back to article Hope to keep your H-1B visa? Don't become a QA analyst. Uncle Sam's not buying it: Techie's new job role rejected

Software engineers have long been treated, in Silicon Valley at least, as special, worthy of massive salaries, and deserving of cozy work conditions and top-of-the-range benefits. Sticking the profession down on your US visa application usually does the trick in getting your paperwork eventually all sorted, paving the way for …

  1. GrapeBunch Silver badge

    Stress-testing brainy software.

    Credentialism meets POTUS. Incidentally, that's why you need to be born in the USA. Otherwise, anybody could do the job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stress-testing brainy software.

      It's NOT just the US, this happens in nearly every developed country. Try getting a work permit in Australia for a similar job.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Stress-testing brainy software.

      Try doing that in the UK as well. I gave up trying to sponsor developers to come to work in the UK from India or Ukraine following the huge increase in bureaucracy. Nowadays we just sponsor 1 month visits, which have to be organised at least 3 months in advance.

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Of course it was rejected...

    QA for software?

    "If Microsoft doesn't need them then nobody else does either!"

    *FacePalm*

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Of course it was rejected...

      Why pay some schmuck to do that job when you can get your customers to do it for free? The free data slurping? Thats just the delicious cherry on this sh-- sunday.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Of course it was rejected...

        a bad week of just a sundae?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not *entirely* unreasonable?

    In the past for the labor certification associated with the H1-B they had to show that there was nobody willing to take the job who was a US citizen or legal permanent resident, and that they were advertising the position at the prevailing wage, and that if they were to hire someone on an H1-B that they would also pay them the prevailing wage -- that is, you can't just bring in H1-B workers as cheap labor when you don't want to pay a legal resident. Which we all know, of course, isn't happening.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

      But on the other hand, this wasn't hiring somebody for a new job, it was promoting them to a new role. So I don't know how the couldn't-find-a-local rule applies to that, but you'd imagine it might be different.

      I, luckily, obtained my green card just as Trump came in, but I'm not from India so it was a lot easier for me — the US differentiates based on the nationality of the applicant. There's currently a 12-year backlog of Indian nationals who have met the criteria and filed their paperwork but are waiting to emerge from that queue, and I don't think the backlog is getting any shorter.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

        "But on the other hand, this wasn't hiring somebody for a new job, it was promoting them to a new role".

        There are some interesting implications to this agency decision. Ms Sagarwala was apparently quite qualified for her previous work - since 2002 - so it was only when promoted that she suddenly became ineligible to remain in the USA.

        Is there an implication that the higher you get promoted, the fewer skills you need? Reminiscent of Dilbert's PHB.

        Presumably anyone off the street in California could do the CEO's job...

        And as for the President and members of Congress... 8-)

        1. Nifty

          Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

          Or the Peter Principle: When people get promoted to their level of incompetency.

      2. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

        "I'm not from India so it was a lot easier for me — the US differentiates based on the nationality of the applicant".

        But they are not racist at all. No siree Bob.

        1. joed

          Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

          Really no need for racism to impact wait times for Indian nationals. You start will limited pool, split between regions/countries and, with huge number of people from India entering the line, you get 12 years wait time. For better or worse, US can't just let global population move in all at once (at least until "American dream" is all gone).

        2. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

          >But they are not racist at all. No siree Bob.

          Definitely not racist. Bureaucratic to a Vogon fault, yes. Racist, definitely not. The immigration visa system works by allocating visa numbers in proportion to the numbers historically immigrating from a particular country. The numbers are then allocated in a number of preference categories. So, back in the old days (when I got my visa) my H-1 -- which required a postgraduate degree and significant work experience to qualify for -- translated to third preference. Since I was immigrating from the UK there wasn't a huge line at the time so the visa only took a year or two to come through.

          Countries that have a lot of people wishing to immigrate to the US tend to have huge lines, especially for the lower preference categories. Someone I work with had his name put down for a Green Card by his parents when he was born -- I'd guess based on family sponsorship, a high preference category, and everyone forgot about it until he was about 20 and his number came up.

