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The New H1B Bill in US Congress: What It Really Means

I woke up yesterday morning to a rather sensational news item on many Indian news websites. The headline had various versions of the following statement: “Bill targeting H1-B visas reintroduced in US Congress”. I was curious. For someone who considers himself quite well informed concerning legal immigration developments in the US, this was rather surprising. Even my dad called me up to tell me about it making front page news in the morning newspaper in Bangalore! So I decided to dig deeper.

I spent about half an hour on the internet going through the text of the actual bill, looking up meanings of certain unfamiliar terms, finding the specific paragraphs of the original law that this bill proposed to modify and fully understand what was happening. And then I looked up what the Indian main stream media was saying.

Wow! It was just unbelievable! What the Indian media was saying was absolutely nothing in line with what was actually proposed in the bill. They were not just twisting words to imply a different meaning. They were actually reporting completely false information! It is absolutely appalling! Additionally, there was not a single source that gave the correct information on the bill and what it actually stands for.

Which is why I have taken it upon myself to lay out the actual implications of the bill properly here. In the next post, I will summarize what the Indian media is saying and the incorrect information being dispensed will become obvious.

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H1B Background and Purpose

The H1B visa is issued for high skilled foreign workers to enter the US and work on jobs for which skilled Americans are unavailable. The intent of the H1B visa is to complement the American workers with skilled foreign workers so that the American economy does not stagnate due to shortage of skilled labor. Typically, when an American company wants to hire a worker, they advertise the posting, receive applications, interview personnel and provide offers. If the worker being sought is a US citizen or a permanent resident, there is no issue and all is good. If the worker being sought is neither a US citizen nor a permanent resident, then the company can still hire the person under the H1B visa program. However, it has to follow some general rules and procedures to do so.

General Requirements/Procedures for H1B Visa

So what are these general rules? These rules are aimed at ensuring that the company is not misusing the visa program to employ low wage workers from outside the country when an equally skilled American worker is available or is being replaced. In summary, the following are what the company has to follow:

  1. Company must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) which states the general information about the job such as period of employment, wages, location, and type of job. It should put up this notice at the work place so all workers of the company can see it and lodge complaints if there are any misrepresentation of facts on the LCA.
  2. At least the prevailing wage for that position in that industry is paid to the H1B worker.
  3. The H1B worker is not being hired during a union strike or similar situation.

If the company meets the above requirements/procedures, then the H1B will be granted to the foreign worker and he/she can work for the company. (This is of course subject to the lottery system). The key to note in the above 3 items is not what IS mentioned, but what IS NOT. The requirements do not specify that the job MUST be advertised in the US or that Americans must be given first preference during the hiring process.

Additional Requirements/Procedures for Certain Companies

All the above items that are NOT specified have made it fairly easy and simple for American companies to hire foreign workers. They are still required to pay the prevailing wage, so they cannot drastically underpay the foreign workers. However, over time, what has happened is that many companies have employed a large number of foreign workers without making any effort to hire American workers (and are termed ‘H1B Dependent Employer’). Specifically speaking, the H1B Dependent Employer (HDE) companies are those that have more than 15% of their work force under H1B visas. There are also many other companies who have actively abused the visa system’s requirements and have now been officially categorized as a ‘Willful Violator’ (WV).

Now, in order to discourage visa abuses by such companies, and to encourage companies to hire American workers (citizens and permanent residents) first (where available), the H1B visa program has additional requirements that the HDE and WV companies must adhere to prior to hiring a foreign worker under H1B. These are as follows:

  1. Advertise the job posting in the United States and make a ‘good faith’ effort to hire an American worker.
  2. If a qualified and eligible American worker is available, then the company cannot actively seek to hire a foreign worker in place of the American worker.
  3. The company cannot fire an American worker within 90 days before and 90 days after the LCA is made.
  4. The company cannot hire a foreign worker and post that worker in a location that belongs to a different employer.

