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"Graduates on H1B visas are significantly higher caliber"

I am an H1B visa holder. I came to the United States on a student visa and later transitioned to the work visa. I currently work as a Lead Software Engineer at a large FAANG technology firm and I conduct hundreds of interviews annually, for both experienced and new grad roles. Throughout my years here, I've worked with both talented American engineers and foreign engineers, and I can tell you that we all agree that hiring is extremely difficult given our high hiring standards.

When we're hiring, what we need more than anything else are people who are qualified for the role. We will only hire people who have the necessary skills to do the job so that a customer's bank account doesn't get hacked after you used our website. And our hiring process is extremely rigorous.

We start with one to two rounds of phone interviews, in which we ask simple knowledge-based and algorithm questions to verify that the candidates did not lie in their resumes. Unfortunately, less than half of the candidates I interview can pass these phone interview rounds. If a candidate does pass, my team brings them onsite for a full day of interviews. We will ask a range of questions focused on software systems design, the analysis of algorithms, and common workplace behaviors.

Again, only a very small number of candidates pass all our interview rounds, and they usually receive offers from multiple companies. We must therefore fight to get them to join us regardless of their citizenship status or gender, since they are the ones who are able to keep our products safe and customers happy.

My company has established STEM-initiative programs across the United States in an attempt to train U.S. students and to engage kids to become engineers. Unfortunately, there isn't enough interest among American students (especially female students) to attend such programs. In our new grad hiring program, we can only find a small number of American students who are qualified for our new grad roles.

We have also found that foreign graduates usually have a significantly higher GPA, more internship experience, and more advanced classes on their resumes. 

It is very time consuming for my company to hire H1B workers. Recruiting foreign graduates involves lawyers' fees and there's never any guarantee that we'll be able to secure the work authorizations for them. Given that successful candidates can pass all of our interviews, we will do anything to get them onboard since they bring tremendous benefits to our company. We follow a unified pay model that is adjusted based on previous salary, years of experience, interview performance and not on citizenship. Our H1B visa holders are not underpaid. It's time people wake up to this.

Kavi Ramesh is a pseudonym

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Photo by Stephanie Hau on Unsplash

AUTHORKavi Ramesh Insider Comment
  • ma
    9 October 2020

    "based on previous salary", did you say? ;)
    (joke being, if they were previously getting an Indian salary, wouldn't this lead to a lower salary?)

    I too didn't think H1Bs were being underpaid (though I did think they were displacing Americans from jobs). Then we ran into an Uber driver, who was apparently here on an H1B, but was currently "benched". Sure, they're not _supposed_ to be able to work, except for their H1B employer, but who is policing that? Forget about tech workers, they're now taking away work from Americans trying to make ends meet by driving for Uber?

    >We will only hire people who have the necessary skills to do the job
    Outside of startups, I don't see why this needs to be the case. Instead of taking pride in hiring the best, why not take pride in developing people?

    >foreign graduates usually have a significantly higher GPA
    So, you're looking for a degree ... have you considered the cost of a Bachelors here? I am glad your company has these STEM programs, but are they willing to pay for a college degree? Some of the brightest Americans I have met did not have degrees. Taking loans in the amounts needed for a US Bachelor's is not everyone's cup of tea. I feel our relatively inexpensive Bachelor's degrees in India give us a leg up on many Americans unable to afford it here.

  • Al
    7 October 2020

    As an immigrant from the EU finished undergrad and finishing master in one month at a top 10 US public public university. This article is full of shit...the acceptance rate at UCBerkley is 17% do you think Indian dude is more prepared than an American kid that was trained since high school and prepared for STEM? Heck NO. Avg IQ in India is 81 while in the US is 98...also do we compare the US education system with the Indian one :)))
    These are indentured servants not high skilled