          Anyway, I wish people would stop bandying the term 'racism' around every time they can't get their own way on demand. The US has people wanting to emigrate to it from all over the world, not just from your country. What the real problem here is that the H1-B visa has been grossly abused by Indian software contracting companies and their clients in the US, they literally have been turfing people out on the street and importing cheap labor. Its not only unfair to the locals it also means that someone from, say, the UK doesn't get a look in because the Indians have figured out how to game the system (and if recently proposed legislation ever becomes law then you'll never have an opportunity to emigrate to the US because the Indians are proposing to monopolize all the visa numbers for the forseeable future).

          (Also, I know that the UK is in 'a bit of a mess' at the moment but can anyone suggest why anyone from the UK would want to work in the US? Decades ago it was highly desirable, these days not so much.)

          1. SirDigalot

            Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

            i still live here, have done for nearly 20 years now, it seemed a lot easier back then, but i got the old spouse type sponsorship.

            half the people i used to work with were on visas and when they were not approved the company let them work from home, often back in india, the joys of those support calls.

            but yes I have actually considered selling up and moving back with wife in tow, of course, if we could simply move the uk down to the say the Mediterranean where it is a nice and warm

            1. CountCadaver

              Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

              I wonder if it would be technically possible to move a country, we could sail the uk south, park it off the coast of Africa and become the African Singapore......

              Then again the grey brigade would be constantly whinging that "its too warm" "what was wrong with the ways things were"

              The BBC would print "record high temperatures in Britain - CLIMATE APOCALYPSE?????"

              1. Claverhouse Silver badge

                Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

                Why the fuck would I want to live in Africa ?

                1. CountCadaver

                  Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

                  Canary islands are off the coast of Africa, yet everyone thinks of them as being basically adjacent to Spain.....

                  Weather would be nicer for a start...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

            Re: "can anyone suggest why anyone from the UK would want to work in the US": the salaries.

            I was on £60k in London, and transitioned immediately to $120k in San Francisco, which at the time was only £75k, but six years later I'm at $315k total comp — around £250k at the current exchange rate. I don't think I'd see that as a software engineer in the UK.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

        It was characterized as a promotion in the paperwork.

        It may have just been moving a warm body to a new client.

        QA can be a highly skilled job involving understanding a complete system in detail, or it can be running test cases from a script. A company like this is probably providing the latter type of employee.

    2. Arthur Daily

      Re: Not *entirely* unreasonable?

      And in xx years they found no better local talent. The decision to spill the visa, and open the new position to market testing was correct. One suspects the role had changed for a while and went undetected. Go back and fine the firm.

      The firm made the mistake of not writing in things like 'knowledge of internal corporate qa, and being able to do so at speed' Apply judgement of QA using corporate knowledge'. Perhaps the USA rightly bans tailor written job applications that only one person in the world will meet.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QA is the HR of developement

    Paid better than customer service only because it has to be the most boring job in the world, in terms of requiring unusual brain power, not so much.

    The US has their own dull people why would they need to import more? QA is after all about as techie as sales

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: QA is the HR of developement

      You have never done QA, and never worked with testers.

      Do you work for Boeing or for Microsoft?

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: QA is the HR of developement

      Software testing is, like many other jobs, performed to different degrees of application. There is a world of difference between professional software QA and chucking it out for UAT.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: QA is the HR of developement

      This is America. We don't need no steenking Quality.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: QA is the HR of developement

        Yes.

        "Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap".

        It's the American Way. After all, there's a sucker born every minute.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong Job

    Should have applied to be the president's parents-in-law.

    Could have then walked straight in to the US.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Wrong Job

      What the fecking hell is wrong with you? and shame on this site for not binning it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HSK Technologies specializes in "Staff Augmentation"

    They seem to be a job shop, renting out IT people for whatever seat needs to be warmed at the lowest price, not specialized talent.

    This is exactly what tightening the H1B rules is supposed to accomplish.

