How Industry Lobbyists Make False Claims Around US Skills to Justify Cheap H1-Bs

Executive Summary

  • Lobbyists make repeatedly false claims around the STEM knowledge of US citizens to justify importing cheap labor that increases the margins of multinationals.
  • We see how these claims hold up to scrutiny.


Multinational companies, immigration attorneys and H1-B visa holders have been lying about the actual standards that should apply for the H-1B program.

This is explained in the following quotation.

“Our own best and brightest are squeezed out of the market once they become expensive,” Ron Hira, Economic Policy Institute research associate and associate professor at Howard University has concluded. “The industry’s claim that American kids don’t study enough math and sicence is a red herring and is rank hypocricy, with the layoffs of thousands of US citizens and permanent residents who were math an science whizzes as kids.” – Sold Out

What Has Happened to STEM Fields Since H1-B?

The answer, which we cover in the article How The H1-Bs Are Pushing Out Domestic US Workers of IT and STEM. This has caused US citizens with STEM educations to abandon their field at massive rates because so many the fields have become hostile and unappealing to them. Has the media coverage been around the unappealing nature of STEM fields or why so many STEM graduates leave the field? Of course not. Instead, the focus has been on how we can educate more people in STEM. And on why so many women drop out of STEM, even though men leave STEM at massive rates.

Important and Left Out Information

The academic studies to not at all support the picture painted by H1-B advocates. The following quotations from the paper Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand, illustrate why.

The pool of S&E-qualified secondary and postsecondary graduates is several times larger than the number of annual job openings.

Our analysis at the aggregate level does not find a shortage of potential S&E students or workers.

We begin by examining the evidence supporting the common assertions that the United States has long been failing in S&E education and that its students perform abysmally when compared to international norms. These assertions rest heavily on several widely cited “facts” that are at the least ambiguous and, when examined a little more closely, appear incorrect.

At the same time, the math and science performance of high school graduates is not declining and shows improvement for some grades and demographic groups, especially over the long run.

The weight of the evidence, when considering all the different measures, surely indicates no decline but rather indicates an ongoing educational improvement for U.S. students. This improvement is not only in math and science but in all subjects tested and, importantly, occurs at the same time as a greater and more diverse proportion of the population is remaining in school.5 But there is another arrow in the critics’ quiver: there is a global race afoot and the United States is losing pace so that it matters not if domestic trends are improving because U.S. students, relatively speaking, do not perform as well as students in other nations. We turn now to that issue.

Although the United States does not lead the list in any particular year or grade in math and science (it does in other subjects), the United States is one of the few nations that does consistently perform above the international average. For the most part, the top-ranked group of nations has few constant members, particularly among non-Asian countries.

The “world” that the United States trails is a haphazard collection of mostly small nations and devoid of consistent leaders with a few exceptions. Rather than concluding that the United States is behind the world, it would be more accurate to conclude that the test results show the United States is not the highest performing nation in any single science or math test, but it is one of a very few nations that consistently rank above the international average in tests of academic performance.

What is more, although science and math are the primary focus of policy discussion, in other areas, such as literacy, U.S. scores are consistently above the international averages. By excluding those tests from international comparisons, it is implied that literacy does not hold the same importance as science and math, usually by reference to science and math as the drivers of innovation and economic growth. However, there is no substantial evidence to support the assertion that a nation’s average levels of math and science mastery lead to a disproportionate share of innovation or economic growth.

Now is a good time to mention that the top-scoring countries in math are the following (at least in one particular year).

China is the top-scoring country in science, according to the OEDC. However, has China been an innovator in science? Newsflash to the H1-B proponents, China has spent decades involved in industrial espionage to steal IP from the US. US students don’t go to China to study while being recruited by the China intelligence services to copy IP while in university in China. That is what Chinese students do (some of them in any case) while studying in US universities. Also, if the US is so in need of people with math and science skills, why are roughly 75% of the H1-Bs from India. Is India anywhere on this list? 