Essentially, these requirements are targeted to ensure that there is no abuse of the visa program and that American workers are not discriminated against in favor of lower wage foreign workers. The potential visa abuses in the absence of these requirements are fairly obvious and as such, these requirements were considered necessary. Now keep in mind that these additional requirements are not applicable to all employers – only to those that fall under the HDE and WV categories.

The Exemption Loophole

But….there is always a but……there is a way out of these requirements for the HDE and WV companies. The HDE and WV companies can bypass these additional requirements if they hire a foreign worker who falls under the category of ‘Exempt H1B Non-Immigrant‘. So what does this ”Exempt H1B Non-Immigrant’ (EHN) mean? It’s actually very simple. A foreign worker is an EHN if:

  1. The worker has a Master’s degree in the field of the US job application for which the H1B is sought, OR
  2. The company is willing to offer a minimum of $60,000 annual salary to the foreign worker.

That’s it! If a foreign worker has a Master’s degree OR if the company is willing to pay minimum $60,000 per year, then the HDE and WV companies can completely bypass all the extra requirements aimed at containing visa abuse.

The Visa Abuse

To consider an example, a HDE company which has 50% of its workforce as H1B workers can hire another dozen of H1B workers, fire a dozen American workers who were working in the same company previously and replace them with the newly hired H1B workers – all by just paying them $60,000 per year or just because the H1B workers have a Master’s degree. (It is a whole other discussion on how easy it is to get a fake Master’s degree certificate for this purpose!) They could then also ship out the new H1B workers to locations of other employers and do their job for them. These other employers can then fire American workers at their company because now they have these potentially lower wage H1B workers doing the same job.

And if you think this kind of abuse does not happen, you are completely wrong. This is EXACTLY what happened when Cognizant and HCL – both HDE companies – sent their H1B workers to work at a Disney location where Disney had just laid off their American workers. What’s more? The American workers had to train the H1B workers as part of their severance package! Even as an Indian citizen and a holder of H1B visa, I would still say that is extremely unfair to the American workers. And how do you think the HDE companies got away with posting THEIR own H1B employees at some other company’s location? You guessed it right. The ‘Exempt H1B Non-Immigrant’ loophole! All they have to do is pay them $60,000 per year (which would have been significantly lower than what the American workers were making) and voila! You can displace any worker you like!

And the worst was still to come. The subsequent lawsuit that was filed by the fired employees was dismissed on the grounds that the hiring of H1B workers by Cognizant and HCL did not impact the firing of Disney workers because the Disney workers were not working for Cognizant or HCL. That is to say, one company can hire a H1B worker, post them to another company’s location, and the other company can fire an existing American worker – all within full legal means and with absolutely no consequence whatsoever!

Visa Abuse Impacts

What this does is two things. Firstly, it is inherently unfair to existing skilled American workers – citizens and permanent residents. But secondly, and more importantly, this abuse of work visas generates a lot of ill will among Americans and among the lawmakers regarding the utility of the H1B visa program overall. Over time, this ill will and negative perceptions will foster the bigger anti-immigrant rhetoric and discussion (as seen with the statements from incoming President Trump on H1B visas), thus leading to more protectionist measures being adopted that will benefit no one and in fact be detrimental to those who have been following the system the right way.

The New H1B Bill

Now coming to the proposed new bill, it offers the following changes to fix this loophole where HDE companies can bypass their additional requirements by hiring an H1B worker with a Master’s degree or by paying him a minimum salary of $60,000 pa:

  1. Raise the minimum salary for Exempt H1B worker to $100,000 and index it to inflation.
  2. Remove the Master’s degree exemption. This means that just because one has a Master’s degree does not make him qualified to be categorized under Exempt H1B worker.

So what this bill proposes to do is to close the loophole by raising the minimum salary for an EHN and by removing the Master’s exemption. Keep in mind that these HDE companies can still continue to hire H1B workers as long as they meet the other requirements. And it is also important to note that this provision does NOT apply to any company that is not on the HDE or WV list. Those companies can continue to hire H1B workers without any additional requirements. It also does not mean that EVERY H1B worker will have to be paid minimum salary of $100,000. (Every H1B worker will, however, be paid the prevailing wage at a minimum – which varies based on location, profession, level, etc). The HDE company will have to pay minimum $100,000 pa salary if they want to bypass the additional requirements listed above. And the bill definitely does not mean that the Master’s degree is mandatory to get an H1B visa!

