The problems appear to be within the contracting / consulting firms more than the US tech giants, but everyone needs to be aware of this. Are your H-1B workers under a bit more pressure than you realize managers? Are you having trouble getting that expert because of these practices?
But beneath the surface, the investigation found, many of these arrangements have problems. By looking at court records covering 600 H-1B visa abuse cases, the investigators found that contracts are often draconian, allowing the body shops to withhold wages and force workers to pay large fees if they quit. Some hold visas hostage to enforce these contracts, or threaten lawsuits.
Others bring in workers even though no jobs await. You can’t legally get an H1-B visa unless there’s a job to fill, so body shops purport to offer engineers open positions, and the engineers hired by a body shop should collect salaries from day one. But the body shops typically don’t pay workers until they place them at companies. And the body shops stockpile, or “bench,” workers so they have them on hand when jobs come up, sometimes sticking them in guesthouses and forbidding them to leave the property, the investigation determined.
That’s how the system hurts the workers. But it’s also hurting companies who want to bring in expert engineers and computer programmers the old-fashioned way—that is, by applying directly for an H-1B visa. Why? Because there’s a national cap of just 65,000 of these visas per year, and when the body shops scoop up visas to stockpile workers, the visas are not available for companies who really have tech jobs they can’t fill from within the U.S.
More: Migrant Tech Workers Abused by Contract Labor Firms, Investigation Shows - IEEE Spectrum