Germany is a country with a history of great scientific innovation. Their contributions to the field of chemistry alone are world renown. However, they don’t score all that high on science education? Does anyone think that Germany’s days are numbered as a scientific leader? If H1-B proponents are to be believed, any country that does not score as well as China should have their immigrant worker program that brings lower wages to each STEM field, to you know “increase innovation.”

Isn’t it curious that the people making the argument for cheap H1-B labor are people like immigration attorneys or high-level executives like Bill Gates (no one has ever accused Microsoft of being innovative.) We have non-technical people telling the country what needs to be done to improve technological innovation. They know. After all, they have law degrees or MBAs. Something that these proponents miss out on is that being innovative requires much more than performing well on a science test. It means being able to question the prevailing wisdom, something that they don’t want as they import from their H1-B workers.

Counting Racial Diversity Against the US

There has been an enormous promotion of racial diversity in the US. However, this has harmed US test scores, which then H1-B proponents have used to further increase diversity through the foreign worker visa programs (H1-B being just one of several).

This is explained in the following quotation.

An important difference between the United States and most of the other nations tested is the comparative race/ethnic diversity of the U.S. student body and social conditions. In fact, the United States stands quite alone in terms of its diversity as, for example, “Germany and Italy were nearly 100% white, and Japan’s [population] nearly 100% Asian [and] Canada’s [minority population is predominantly] Asian” (Boe and Shin 2005, 693). Boe and Shin analyze the test scores of U.S. students and find that white students handily outscore students in the Western G5 nations in math and science, albeit they do not do as well as Japanese students. On the other hand, U.S. white students (with a percentile rank of 92) handily outscore Japanese students on reading (with a percentile rank of 69).  – Into the Eye of the Storm

And this racial diversity has also come with linguistic disadvantages — which again all Americans are told are a strength. However, they don’t appear as a strength in educational scores.

Almost all of the population of Japan, 99 percent, speaks Japanese as their first language, compared with the 18 percent of the U.S. population that lives in a household in which a language other than English is spoken. Along these lines, consider that Norway, one of the top-scoring western nations, has a small population of 4.5 million with an immigrant population of just 7 percent, of which 44 percent is European (with relatively similar social and cultural conditions and background). Although Canada has a foreign-born population of 18 percent compared with 11 percent of the U.S. population, Canada has a much more restrictive immigration policy, effectively limiting immigration to high-skilled workers, those establishing a business, and family members of those already in Canada. – Into the Eye of the Storm

The Comparability of Very Small Versus Large Countries

What does one infer from comparing the average test score in a nation of over 300 million with that of a nation of 4.5 million (Singapore) or using educational performance as an indicator of economic performance? We would expect India’s 39 percent illiteracy rate and its secondary school enrollment rate of less than 50 percent (World Bank 2007) to make it an inconsequential global power. Of course, that is not the case because rather than average performance it is the small percentage of high performers in a nation of 1 billion that is the more important indicator of its relative science and engineering strength. – Into the Eye of the Storm

The Conclusion of Into the Eye of The Storm

The conclusion to this paper is exquisitely written.

Current policy is driven by the twin perceptions of a labor market shortage of scientists and engineers and of a pool of qualified students that is small in number and declining in quality. Math and science education are viewed as the primary policy levers to increase labor market supply, supplemented by increased immigration. But those policy proposals that call for more math and science education, aimed at increasing the number of scientists and engineers, do not square with the educational performance and employment data that we have reviewed. Our review of the data finds not only little evidence to support those positions and, in fact, the available evidence indicates an ample supply of students whose preparation and performance has been increasing over the past decades. We are concerned that the consensus prescriptions are based on some misperceptions about efficient strategies for economic and social prosperity.