So after studying this bill in full detail, I have to say that even though I am an Indian citizen who is on an H1B visa in the US, I support this bill. It does cut down a major loophole in the visa program that lets HDE companies to abuse the system. And it pains me to acknowledge that, yes, most of these HDE companies are Indian companies – HCL, Cognizant, Infosys, TCS, Wipro, etc. and get close to 80% of the H1B visas every year.

With regard to the bill itself, I would remind all that this is just introduced. The same bill was introduced last year and was scrapped. So I don’t think it will actually pass this time either, but I hope it does. Because if it passes, then there is going to be a bigger chance of these H1B visas going to those who play by the rules and truly deserve it. And in the long run, visa abuse will reduce thus fostering a positive opinion of this important program among the American people and lawmakers.

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In the next post, I will discuss all the incorrect information that the Indian media has been reporting.

LINKS:

H1B Language in Immigration and Nationality Act (Section 212 (n))

New H1B Bill Text (2016 version)

H1B Employer Notification Requirements

What are Exempt H1B NonImmigrants?

Recruiting Requirements for H1B Dependent Employers

Who is H1B Dependent Employer?

Disney H1B Lawsuit Judgment

Times of India Headline

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How NOT to pay a tribute to Michael Jackson

This post is my tribute to Michael Jackson and in this, I shall describe in full detail exactly how NOT to pay a tribute. This post is essentially a response to an editorial piece that appeared in The New Indian Express the day after MJ’s death which can be found here. The piece was written by the Editor-in-chief Mr. Aditya Sinha himself and is titled “POP GOES THE KING.” I would suggest the reader to first read the editorial piece and then read my response to that.

First, let us set the context right. This editorial appears the day after the entire world is shocked to learn about MJ’s death. I for one, having been a long time admirer of his works, was particularly disappointed. The entire world flooded the internet with messages paying tribute to the king of pop. Practically every news channel was running the same story. Now this being the case, I open the editorial the next day and I found an article titled “Pop goes the King” which essentially described why One person (Mr. Sinha) considered Michael Jackson as someone “who lacked dignity at his core.”

The article can very easily be classified as the point of view of one single individual as most of the comments that he has made inevitably involve “I never really liked…”, “My objection to…”, “I could not understand…”, “I was ready to believe….”, “I almost feel sorry for….” etc.  In fact the article itself begins with “I never really liked Michael Jackson…”. The article thus begins with such a self-centered approach and the same tone is carried on throughout without giving the slightest explanation as to why the writer’s personal preference and opinion should necessarily constitute the real image of the person in question. There is absolutely no basis provided for any of the conclusions that are drawn apart from the writer’s own preferences and very clearly biased points of view. Let me elaborate with some quotes.

In the very beginning, Mr. Sinha statesMy objection to Michael Jackson’s songs was that they were too stupid for me and appealed to the lowest common denominator.” Apart from the very obvious reference to HIS OWN tastes, it should be noted that he terms that MJ’s songs were “too stupid”  for him. Not caring to elaborate on what exactly constituted the “stupid” part in all of the celebrated Michael Jackson catalog, he goes on to state that the songs appealed to the “Lowest common Denominator.” And in the next sentence he goes on to state who or what he considered as the Lowest Common Denominator. He says After all, which college intellectual wants to share his musical tastes with grandmothers and 13-year-old girls?” Now apart from the very obvious point that so many high profile people in various capacities around the world are big fans of MJ, I am curious about one thing. If it can be considered that, say, Pink Floyd songs are not stupid (if you disagree, kindly leave this blog), and assuming that Mr. Sinha likes Pink Floyd (or if it is Kishore Kumar, feel free to substitute), then on what basis can he say that there is no 13 year old girl or grandmothers who listen to them? Because, as he himself has put it, he wouldn’t want to share his musical taste with them. I sense a generous dose of hypocrisy in here. He goes on to rationalize his way of thinking by quoting what Socrates might have said “If something was popular then it probably wasn’t good.” At this point, I would like to state that one has to understand that there is a difference between something being “popular” and something being “contemporary”. Michael Jackson was (and will always remain) popular, but he was in no way contemporary.

