Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt didn’t mince words when he spoke about immigration issues affecting the U.S. economy – and the H-1B work visas Google and other major companies use to hire top foreign talent, including MBAs.
“In the long list of stupid policies of the U.S. government, I think our attitude toward immigration has got to be near the top,” Schmidt said in a March speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “We take very, very smart people, bring them into the country, give them a diploma and kick them out where they go on to create companies that compete with us. Brilliant strategy.”
The H-1B is a work visa issued via a lottery, with odds that have grown increasingly poor as the number of applications has swelled over the past three years and the number of visas has stayed the same. The H-1B is aimed at “specialty occupations,” mainly in technology, engineering, and general business.
But outsourcing firms, mostly from India, have gamed the system, sucking up massive numbers of visas to bring in cheap foreign workers for U.S. companies such as Disney – leaving foreign graduates of U.S. MBA programs to face poor odds in the visa lottery.
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Schmidt called for increasing the number of H-1B visas. And he’s a major contributor to Fwd.US, a pressure group seeking immigration reform, founded by a who’s who of the U.S. tech industry including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, LinkedIn executive chairman Reid Hoffman, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr.
Unfortunately for international MBAs from U.S. business schools, they’re lumped into the same visa category – foreigners in “specialty occupations” requiring a bachelor’s degree or above – as mid-level tech workers. Joining MBAs in that category are thousands upon thousands of workers brought into the U.S. by foreign outsourcing companies to work in U.S. firms. Data from 2013 showed that among the top 25 recipient companies of H-1B visas, 11 were outsourcing firms, seven of them Indian, one French, and three American. Numbers such as those, and high-profile revelations about H-1B-related U.S. job losses, have drawn foreign MBAs’ primary visa option into a political firestorm.
Earlier this year, energy utility Southern California Edison and, more recently, Disney were accused of laying off hundreds of American tech workers after forcing them to train their foreign, H-1B-visa replacements. HCL America, a U.S. subsidiary of an Indian company and another major H-1B employer, provided workers at Disney, the New York Times reported.
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“Most of the people I know who were let go back in January were the hardest working professionals I’d ever met in my 35+ year career,” Keith Barrett, who says he was forced into retirement from Disney amid the controversial layoffs, wrote on his blog earlier this month. “Many had their stress compounded by being forced to train their own replacements. All of this during record company profits.”
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson this month demanded that the federal government investigate the H-1B program in light of the Disney controversy.
Supplying the new Edison workers were Indian outsourcers Tata and Infosys, both now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor over the Edison allegations. Also, in 2013, the union behemoth AFL-CIO accused Walmart of abusing the H-1B system to bring in lower-paid IT labor.
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