  7. I'm Dugly

    I'm Canadian. In 2005, I was approached to take on a contract in the US – allegedly a short-term engagement to assess the implementation of an enterprise system. I entered the US on a TN-1 visa (the “free-trade”, or NAFTA visa), valid for one year. During this period, the relationship with the client flourished, and they offered to sign a seven-year contract.

    With a substantial investment in legal and other business services, I incorporated, and was granted an L1-A visa. I moved my family to the US and bought a home. I hired staff, sub-contracted work to both American and Canadian consultants, and grew the business. Collectively, we paid well over US$1MM per year in taxes – these included remittances to the IRS from my Canadian consultants. To be precise, we were legal: we utilized the professional services of accountants and lawyers, and all requirements across the gamut of local, state and federal government were met.

    The L1-A visa is a method for obtaining a green card. With the business growing and going well, I applied. It was refused. Despite hiring staff and expanding the business, I was judged to be performing more consultant-type work and not those of a corporate president (even though I was the president). We appealed. We lost. The government visa processing fees and professional services cost well over $200,000 during the seven years I was there.

    My L1A status expired. I let my staff go, folded the business, and returned to Canada. As much as I loved living in Las Vegas, I no longer have to deal with US bureaucrats, and that's probably worth the price of the ticket.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Hi Mr Dugly,

      I've worked in Canada and the US. You are fine where you are now.

      In fact I've worked in a lot of countries and Canada beats them all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am also a Canadian. A few years back, I've got a job offer in Germany, which I accepted. I was allowed to start the work before applying for the work permit (this is a exception from the usual rules, granted to the US and Canadian nationals). After five years of being in work, I've applied for the unrestricted permanent residence, and received it three months later. (For the IT- and tech-related specialties there is an alternative, accelerated "Blue Card" process now - which did jot yet exist at the time I arrived.)

      The total cost was around EUR 2000, most of it spent on a German language course or two and a formal language certification. The direct goverment outlay was EUR 200. I did not need to hire a lawyer or an immigration consultant at any point - the system is straightforward enough to navigate on your own, even though the paperwork you accumulate is measured in inches for some of its stages.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        the paperwork you accumulate is measured in inches

        Not in Germany. It's centimetres there.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Interesting. The libertarian/brexiteer/economist/thatcherite/reaganite/borisite nimrods sedulously scream nonstop that the EU --- and Germany in particular --- is a leviathan of unelected bureaucracy with stifling paperwork.

        Comparing badly with the streamlined efficiency and simple ease of American * and British ** bureaucracy.

        .

        * Medical Insurance billing

        ** Setting up VAT for a new business

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've worked for many American companies, but only from the UK. The reason I work remotely is that I didn't have the money to study for a degree when I was younger, and don't have the time or inclination now.

    So I get called in to work on specialist ITAR projects, have security clearances in the US and a handful of other countries, work with top teams globally, but can't work physically in the US because of these petty bureaucratises.

    And that suits me fine!

  9. Philip Storry

    And here we see the software industry reaping what it has sown.

    We call our developers "rock stars" and "ninjas". Despite that fact that many of them are just writing an if or switch block that decides which function in someone else's library should be called.

    But nobody seems to call their QA staff flattering names, despite the fact that they're just as important in the process.

    QA staff should be highly regarded. They should have some technical understanding, so that they can help better describe errors.

    There are typically two extremes for how QA should be run - the first is that they should just be literate and able to communicate, but need no technical ability. That QA is a kind of user testing. The other extreme is that QA should be technical - or able to be. That they should do more than just running through scripts, but should also be doing things like fuzz testing.

    I tend towards the latter. The more you allow the developers to have responsibility for testing (beyond unit tests), the more that implementing the testing - or responding to its results - gets delayed in favour of implementing features. It's just the usual politics. If an organisation has a QA team, it should move as much testing into that team as is possible, in order to avoid the inevitable perpetual sweeping under carpets of issues by the development team. And that means having a more technical, capable QA team.

    But we call our developers flattering names, and strip the QA budget whenever it's convenient to.