Other aspects dealt with in the article include his plastic surgery from black to white. And in response to this, Mr. Sinha starts “Perhaps he felt shame in being black…” Again, without making any effort in providing any information/incident that might form the basis for this personal opinion, a statement suggesting Jackson suffering from shame about his color is made. His new appearance is then broken apart and criticised for each part in the following lines and is compared to The Joker from Batman comics. But the real striking remark is made in the next line when he says : “It is arguable whether he looked HUMAN.” Criticising a person’s look is one thing. Calling for a debate whether he looked human or not is something totally different. I am not even going to respond to this horrifying and baseless personal opinion. But alas, the criticisms don’t stop there. Further personal opinion is doled out with his change in looks being termed “..a pathological attempt at self-improvement” and he then contrasts Jackson’s “self disgust” (again, this is the writer’s own inference) to America electing an African American for President. He then suddenly, out of nowhere and having offered no reason, states that “Michael Jackson really had lost touch with reality.”

And while dealing with MJ’s child molestation case, Mr. Sinha says, “.. by the time that news of Michael Jackson’s troubles with little boys came, I was ready to believe the worst about him.” Somehow I am not surprised at all. But what really put me off, was the suggestion that MJ got acquitted just because “nothing could be proved against him” and the comparison of MJ’s trial to that of the infamous OJ Simpson case when it is written ..or perhaps, like O J Simpson (who killed his wife and her lover but was acquitted), he had a sympathetic jury.” This particular paragraph, I have to say, contains as much suggestion and speculation as it lacks solid facts. He further makes an inference, again based solely on what it all meant personally to him, as to how MJ could have possibly committed the crimes by stating : the fact that he tried to change his skin colour meant to me that he lacked dignity at his core, and if he lacked that, then anything was possible.”

The main reason why I sat down to take the pains to write this long post was not just because I have always been a die-hard MJ fan. But it is mainly because of the way in which a complete editorial was dedicated to air the opinion of one man about how his preferences and opinions went against popular belief. I do understand that Mr. Sinha is a highly qualified individual who holds an extremely high post in the Indian print media. I also recognize his right to personal opinion, and being in that high position, I also recognize his authority to write an editorial to his liking. My objections to this editorial are not as much about the content of the article, as it is about it’s timing. There is always a place and time to air certain views about certain people. And writing an article such as this when the whole world is mourning the death of a star who defined a generation is definitely incongruous and wrongly timed. If anything, it is only demeaning to all the millions of fans around the world.

I now wonder. The author of the article has made comments terming Michael Jackson as a person who “lacked dignity” offering no basis whatsoever apart from his own personal opinion. And this statement is made the very next day  after Michael Jackson passed away, in the editorial of a leading national daily in India. Something doesn’t seem right. Something seems out of place. Come to think of it, I now wonder as to who it is exactly that “lacks dignity”.

Thank you M S Dhoni….

Oh man! Even before I write anything, I know this is going to be my most satisfying post ever! The way I have got it all planned out to belt the shit out of something I detest so passionately has got me licking my lips! Ah! I can almost taste the bliss! So here goes….

Yesterday, at around 9 PM, my dad came home from work and thanks to the extra-ordinarily large number of banal choices available to watch on TV, my dad chose the most banal one-NEWS. He started shifting through a few news channels, suddenly getting confused whether he was hearing echoes or just some daily repetitive news. After he realized that it didn’t really make any difference (hehe….or so he thought!), he finally settled on this particular Indian news channel that has a close relationship to a certain Print media product which I particularly detest with all my heart and soul. (Oh common! Don’t we all???) The newsreader dude was looking like he had come fully prepared to tell the entire country some earth shattering news that was supposed to leave everyone spellbound! Or in other words, this dude just looked PLAIN STONED! Stoned not as in

Stoned Indian Kid (Courtesy Vishal Patel)
Stoned Indian Kid (Courtesy Vishal Patel)

but as in

Truly Stoned (Courtesy Arctic Monkeys)
Truly Stoned (Courtesy Arctic Monkeys)

But the STONED part shouldn’t really matter now should it?

