Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Ongoing H1-B visa debate with an Open Source twist

Yesterday, I read a great article from by Jim Romeo about how the H1-B visa issue is affecting the world of Open Source. This is something I have harped on for a long time. In my opinion, we continue to be in need of increasing the number of H1-B visas that are allowed on a yearly basis. From our vantage point, there is clearly not enough talent to supply the demand that revolves around Open Source software. And, the fact that around 80% of the Open Source talent resides abroad, we should welcome those that are interested in coming to the U.S. to further their career.

Not only that, as the article points out, there is a potential need to loosen the standards when looking at H1-B applicants. I believe that to be a very crucial point. It is not newsworthy to note that a lot of very talented, well respected Open Source engineers might not have attained a higher education degree. However, it is very difficult to get H1-B visa acceptance without it. So, are we hindering our chances at furthering our technological landscape by this nearly mandatory requirement? I believe that is indeed the case. As with everything, it needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis. But, there sure is a strong argument to make on loosening that particular standard in certain circumstances.

Lastly, I really like one specific point made by Elizabeth Charnock, CEO of Cataphora, in the article. Primarily because it affects us as much as it appears to be affecting her and other organizations. That point is that there is a huge number of the yearly allotment of H1-B visas going to consulting companies abroad. The likes of Infosys, Wipro, etc. are eating these things up. Thus, they are putting the companies in a predicament whereby they need to look to these consulting companies to get the work done. Needless to say, it is a smart move by these large outsourcing outfits. However, in the end, it dampens the overall Open Source landscape and the number of entities that can participate. At the end of the day, if companies are not interested in working with these outsourcing firms and can not find the necessary talent, they move their technology base to where they can get the necessary talent. And, that may result in a situation away from Open Source and to proprietary. None of us want to see that happen.

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