    So is it any wonder that Uncle Sam's not convinced QA testing isn't a skilled job? The industry doesn't seem convinced either...

    1. jmch Silver badge
      Facepalm

      @Philip - spot on!

      The business people who don't understand IT don't like good QA because a good QA is holding up (in their eyes) the testing process when they send bugs back to the dev team (not the dev team's fault is it?). they don't understand that the cost in future bugs / downtime / redevelopment / retesting is much higher than having it properly tested first time round.

      And mediocre devs don't like good QA because it shows up their errors and omissions.

      And so in many places QA becomes a box-ticking exercise, and the actual QA is passed on to beta testers and even to paying users

    2. Adelio

      Good testers

      As far as I am concerned GOOD testers are Invaluable for any good project.

      As far as getting a job in the US requiring a degree. Well I would be left out even though i have been in IT for 35 years, I never got a degree.

      When first starting out a degree gives you some credability but after a period of time (probably around 10 years) an employer should place a low importance on accademic qualifications and concentrate on actual business experience. I would rather employee someone with 10 years experience "in post" that someone with just a degree.

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Good testers

        As far as I can remember, Alan Turing didn't have a degree in computing or programming.

        Just as Darwin never took a single course on biology or evolutionary theory, and Newton didn't have a degree in physics.

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Good testers

          And, of course, none of the Founding Fathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights had a degree in "political science".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good testers

          As far as I can remember, Alan Turing didn't have a degree in computing or programming.

          Just as Darwin never took a single course on biology or evolutionary theory, and Newton didn't have a degree in physics.

          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          They also didn't have to absorb the essential developments from decades or centuries of work by tens or hundreds of thousands of experts, some of whom were also geniuses in their field.

          Without the equivalent of courses or degrees, even Newton would be severely disadvantaged in the face of problems involving relativistic and quantum effects, while Turing would be totally ignorant of the concepts underlying modern computer hardware, or the mathematical underpinnings of much of modern computing. He could learn it... but the fastest way would probably be a pile of the right course textbooks.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good testers

        "When first starting out a degree gives you some credability but after a period of time (probably around 10 years) an employer should place a low importance on accademic qualifications and concentrate on actual business experience."

        It all depends on what you need. If you want someone to write good, or exceptionally good code, then experience is important.

        If you want someone to tease out user needs and add the things an end user doesn't think of to a set of specifications, role experience and industry/application familiarity are extremely valuable.

        If you need someone to look at a problem and realize that the requested solution is not in fact possible, you need someone with an understanding of different types of algorithms and near-algorithms on a fundamental level and a working grounding in computational complexity. At this point, very few people without a degree in computer science or applied mathematics is going to have that.

        1. cdrcat

          Re: Good testers

          > If you need someone to look at a problem and realize that the requested solution is not in fact possible

          What if you need someone to develop a solution that has a good UI, is secure, and reliable (maybe even someone who groks race conditions)?

          The vast majority of what makes someone good at development is not taught in a degree.

    3. yoganmahew

      @Philip

      Agree, but you missed a chunk of knowledge a great QA should have - an understanding of the business. This should be better than the average developer, so the QA can also ensure a UAT - never mind that it runs, does it produce what it's supposed to?

      1. Arthur Daily

        Anything longer than 3 years is not short term. In 4 years there should be a local replacement trained up for succession, unless they fit into IQ over 140, top 1%ers by commanding more than $120K PA.

    4. Archtech Silver badge

      Absolutely nothing to do with the F-35 and the 737-MAX...

      Naturally, an aversion for software testing and quality assurance in no way affects the performance, safety or reliability of US aircraft. Or other products that depend on computers to work properly - of which there are a few nowadays.

