Category Archives: H-1B

Lessons for Singapore from U. S. IT Majors

It requires no analytical, engineering brain to grasp the key message hitting home from the decision of IT majors Infosys and Cognizant to hire thousands of Americans, to deal with curbs on job visas for foreigners.

No Green Cards if you guessed it right — that the over-reliance on H-1B visas is not the result of any shortage in local resources but because easy immigration enabled the import of cheap, under-qualified personnel!

As the report linked to below points out, Infosys will hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years. Cognizant also plans to ramp up local hiring in the Land of Opportunity and may exceed the number quoted by Infosys.

The two companies were among the many the Trump administration had blamed for abusing the H-1B visa programme.

There are lessons for Singapore from it – strictly enforce a “hire Singaporeans” policy and businesses will fall in line. Firms are prone to having their way amid a complicit, pro-business environment.

The “isms” Will Disappear

Tighten the screws and all the “isms” will disappear – racism, sexism, ageism! It will also help deal with local unemployment.

Keep it easy and that is a surefire way to lead to resentment and worse.

If the perceived dearth of talent is true, so is the reluctance of companies to hire and train locals!

G Joslin Vethakumar 


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H-1B Visas: Room for Another Volte-Face?

Media Jumping the Gun, as Always!

With his many about-turns (China, Russia, Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, etc), U.S. President Donald Trump is now hardly taken seriously even by his supporters who have been seeing many of his poll promises evaporate.

Mr Trump is now expected to sign an Executive Order on H-1B visas this week, going by this CNBC report. As usual, the press has been quick to jump the gun. If he is going to sign the order in a day, the media could have waited for it to happen rather than rush to report some speculation and give it a “fake news” flavour. It is not a big scoop in any case.

After all, the order itself will not be the final word on the issue. If the report holds true, it is only meant to direct Federal agencies to make recommendations for changes to the H-1B visa programme.

So, it is going to be a long-drawn affair before it is formalised. If that happens, it is bound to have a big impact on outsourcing, body-shopping firms particularly from India such as TCS, HCL and Infosys who are now considering hiring Americans for roles in the U.S.

FTA Review

Moreover, executive orders have come to mean little under his administration as they can be challenged and even overturned by courts. Trump will then have no strategy up his sleeve, as was seen in the travel bans that were countered by the courts and technology firms.

The political mantra he wields is simple: Rake up a verbal storm and then take a quiet retreat. There are indications that all Free Trade Agreements the U.S. has with many countries will be reviewed in line with his “America First” policy.

Singapore has one under which more than 5000 H-1B1 visas are set aside for Singaporeans but that is not impacted by the current initiatives of the Trump Administration.

This BBC report summarises his key promises – before and after the elections.

A few of my earlier posts on the issue:

Fast-Track H-1b Visas on Hold

The “High-Skilled” and “Foreign Talent” Misnomer

The FT Factor – Aping the U.S. Not Right for Singapore

G Joslin Vethakumar

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The “High-Skilled” and “Foreign Talent” Misnomer

If it is “Foreign Talent” for Singapore it is “High-Skilled” workers for the U.S. Both, to me, are jarring expressions as most imports into the two countries can hardly be dubbed “talent” or “high skilled”.

They just fulfil the different objectives of the two countries – boosting population for one and meeting mostly entry-level programming requirements for the other. Of course, they also help address some of their STEM and PMET requirements. But I am not talking about exceptions here.

Cracks in the System

It is the H-1B visa programme in the U.S. that carries the high-skilled foreigners’ tag. The administration led by President Donald Trump is considering plans to give the H-1B system an overhaul to ensure that only those with sound qualifications are granted those visas.

Currently, it is a lottery system that decides who gets the 65,000 H-1B visas each year with 20,000 more set aside for those with Master’s degrees from American universities.

The H-1B gaps that have become the talking point are many but key among them are:

  1. 80% of those holding the H-1B visa have only bachelor’s degrees and even these are hardly from universities or institutions of repute. The argument against this is that those with mere preliminary degrees cannot be allowed to displace equally qualified Americans.
  • Since this is decided upon through a lottery, the deserving and the well-qualified ones may miss the cut.
  1. Another equally compelling argument is that the H-1B visas merely meet the cheap labour needs of American companies.
  • To address this gap, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in January this year, proposing doubling of the minimum annual salary to US$130,000 to qualify for the H-1B visa. But that appears to have been aimed at only those companies that depend heavily on H-1B visas – more than 15% of its total workforce.

Heavy Lobbying

There is heavy lobbying against any changes to the H-1B programme, particularly from Indian leaders and American technology companies.

An Indian government delegation even recently visited the U.S. to present a business case for the H-1B system to stay.

The administration appears to have indicated to them that H-1B reform is not a priority for the U.S.

It is possible the H-1B system will escape a transformation as the Trump administration has other priorities to tackle – travel ban, illegal aliens, Mexico wall, China, Russia and so forth.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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