The value of a guestworker visa to a corporation? Between $10,000 and $1 million

cubicleby GraceFamily

Two H-1B’s walk into a bar: more on the visa scam
[Via I, Cringely]

There’s an old joke in which a man asks a woman if she’ll spend the night with him for $1 million? She will. Then he asks if she’ll spend the night with him for $10?

“Do you think I’m a prostitute?” she asks.

“We’ve already established that,” he replied. “This is just a price negotiation.”

Not a great joke, but it came to mind recently when a reader pointed me to a panel discussion last September at the Brookings Institution ironically about STEM education and the shortage of qualified IT workers. Watch the video if you can, especially the part where Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith offers to pay the government $10,000 each for up to 6,000 H-1B visas.

In the joke, this is analogous to the $10 offer. There’s a $1 million offer, too, which is another U.S. visa — the EB-5 so-called immigrant investor visa, 15,000 of which are available each year and most go unclaimed. Why?

The EB-5 visa is better in many respects than the H-1B. The EB-5, for one thing, is a true immigrant visa leading to U.S. citizenship, where the H-1B — despite misleading arguments to the contrary — is by law a non-immigrant visa good for three or six years after which the worker has to go back to their native country. But the EB-5 requires the immigrant bring with him or her $1 million to be invested locally in an active business.


I’m sure Microsoft would start with a lowball offer, so $10,000 must be the floor. And since they are not ‘using’ the EB-5 visa, which could require a $1 million cost to the company, we know what the ceiling is.

So what is the added value of a new employee to a high tech company?

And, I’m wondering how many Americans would be interested in the job if Microsoft added $10,000 to the offer? Are the corporations happy with H-1B visas because they know it is temporary, that they control the ability of the worker to stay in the US and that the worker has little choice or future?

I would not be surprised to see that bean counters in companies have worked this out and find that American workers in high tech cost the company X dollars. And that guestworkers cost X-Y, where Y is greater than $10,000 but less than $1 million.

I would also not be surprised to see that these calculations do not take everything into account.