It is difficult to conclude that the major economic “threats” to the United States are related to the performance levels of U.S. students as compared to students in other countries. Our major economic competitors, particularly emerging nation behemoths, are not among top test scoring nations. In fact, a sizeable portion of U.S. students perform at the top of the scale and graduate in substantial numbers.

Should U.S. policy be driven by test score performance of students in Flemish Belgium, Latvian-speaking Latvia, or even Singapore, with 4.5 million people and a workforce of 2.4 million (one-sixtieth the size of the U.S. workforce)? How will these countries find the capital and the numbers of workers needed to “steal” any major portion of a U.S. industry?

False Claims Around H1-Bs and US Universities

H1-B proponents have not only made false statements about the math and science education of US citizens to loosen H1-B standards further but have also falsely stated the percentage of international students that are awarded computer science degrees.

The industry lobbyists often imply that a large fraction of their H-1B workers are hired from U.S. universities where the workers had been studying for PhDs. For example, Daryl Hatano of the Semiconductor Industry Association testified to Congress, “NonU.S. citizens now represent over half of the Ph.D.s graduating fromU.S. universities in semiconductor fields . . . To have access to the foreign talent graduating from America’s universities, U.S. companies must apply for H-1B visas for their foreign professional workers.”171 The American Electronics Association argued that “nearly half of all Ph.D.’s graduating from American universities in the technical fields of computer engineering and electrical and electronic engineering are awarded to foreign nationals. Given this heavy investment in education, supported by U.S. dollars, it is in the national interest to retain this talent [using the H-1B program].”172 Jenny Verderi, Intel’s Manager of Education and Workforce Policy, said,173 “We are not able to find enough qualified U.S. workers in certain disciplines year after year, particularly in the science and engineering areas . . . there has been a shortage in the areas that we hire at for quite some time—and that’s primarily Master’s and Ph.D. design engineers.” – University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 

As we cover in the article How The H1-Bs Are Pushing Out Domestic US Workers of IT and STEM, it is entirely false that US companies cannot find enough STEM workers. The evidence is that the majority of those US citizens that receive STEM education leave the field within ten years of their education due to the low pay (greatly driven by the influx of foreign workers) and better options in other areas of the economy. These companies complained to Congress about allowing them to pull in more foreign workers, leave what the already large number of foreign workers has done to the STEM field.

The quote continues…

Some newspaper reports have erroneously stated that large numbers of U.S. undergraduates in computer science are foreign students. This is incorrect; only 6 percent of the computer science Bachelor’s degrees nationwide are awarded to foreign students.(emphasis added) See Computing Research News, Mar. 1998, published by the Computing Research Association. The CRA data are only for major universities. However, see also the testimony by pro-H-1B Alison Cleveland of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before the House Committee on Judiciary, on August 5, 1999. Cleveland cited a figure of 2,165 “aliens” out of 24,098 Bachelor’s degrees granted in computer science, and 4,756 aliens out of 62,114 Bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Note that even these numbers are higher than the true figures, since they include all aliens, including green card holders, not just foreign students.

In order to find the PhD rate among computer-related H-1Bs, this author consulted Michael Hoefer of the INS. His data show that only 1.6 percent of the computer-related H-1Bs in 1999/2000 had a PhD.180 However, the situation changed radically during in the 1990s. The dominant ethnicity of the computer-related H-1Bs changed during that time from Chinese to Indian.184 This was a result of aggressive marketing campaigns by Indian firms such as Tata Consultancy Services. This change was accompanied by a change in education level; the Indian firms were hiring directly from India, rather than from the U.S. university graduate programs. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

This is the consistent story with industries coverage and testimony to Congress. It is chocked full of lies from literally every dimension.

False Claims Around Skill Level and Wages of H1-Bs

All of the non-industry supported studies contradict the claims made by the lobbyists for H1-B.

