Government Agencies Still Hiring H-1B Visa Employees for American Jobs

Trump Evan Vucci Associated Press
Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Government agencies around the country are hiring thousands of foreign H-1B workers to fill well-paid government jobs needed by U.S. graduates.

The governments’ hidden workforces of roughly 18,000 H-1B employees are an easy target for President Donald Trump as he searches for ways to open up good jobs for the many American graduates who have been forced out of jobs by the coronavirus crash.

Trump also needs to do something because he has yet to begin to deliver any part of his dramatic 2016 campaign trail promise: “I will end the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program forever, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

The H-1Bs are being imported and hired at all levels of government throughout the United States.

A small share of the H-1Bs is hired directly by government offices, via a deliberately complex and lengthy process managed by the Departments of Labor, State, and Homeland Security (DHS), plus a small army of immigration lawyers.

For example, roughly 130 foreign H-1B employees are being hired by organizations with “department” in their names. They include the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the New York Police Department, and the Arkansas Department of Public Safety, according to the Labor Department data.

Many more H-1Bs are imported by U.S. or Indian staffing companies and are then leased by government agencies. So the federal data from October to late March shows that roughly 3,000 H-1Bs have been requested or leased by government departments from various staffing firms.

The departments include transportation, agriculture, labor, health and human services, and interior. Roughly 85 H-1Bs are being sought for the federal and state Labor Departments, including the Labor Departments in Vermont, Idaho, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Many of the imported H-1B employees are being hired to maintain and operate computer systems, at promised salaries above $90,000, even as those tasks can be done by many American graduates.

The state-level departments who want H-1Bs from staffing companies include the Georgia Department of Transportation, Washington’s Department of Corrections, the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, and Maryland’s Department of Human Services.

Roughly 100 foreigners are being requested for rental to taxpayer-backed commissions, including the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

More H-1Bs are requested by counties and boards, including the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the election boards in New York and in North Carolina, the Palm Beach County Governmental Center, and the Superior Court of Orange County.

An additional 400-plus H-1Bs are being rented by government “offices.” These include the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the U.S. Government Publishing Office, and the NYC Financial Information Services Agency and Office of Payroll Administration.

This set of almost 3,000 leases and hires is just the six-month tip of an iceberg.

Each H-1B lasts three years. So if 3,000 H-1Bs are being hired or extended during a period of six months, then another 15,000 H-1Bs were likely hired or rented during the prior two-and-half years of the three years.

The data only reveals the H-1Bs who were imported for scheduled work in government offices. It does not show or count the many H-1Bs who were imported by staffing companies for a different job and were subsequently reassigned to a staffing job in a government center. That reassigned H-1B population may be larger than the 15,000 shown in the data. A large population of reassigned H-1Bs would help explain the many anecdotal reports that Indian visa workers are a majority in many federal computer centers.

The iceberg goes much deeper, however, because many contractors also import H-1Bs and other visa workers to help build software for government agencies. For example, four states hired a Minneapolis-based software company that includes many H-1B workers to build websites where state residents could file for unemployment benefits. Amid the coronavirus crash, the H-1B software provided by Sagitec Solutions proved inadequate.

Similarly, the underperforming and overbudget Obamacare website was a political disaster for President Barack Obama. reported:

There is some evidence that this project was, at least in part, off-shored and that H-1B (temporary foreign worker) visas were used extensively. This seems to have led to decisions such as the code supporting the obscure Indian Gujarati language and comments being written in a style consistent with offshore programmers.

But this huge iceberg of visa workers is a huge profit center for the layers of staffing companies. The staffing companies take large commissions from each H-1B hire, both legally and — according to accounts provided by Indian H-1Bs — not so legally.

For example, Company A may win a contract to deliver 100 H-1Bs to a government agency. Company A then rents the 100 H-1Bs from subcontractors B, C, and D. But those subcontractors can rent H-1Bs from each other before renting them to Company A. This hidden back-scratching process would allow the companies’ executives to take three bites from each workers’ $100,000 salary — and also to hire lobbyists to protect the lucrative H-1B process.

Many H-1Bs also have to pay kickbacks to their managers to ensure they are not sent home, usually to India. The managers “get a back cut,” said Vikram from Texas, a former H-1B worker who is now a citizen. “It happens all the time,” he said.

The H-1B numbers in this article are drawn from Labor Department data.

The Labor Department’s data includes the names of the hiring company, promised wage levels, job location, and job title. Crucially, the data also includes the “secondary entity business name,” which displays at least one expected workplace for each H-1B imported by staffing companies.

The data includes requests for new hires, as well as requests for three-year extensions of current workers’ initial three-year visa. The numbers in this article include new hires and visa extensions.

Few hiring requests by agencies are denied — even when the jobs are in critical infrastructure, or allow foreign access to private information, such as tax receipts and health data.

