Saturday, September 06, 2003

Too Many Visas for Techies?
Programs that favor high-skilled workers from overseas at the expense of Americans are coming under scrutiny
Bob Simoni has been fuming ever since Toshiba America (TOSBF ) replaced him last year with a foreign worker. Simoni recently found a short-term gig, but he wants Congress to do something about the H1B visa program that allows companies to bring in skilled foreign workers. The 39-year-old software engineer says he lost his job to such a person, in his case an Indian. Toshiba says the outsourcing of jobs "enables us to be more efficient." But to add insult to injury, says Simoni, Toshiba asked him to train his replacement: "I never thought this could happen in my field."

A battle is brewing over foreign professionals in America. On one side are people like Simoni, who say visas created for specialized workers such as the H1B and the L1 -- granted to foreign employees transferred to U.S. operations -- are being used to bring in rank-and-filers on the cheap. On the other side are multinationals and such groups as the American Electronics Assn. in Washington. They argue that strangling the visa program could undermine U.S. competitiveness and prompt American employers to send more jobs overseas. Says AEA President William T. Archey: "We still want to have access to the best talent."
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