Sunday, April 17, 2005

More on H-1B workers and geographic location

One interesting question that the H-1B visa program raises, especially with respect to "information labor," is what particular sites are requesting and receiving the greatest number of H-1B visa approvals and hired foreign workers? An article in the Cincinnati Business Courier reprinted on MSNBC recently focused on the rustbelt as a site of acute H-1B need (as opposed to, say, the high-tech-worker-laden coasts):

A Courier review of federal records indicated roughly 1,000 companies that operate in Cincinnati sought permission to hire more than 18,000 foreign employees in the last five years. Consulting firms, universities and medical organizations are the biggest users of the program.

The story quoted a Cincinnati hospital administrator who uses H-1B labor as saying "There just aren't enough Americans coming out to fill these jobs. They may be available to people on the East or West Coast, but they're less available to people in this part of the country. It's harder to get people to move here."

What's even more surprising -- and more geographically significant -- is that the "outsourcing" and temporary services industry in the US is also involved in requesting H-1B visa workers. For example:

In some cases, companies file under multiple names or use temporary employment agencies or consulting firms to file applications on their behalf. Cincinnati-based outsourcing company Convergys Corp. has filed 108 applications under 15 different names, seeking permission to hire 1,323 people in Ohio, Florida, Utah and Texas. It has filled computer analyst positions, as well as marketing staffers, statisticians, associates and consultants.

So a person brought to work in the US for a firm supposedly needing an unique individual with rare qualifications is actually subcontracted through an outsourcing intermediary and not considered a permanent employee? Sounds like there is much more "play" in the system for particular persons targeted for particular jobs (on paper) to actually be shuffled around by recruiting firms, not only from firm to firm but from state to state -- where not only job descriptions, but also local labor markets, may vary greatly. Was this part of the intent of the H-1B program?

Still need more information to piece together this puzzle. Here are some more H-1B-critical online resources to follow up (which may be approaching this issue from very different political-economic standpoints): The Organization for the Rights of American Workers (;;

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