  • B.
    B. Johnson
    7 October 2020

    You're unable to see the trees or the forest or even the sky, Kavi. I've been in a variety of roles in MarTech, FinTech, ProdTech, etc, at Fortune 500 companies including Honeywell, Deloitte, US Bank, Microsoft, and a defense contractor or two. And here's my take: Indian-born workers have the same can-do, gung-ho, fake-til-ya-make-it attitude I used to see in central Americans back in my blue collar days. "Are you an expert in Azure DevOps Cloud and Maven on AEM 6.5?" isn't so different from "Do you know how to pour 4 feet of concrete in the rain on a 30-degree slope?" because each foreign worker will say "Yes, sir" whether they know or not. And what the H1B doesn't know? He can pick up from a YouTube video at 1.5x speed during a lunch break. And frankly, I give each of them credit for reaching for that golden ring. I'm an old man. I stay relevant by upping my skills, adding to my repertoire on a constant basis, by any means necessary. Did I really need that Salesforce Admin certification? Who knows. But I know Sahil from Mumbai is going to have one. And I give additional props to Indian H1Bs because unlike most from China, they integrate well into American and multi-national teams. They're natural "Americans" by the way they hustle, socialize, integrate and work anywhere they're offered work. Me? I'm not moving to St. Louis. Or New Jersey. Or Ohio. Despite the obscene money offers? H1Bs from India? They don't give a damn if they get an offer from Buffalo or Hawaii? They go where the work is. And they assimilate.

    The problems -- according to those much smarter than me -- arise when the stakes are bigger than a security update to a graphic arts app. (See: Boeing hiring offshore H1Bs who just couldn't match the best American talent, home grown professionals that do not come cheap. And we all know how much damage that cost-cutting mentality inflicted upon the once-dominant aerospace firm.)

    And let's face it. The above author is more likely to hire those who speak his language, get his jokes, and won't make him look bad and it's only natural that he would hire those he can more easily direct and manage. American team leaders tend to hire US citizens. Indian born H1Bs project leads tend to surround themselves with fellow H1Bs. End of story.

    And when it comes to Americans? I don't see too many other 40 y.o. + pros like myself chasing certifications the way I do. I'm not criticizing others. Just an observation. But you see? I fear being irrelevant. Or being left behind. So, I do what I have to do.

    And why every damn US elementary school isn't mandating coding and programming and data science into the curriculums nationwide and taking 20th century skills like cursive writing and social studies and American history out to the nearest field to be shot like old horses is beyond me. Those are things parents should be teaching to their own kids, no? You got 20 parents and you've got 20 versions of how things happened in the past. Replace that time instead with heavy duty tech training and do it now.

    And what do American leaders do? They promise small town and rural workers that the same manufacturing jobs that disappeared are coming back instead of serving them up a piece of reality pie that tastes like "Learn some relevant skills ASAP. Oil production went bust? Become an expert in solar or wind technology. Lost your job at the assembly plant? Make like a semiconductor chip and solve problems faster...and stop clinging to dead skills in dead industries."

  • Ra
    7 October 2020

    By "rigorous" interview process, do you mean you "pick up" questions from leetcode and GeeksForGeeks and then throw them at candidates, and candidates these days practice these questions for months, do you call this "rigorous"?. Isn't it a farce of an interview?. Imagine Linus Torvalds came to interview with you, even he won't be able to write solutions in the given timeframe, if he has not looked at those questions beforehand? This is just an excuse "to appear" as if you're rigorous, but you're not, stop lying to yourselves, another fact : you don't move to US to "learn"| software engineering or computers, it's a deal you do, to get yourself in US, all FAANG companies are in India as well, but you won't interview there, because you know in India, the competition is a lot more, because just like IIT-JEE, everyone has thoroughly solved these kinds of questions and the number of people in india who have done this are more, If you ever want to know what "rigorous" is , listen and talk to the people who have "actually" written code that matters, Linus Torvalds, James Gosling...what you're doing is "Copying algorithms" , as a use case : you're copying algorithms to build out a service, that tracks the no of clicks concurrently, that's hardly software engineering, what you don't understand is that the Marketing groups at these FAANG companies are really powerful and that's what puts your "product" in front of the consumer and kills competition, the work you're doing is completely replaceable, you're just trying to make it "shiny' by using these bogus practices, just so it looks as if it's so "rigorous" and "difficult", don't belieeve me? Go and have a look at confessions by hundreds of honest developers working in FAANG on blind...stop lying to yourselves, Only "Algorithms" is not computer science and engineering.

  • Fr
    6 October 2020

    "There aren't enough qualified Americans for the job" is the biggest BS lie in history. As if someone from who graduated from Bangalore
    College with a "degree" is more qualified than an American with
    qualified credentials. All in the name of "humanitarianism" and
    "diversity", all lies so you don't question the policy and are labeled a
    racist if you do.

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