The U.S. Government will begin handing out the second half of the annual 85,000 H-1B temporary professional worker visas this month. These visas are valid for three years and renewable for an additional three years. Most of these visas are for information technology (IT) workers, and most of them are used by foreign-based employment services firms (“body shops”) to rent out these workers to U.S. companies that seek to cut costs by replacing older permanent workers with younger foreigners.

This in-shoring of foreign workers into U.S. jobs by these foreign firms was documented in an April 1 article in Computerworld. Most Americans are familiar with the off-shoring of low wage U.S. jobs to foreign destinations where wage rates are lower, but the in-shoring of foreign skilled workers to take U.S. jobs is less known or understood. That largely is because it attracts less press attention. Understanding the impact of this in-shoring is further complicated by the fact that even more foreigners arrive to do temporary visas on L visas for intra-company transfers. They may stay for up to five years.

The public thinks that these visas are issued when U.S. workers are not available for the job. But that is not true. There is no requirement for seeking or hiring a qualified U.S. worker before hiring an H-1B worker. The foreign workers are often used to replace U.S. workers already on the job. The ability to discriminate against U.S. workers is built into the visa system.

The public should also be aware that the real number of H-1B visas issued is obscured because the cap does not apply to non-profit organizations, K-12, schools, universities, or federal, state and local governments. How many H-1Bs are issued above and beyond the 85,000 cap? The government does not tell us. We also do not know how many H-1B workers there are in the country because the government does not tell us that, either. It may not even know, because the entry-exit system for recording the arrival and departure of foreigners remains incomplete – despite laws requiring that data gap be closed.

Do many of the foreign workers who received H-1B visas fail to depart when their visa expires and become illegal aliens continuing to use the SSN given to them when they receive the visa? Once again, the government does not tell us. Foreign students are monitored by the schools that control the visa issuance process so that the government has a reasonable basis for knowing whether they leave when required. It would make more sense for Congress to require a “hire Americans first” provision for the visa and require employers to provide reports on their foreign workers similar to those that are required for foreign students.