Federal law says non-profit groups — including government agencies — are exempt from the supposed annual cap of 85,000 H-1B new workers. Nationwide, roughly 90,000 “Cap Exempt” H-1Bs are employed by non-profit groups, including agency, research laboratories, universities, and hospitals.

DHS officials do deny many requests by staffing companies for H-1Bs. But the denials have little impact because the staffing companies make sure to ask for many extra H-1Bs, usually after collecting letters from companies that say the extra H-1Bs are needed.

Companies game this approval process to ensure they have extra H-1Bs on hand to win new contracts in bidding competitions against firms that only hire Americans, including legal immigrants.

The Labor Department data cited in this article is presented on a site operated by Virgil Bierschwale, a Texas-based software expert who says he cannot find a job amid the flood of Indian and Chinese visa workers. Many Americans have been sidelined because employers are eager to use the growing number of college graduate illegals, many of whom have overstayed their visas, he said.

“Some of us can’t work anymore because there are so many state and federal agencies using H-1Bs. … Government agencies using our tax revenues to basically displace us,” Bierschwale said.

The flood of foreign workers allows companies to discriminate against older Americans, and to exclude young American graduates, he said. “You used to be used to be to climb the ladder and work your way up — there is no climbing the ladder anymore because the [visa workers] are getting all jobs,” he said.

“It’s very difficult” to get jobs in a crashed labor market that was already flooded with imported workers, said an Indian-born citizen who formerly worked as an H-1B worker. “I don’t see a chance — I might need to leave my IT career and work at Walmart or something,” he said May 27.
Companies have imported roughly 750,000 H-1Bs for a very wide variety of jobs needed by American graduates. In addition, at least 700,000 other foreign graduates hold jobs via the uncapped L-1, OPT, CPT, H4EAD, and TN visa programs while roughly 800,000 Americans will graduate from four-year colleges with skilled degrees in 2020.
Many former H-1B and other visa workers overstay expired visas and create an extra pool of illegal college graduate labor. Also, companies allegedly use the little-monitored B-1 visa to sneak white-collar illegals into U.S. workplaces, further reducing salaries and opportunities for U.S. graduates.
Most of the H-1Bs are working software jobs in exchange for pay and the chance of citizenship. But no U.S. graduates are exempt from the H-1B competition. The list of targeted jobs include doctors, psychologists, marketing analysts, architects, fashion designers, editors, designers, creative writers, managers, engineers, and much else.

“Young kids have no clue that it could happen to them,” said Bierschwale. “When I was 40 years old, I had the best skills out there, but two years later, the manager said, ‘If I can get ten people for the price of you, it does not matter what skills you have.’”

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked to hire or extend 19 H-1Bs in fiscal 2020. The CDC’s 19 H-1Bs include two biologists, five epidemiologists, and three statisticians. The CDC also wants to hire or extend three H-1Bs from staffing companies, including Leidos Inc. and IShift Corp.

In 2019, CDC hired 18 foreign employees at an average salary of $82,195, according to the website, which also relies on government data. That pre-coronavirus 2019 inflow of foreign workers included 12 epidemiologists and six economists.

An email to the CDC was not returned.

According to a database held by DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, the CDC has applied for five foreign H-1B workers and to extend work visas for four other foreign employees. Since 2018, the agency has filed for at least 51 foreign employees, the DHS site says.

Many U.S. executives also prefer H-1Bs because the H-1Bs  know they will get sent home if they argue with their managers, unlike U.S. professionals, said Bierschwale. “If somebody like me sees something wrong, I’ll tell them it is wrong, and they don’t want that. [U.S. executives] want Indians and Chinese who stay quiet.”

Bierschwale’s website shows that two government-backed businesses use a large share of federal H-1Bs.

The Federal National Mortgage Association, dubbed Fannie Mae, wants to hire or extended 575 H-1Bs, including H-1Bs imported by Accenture, Cognizant, Ernst & Young, HCL Global, Hexaware Technologies, and Mastech Digital, many at $120,000-per-person costs.

The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, wants to hire or extend 141 from staffing companies, at salaries around $100,000.

This data matches data from nine months of 2019, presented in October 2019 by Bloomberg:

Data indicate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are directed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency under a conservatorship, are the most popular destinations among federal agencies for H-1B workers placed by third-party companies. Together, the two account for at least 1,340 H-1B workers sponsored by more than 460 different third-party companies.

Also high on the list is the Health and Human Services Department (at least 290 H-1B workers), Amtrak (at least 60 H-1B workers), the Commerce Department (at least 60 H-1B workers), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (at least 40 H-1B workers).

The Pentagon and the armed forces do not hire visa workers directly, according to the data.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC, or email the author at


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