    5. SirDigalot

      much of our QA team in a us bases SaaS company were barely literate, some of them, however could turn a computer on.

      some were promoted from customer service, other were "rock stars" hired on to compliment the team ( the previously mentioned barely literate ones) There we possible 2 or 3 longer term QA people who were brilliant, the rest ran scripts and signed off, so when production day came and the entire platform went to hades in a cornucopia with real world users, it was IT operations ( our team) who were blamed.

      i had a moment of weakness once and looked into joining the QA team ( they got better perks then us mere tech-monkies bashing servers with hammers and such) but was told we were not smart enough and it needed specific skills and knowledge of the (in house built) platform (which we had extensive experience with having to actually support it and deploy it, but, whatever)

      i used to make a point to the department heads thereafter about all the hairbrained tickets we used to get from their crack team of experts.

      probably why i no longer work there, i would't say i burned my bridges so much as carpet bombed my whole career with the company.

      but that's water under the (definitely destroyed and washed away) bridge now.

  10. SolidSquid

    I'd be curious what this single page of jargon was. It's entirely possible that's exactly what they did, but equally it could be they simply didn't understand the technical aspects of the job and didn't bother to ask for clarification

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      they described it as "complex-sounding" so, no, they even didn't understand the arguments

      Truly, those are the president's men.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        That was the American court.

        I'm not sure judges and magistrates should be expected to understand the technical aspects of every single job of every single random bozo employed in the United States, from how a food radiation unit [ to sterilise bacteria on the meat ] works to grading motor oils.

  11. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Sagarwala has been in the US since 2002 on a specialty H-1B."

    On a role basis, for 15 years the company had been happy to import foreign staff to fulfil the role instead of putting measures in place to train citizens and locals. I'm guessing they weren't doing this out of the goodness of heart for the impoverished people of India but as an economic measure within their business.

    At a personal level I feel for Sagarwala, 17 years in a country makes that home, and I do support migration of workers to fulfil demand in roles, but there does come a point where a Visa stops being a temporary means recruit the skills and becomes a means to residency. Perhaps the company should have been promoting Citizenship to those on long term Visas?

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      17 years on a non-immigrant visa?

      You shouldn't be able to work for such a long period on a non-immigrant visa. Her status is a de-facto immigrant so she should have applied for a change of status years ago. This would have put her in the Green Card line. She would still be permitted to work; the only hassle would be that she would be stuck in the US unless she applied for 'advanced parole' every time she intended to leave.

      The CIS takes a very dim view of people immigrating on non-immigrant visas --- strictly speaking, if they think you're trying to immigrate when you turn up at the airport then they're quite likely to refuse you entry. They are no different from the UK's Border Force in that respect.

      >Perhaps the company should have been promoting Citizenship to those on long term Visas?

      You can apply for citizenship five years after you get Legal Permanent Resident status (three years if you got your Green Card through marriage). She may not want to do this because many countries, including India, automatically revoke your citizenship when you get citizenship in another country.

  12. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    The Solution to This is to Make the H1B Process More Expensive

    Make companies bid against each other for the right to apply.

    That way, they will only request the visas in response to a real need, as opposed to doing so to get cheap bodies in the door.

  13. skershaw54

    H-1B salaries

    There's no shortage of IT workers of any type in the U.S. The 0.1% would rather pay H1B workers $60-70,000 a year and layoff American workers getting $120,000. That's all that is.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When policy crashes into real life

    I left Blighty for the US nearly 20 years ago, and came in on different, non-H1, visa. That mutated (after much paperwork) into a green card, and (once His Imperial Orangeness came along) now I'm a US citizen. I'm also several stages of tan ahead of him, if you catch my drift. So I've seen it from all sides.

    • There is a STEM shortage. Yes. Absolutely true. I've hired a lot of Americans in 20 years for some complicated STEM stuff and the pool is shallow and difficult to fill. Let's call these jobs category 1.
    • There is not a STEM shortage. Yes. Absolutely true. There is a surplus of people who do STEM-ish jobs like QA and business application development. Let's call these category 2.

    The fraud perpetrated by the Great American Employer, and willingly serviced by the Wipros, DXCs and Infosyses of the world, is that they used the shortage in #1 to flood the market with people in #2. Category 1 people were always going to be expensive, so they don't really undercut the local market. But the #2 people, being cheaper, replaced a huge swath of American workers. Cue much unhappiness - and who can blame them?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019