Then suddenly there is this one moment when you know Stoned News Reader is going to shift to “DRAMATIZE” gear. And thus began the tantrums…about how MSD “lost his cool” and how Viru should have been “more transparent” about his injury and how, eventually (and inevitably I may add) the BCCI is to be blamed for all of this! Stoned (and Excited…Woah! Now how is that going to look like?) News Reader was doing his best to make the (lack of ) news sound so important and necessary for all the public to know about why a Professional Cricket player playing all year round all over the world should get injured. Ok. Didn’t they realize that the answer is in the question itself? Oh I am sorry. I forgot Stoned Newsreader has an IQ less than Doley (which further implies that his IQ is lesser than that of Timmy too!).  My Bad. And so we hear Stoned Newsreader stressing (literally) and pausing (literally) at practically every syllable of every word in a practiced  and moronic attempt to let the news sink in the minds of the news watcher. And the poor newswatchers! I mean common… For a majority of them,  at the end of the day, all they need for a Delta increment in Self Esteem is to be part of a world where “important” stuff seems to be happening around them-“important” being defined by  Stoned Newsreaders Inc.!

And so as the diatribes built up, Stoned Newsreader decided it was time to take the opinion of “experts” in this matter. Here “experts” take the meaning of 3 Guest Speculators who actually make a living out of Guest Speculating. Usually these Guest Speculators are out of favor/out of talent/retired or simply forgotten cricketers. But these 3 didn’t fall under any of the above 4 categories. Instead they fell under the Professional Guest Speculator category wherein one’s main profession is to Guest Speculate on TV shows such as the one I was watching. All Professional Guest Speculators usually adhere to a script, prepared much in advance by Stoned Newsreaders Inc. And so the “discussion” went on without a hitch, with all 3 GSs strictly adhering to the script by denouncing every possible thing and person related to Indian Cricket- including Indian Cricket itself! All this while Stoned Newsreader’s face bore the Stoned & Successful expression and continued to stick to his own script as the Guest Speculators stuck to theirs. There was even a still picture on the screen which showed a prominent Red Rectangular Box on Sehwag’s pic identifying that part of the body to be a shoulder. Beside that there was a fully labelled picture of a human shoulder and its various parts! The pictures seemed to be  serving their sole purpose of helping the Stoned NewsReaders Inc to know what their script deals with.  And so everything was going on fine. But then suddenly, out of nowhere and with no warning, GS3 decided to deviate from the script and began to talk sense! And so you could here GS3 make statements like “One cannot blame MSD for his actions. It was the media that provoked him. The media should have acted more maturely by not blowing this whole thing out of proportion. His reaction is completely justified!!” Stoned Newsreader suddenly found himself in this extremely rare situation of being in front of a camera on National News Channel WITHOUT a script! He panicked and just began to shake his head in total disbelief, trying to interrupt GS3 hoping to remind him to just stick to his script and not make irrelevant statements. But alas, much to the embarrassment of Stoned Newsreader and Stoned Newsreaders Inc., GS3 continued his tirade against the media for irresponsible handling of the affairs! So much so, Stoned Newsreader almost woke up from his stoned state with a “WTF am I doing in front of a National News Channel camera when I could be  more stoned at home?” expression on his face and so he continued to shake his head-this time in complete resignation. But then suddenly, he underwent a spike in the activity (and UNstoned) part of his brain and quickly wound up the “discussion” and thanked the Guest Speculators for sticking to their scripts-well mostly. My guess is that fellow members of  Stoned Newsreaders Inc. realized that he was not so high and so infused some invisible Marijuana smoke or Meth Vapors through strategically placed smoke inlets in order to give him the temporary power to wind up the  discussion which was threatening to go out of control. Then they immediately went into a break-during which time Not-so-Stoned Newsreader had a couple of joints so that he can turn back to Stoned Newsreader and also so that he doesn’t feel the pain of his job. (Hey don’t these shit scavengers and funeral procession dudes also get high just before their job? Hmm….I am sensing a pattern here..)

