L Visa–It's Everywhere You Want to Be … Especially the U.S. Tech Industry
Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified and interested U.S. worker. And that, in a sense, sounds funny, but it’s what we are trying to do here.”
How do you say “tech’s best and brightest” in Hindi? Because increasingly, India seems to be a prime source for tech-industry talent. In 2006, at least 65,000 H-1B visas were issued. And the number of L visas–which allow multinationals to transfer foreign managers and specialists within a company to U.S. offices–rose to more than 53,000.
That’s a hell of a lot of jobs. Too many, say Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who claim U.S. visa programs are being exploited to the detriment of American tech workers. Yesterday, Durbin and Grassley released data revealing that foreign outsourcing firms are among the heaviest users of both the H-1B and L visa programs. Of the top 20 L visa users in fiscal year 2006, 14 are offshore outsourcing firms. Among them, India-based Tata Consultancy Services, which received 4,887 L visas and 3,046 H-1B visas last year. The number of L visas here is particularly concerning, as Durbin notes: “The L visa is designed to give multinational companies the freedom to transfer managers and specialists within the company to their U.S. offices. But some of these companies have hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of L visa workers. I find it hard to believe that any one company has that many individuals that are legitimately being transferred within a single year.”
That does seem dubious. But, as the high-tech companies lobbying Congress for more visas note, Tata is one company of many. And if the U.S. isn’t careful and tweaks its visa program in the wrong way, it could see a lot of top talent leaving the states. “Simply put: It makes no sense to tell well-trained, highly skilled individuals–many of whom are educated at our top colleges and universities–that the United States does not welcome or value them,” Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said earlier this year. “For too many foreign students and professionals, however, our immigration policies send precisely this message.”