These findings indicate that if there is any correlation between wages and skills, it is clear that the H-1B program is rarely being used to import “highly skilled” computer programming workers. The newly available data on skills suggest one of two things is happening, neither of which is consistent with the claims of employers pushing for the expansion of the program. Either the H-1B program is used primarily to import relatively less-skilled, entry-level, or trainee workers (and thus is of dubious value to the American economy), or employers are lying about these workers’ skills in order to suppress their wages.

While the wage data suggest that a few employers use the H-1B program to import a small number of highly skilled workers, these are exceptional cases. Overwhelmingly, the H-1B program is used to import workers at the very bottom of the computer programming wage scale.

Many in the information technology industry have called for an increase in the number of H-1B visas available. However, given the very few H-1B workers earning salaries that highly skilled workers in their profession would make and the fact that employers classify most H-1B workers at low skill levels, this report concludes that the existing number of visas is more than ample for the nation’s needs. Contrary to industry claims, the perennial exhaustion of the H-1B visas due to the cap more likely reflects widespread preference for lower-paid workers and lax enforcement of program rules, not an insufficient supply of visas to meet a deficit of highly-skilled U.S. workers. – CIS

How Highly Skilled Again?

In the Indian media, they routinely use the term “highly skilled.” However, while that is the description of an H1-B Visa, and the first logic of the program, only a small fraction of the H1-B Visa holders fall into this category.

  • At Brightwork, we have received repeated requests from people in India who are recent college graduates with no special skills to sponsor them for an H1-B Visa. The concept among Indians is the H1-B program is a system to be scammed.
  • At several SAP consulting companies, we found large scale resume falsification on the part of H1-B Visa holders.
  • At one consulting firm, the H1-B Visa holders have a particular incentive to falsify their resumes as if they did not get staffed. They would have a high likelihood of being let go, which could very likely mean having to move back to India.

However, the H1-B program was never passed into law under the concept that just about any Indian who has an education would be able to qualify for one. The H1-B Visa is viewed in India as the best opportunity to improve one’s condition in life. Therefore, the incentives to do what is necessary to stay are incredibly high. This is not to say that domestic resources do not also have an incentive to be successful. However, with a domestic resource, their jobs are not tied to their citizenship or their rights to stay in the country. To a worker from Denmark or Italy, it does not improve their condition all that much if they remain in the US or go back home. But to Indians, it is a significant upgrade in their lives and the lives of their families. Nearly every H1-B Visa holder’s goal is to move to become a citizen. As one moves through the various stages of citizenship, the ability of the employer to control them decreases. And their pay and other freedom increase.


The analysis provided by H1-B proponents is purely fabricated false conclusions based upon innumeracy on the part of the proponents who themselves lack technical training, and advocate from a position of financial bias. Publications like The Looming Workforce Crisis by the National Association of Manufacturers, develop spurious and self-centred conclusions that are designed to help make a case for actions that will lead to lower wages. These studies might as well be renamed as “The National Association of Manufacturers Would Like to Pay Workers Less, and Pay More to Top Executives.”

H1-B proponents that desire to give their impressions of how US educational outcomes can’t answer why so many of the countries that perform so well in science education scores are not in fact, innovative. And they don’t have to, because the media never bothers to either check their financial bias or fact check their statements.


National Association of Manufacturers (2005) The Looming Workforce Crisis, September.

Into the Eye of the Storm: Assessing the Evidence on Science and Engineering Education, Quality, and Workforce Demand

In a provocative article, Ramirez et al. (2006) argue that policies to increase economic growth by improving aggregate student achievement are “not based on research evidence” (2006:1). They develop a number of regression models to test the relationships between educational performance and economic growth for nearly 40 countries over the period 1970 through 2000. They find that student achievement levels in math and science “has no effect on tertiary enrollment in science and engineering” (p. 17), and a tenuous relationship between educational achievement levels and national economic performance. They argue that the four Asian countries of South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are outliers and that their high academic achievement is endogenous. Without those countries, there is no cross-national relationship between level of education and national economic performance.