And as if that wasn’t enough, the print sister of the news channel decided to go on a rampage of their own, what with they getting extra rights for having started this whole rumor in the first place!! So you had articles titled “Dhoni giving Viru a Cold Shoulder?” 😉 😉 and “Dhoni and Sehwag at Loggerheads??” or some In House Senior Dude Blog Speculator making retarded statements like “Dhoni’s Men in Blue are not in pink of health”. But what is even more incredible is the way the content is presented. Sample these:

“… reports about simmering tensions between Indian captain MS Dhoni and vice-captain Virender Sehwag are fast threatening to undermine India’s defence of the ICC World Twenty20”

“Rumour mills are abuzz that the two had an ugly faceoff during a team meeting”  –Excuse me… Doesnt RUMOR MILLS==MEDIA REPORTS==THE MORON WHO WROTE THIS ‘NEWS’ ARTICLE???

“Who is leaking the information about team fitness?” -some moron journo asks MSD.  — WTF? I mean if MSD knew who was leaking the info, would there have been any leaked info in the first place?

“MSD gave cryptic answers to questions about his awareness of Viru’s injury like “Yes I am”!” —-WTF? In all my experience of Cryptic and Direct Crosswords, I am pretty much sure there is nothing more DIRECT than a “Yes I am” as a reply to ” Are you aware of the injury?”

“The sudden announcement that Virender Sehwag is returning home due to a shoulder injury and skipper MS Dhoni’s  somewhat strange conduct at a press conference on Tuesday has generated strong speculation that the two players are at loggerheads.” — I mean common! With Professional Speculating replacing Journalism, these comments are bound to happen right??

Now this newspaper quoted Ravi Shastri as saying “It will be a miracle if India win this T20 World Cup” and then after Shastri clarified that he never said anything like that, the same newspaper puts up an article which says “Knowing how fiercely patriotic Shastri is, one could sense there was something wrong….His quotes make no mention of an miracle. Some people do have imagination!” —-Now correct me if I am wrong, but didnt the Newspaper mock itself???

And then as a spin-off in a related website, a discussion starts with the title “Is Dhoni becoming arrogant?” when the real discussion should have been “Should Guest Speculating be banned?” or “Should Stoned Newsreaders Inc. be banned as a terrorist organization?”

But what really got me laughing was a certain comment to the Blog retardedly titled “Dhoni’s Men in Blue are not in pink of health”. The article went on to portray every player in the Indian side to either be out of form or unfit to play in the T20 World Cup. Check out the following reply to that post:

After reading this article…I’m wondering if India should be playing at all? We should leave the author and his merrymen (Read Stoned Newsreaders Inc)  to carry the Indian flag – by the sounds of this article, they are the only fit 11 left.”

I would rather read FakeIPLplayer for more entertainment!

I am afraid I cannot give a link to that article or for that matter take up any names at all due to the fear of being sued. What with reading about a certain TV News Channel female journo, who specializes in Over-Dramatizations, suing an innocent blogger for his criticisms in the way she handled the 26/11 attacks. And also that time when a certain Indian Institute of Something and Something, which continues to occupy more space in newspapers than Manmohan Singh himself, suing another Blogger dude for stating some facts. And some other related nonsense.. And so I have not revealed any names. But that shouldn’t really matter now should it? All of you know exactly which newspaper and which News Channel I am referring to.

*** Sucks!!!

PS: By the way, the title of the post, thanking MSD is largely for inspiring me enough to get back to blogging after a brief hiatus. Thank you Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Good Luck.

The sudden announcement that Virender Sehwag is returning home due to a shoulder injury and skipper MS Dhoni’s

somewhat strange conduct at a press conference on Tuesday has generated strong speculation that the two players are at loggerheads.