H-1B: The voices behind the visa

The H-1B visa is such a heated topic, its impact on individual high-tech workers often gets lost in the debate. Here, five people tell their H-1B stories in their own words.

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Brian L.

'Chop shop is a very appropriate term.'

I'm an independent consultant. I have my own firm. I originally implemented an ERP system for [a global medical products and services company] 12 years ago, and they brought me back last year to do an upgrade and consolidation. I was responsible for producing the functional specifications. I was managing seven H-1B [visa holders] in my area of the project.

The company hired [a white-shoe American consulting firm], who turned around and brought in [a large Indian IT service provider] to actually do the coding, a mix of onshore and off. The [service provider] lowballed to get the bid. The bid went to a vote, and four out of the five VPs at the medical services firm voted no; they said, "Let's use our resources who have been here 10-plus years." But the CIO overruled them. The bottom line was, it's cheaper labor.

Ironically, the project is over budget. The programming quality has been shockingly bad. The software they sent overseas was coming back so bad, it wasn't even salvageable. The company had to say "onshore coding only," but even that has been a disaster.

The H-1Bs get paid a pittance, and everyone loses. "Chop shop" is a very appropriate term. They constantly swap people in and out. [The service provider] doesn't have enough H-1B visas, so they subcontract with these little mom and pop consultancies. Of the H-1Bs in my area, five of the seven were subcontracted.

Some of these guys are earning $28 an hour. One guy on my team is earning $33,000 [annually] for a position that's supposed to have 10 years experience, though he has nowhere near those credentials. He's living in a hotel with his wife and two children.

If you complain about H-1B, people play the race card, but two of the people laid off [from the medical services company] were Indian, one with 12 years experience and one with 15 years. One woman is brilliant, Indian and in her 40s, and they're chopping her.

I had signed a new contract, but the next month my boss was let go, and the new person canceled my contract. I was replaced by two people on L-1 visas, and one on an H-1B.

The workers in the trenches are afraid. Nobody's willing to scream from the rooftops that this thing is a fraud. But I'm at the stage now where I feel like I have to speak out.

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