over the last five years have gone to Indian citizens at outsourcing firms such as Cognizant and Infosys, consulting and implementation firms such as Deloitte and Accenture, and tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.