Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Re-Evaluating Go to USA H1B Job Offers

I got a chance to catch up with a friend lately, let us refer to him as Cary who shared a story on the downsides to signing up for H1B "go to the US" offers.


One of his ex-staff was poached by a firm in New Jersey last November and was begging to come back to work for them in Manila last January. Basically, here's what happened to his staff:
  1. He was promised an $80k salary but on arrival found that this would only be paid if he was placed in a client.
  2. Otherwise, on the bench, he had to survive on $20 a day.
  3. Sharing a 2 bedroom apartment with 5 other Indians - in a dangerous, ghetto neighborhood.
In the end, he had to pay for his own flight back to Manila.

Cary is based in the U.S. now and believes that the average Filipino IT worker doesn't understand the deteriorating reality of surviving in the US on even $80k a year. Perhaps it would be useful for them to know major expenses such as healthcare.
  • Healthcare costs – a family of 4 with employer-provided health insurance can factor an annual spend of around $6,000 - $10,000 a year on basic healthcare needs due to (i) employee premium contributions (ii) co-pays and deductibles (iii) out-of-plan coverage and pre-existing conditions and (iv) insanely inflated medication costs.

  • WITHOUT health insurance (cost = $7k per year) – you are literally gambling with your life and/or your kid’s lives.

  • Education costs - Most middle class families send their kids to private education from 4yrs up at $10k a year – otherwise it's the public schools that has its own set of risks and challenges.
Countries that have transformed, from poor to rich, were partly assisted by growing a strong local IT industry. Can the same happen in the Philippines? Maybe yes if we can contain the overseas attrition issues.

If an IT professional can make 90k + in Manila, they’d be mad to go to the US. But who can pay that much?


Perhaps in our desire to have better lives, the immediate option is to get out of the country with the least difficult route as possible. As a result, some Filipinos have taken on job offers without going through the normal due process.

Time and again, we've seen that majority of those who encountered problems are the ones who didn't go through proper process.


  1. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for this very wonderful article that you posted. It is yet another affirmation that leaving the Philippines and seeking opportunities outside will always have a better result.

    But may i correct the portion about an IT professional earning a 90K here in the Philippines. Yes this is very possible, from where i work i know a lot of people are earning more than 90K in an IT industry and their positions are not yet managerial posts, i guess you just have to find the right company for your skills, that is the keyword here.

    Thanks and more power to your blog.

  2. Ouch,

    Mahirap talaga kapag padalos-dalos lang yung pagdedesisyon sa pagpunta ng abroad. The thing here though is that nakakahinayang yung H1-B visa dahil hindi kanais-nais. What if having that visa prevented someone with a legitimate, better paying job from leaving because slots ran out?

    Point is, ang mga Pilipino, kapag andito sa Pilipinas, ang pili pili pili sa trabaho, pero once mapangakuan na ng abroad kahit ano na lang kukunin without batting an eyelash.

    If you're looking for 90K/mo employers, there *are* employers paying that much in the local IT industry, but usually that corresponds to 5years + experience (which I believe is apt).

    The problem with our local devs I think is that they have some "minimum wage" mentality, meaning they want to achieve a certain amount of salary for the highest possible pay, instead of enriching their own skillset constantly and relentlessly as to deserve a higher salary. Gusto nila mataas agad that's why abroad is so lucrative for them. Di nila alam magtiyaga lang sila ng ilang taon + develop their skills sa local IT industry they can skyrocket their salary ranges (although that might require changing employers once or twice, another "unsettling" idea for some employment-security oriented people).

  3. my advice to everyone who wants to work in the US via h1b visa , regardless of IT / medical / academic


    1.) check your US employer thoroughly - they may pose as very big companies in the US when talking to you,

    with many projects, and claiming that they need more people to complement their workload, only to find out

    that they've been doped, and in reality it's just a small time staffing company looking for each and every to

    exploit our fellow country men. The internet holds vast amounts of information regarding this topic. Most IT

    staffing companies will claim lies especially on their website, especially the "anap" companies (who had

    unfortunately mastered the art of sugarcoating everything from their silly resumes to the nature of their

    company). Sorry for being racist, but if you will deal with someone from that country and depend on that

    person to fix your US career, be wary. You have been warned.

    2.) check your salary and benefits - ask around and have a general idea of the salary that you are receiving.

    i know, most, if not all of us, will shrug this idea off and settle for a "starting salary" and try to live

    off it, just to make it to the US. But the thing is, you need to pay state tax and federal tax, you need to

    pay for SSS and medicare/FICA, you need to pay rent for your house, etc.

    3.) PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING - be wary of promises not put on paper like a sure job as soon as you arrive (if

    there's indeed work already, ask them specifically what company, although this is not foolproof), guaranteed

    accommodation, salary paid on day one, etc. etc. Most of these h1b companies, again, will try to get around it

    and not pay your salary when you're on bench (guys , remember that this is NOT ALLOWED under h1b laws, kaya

    wag kayong papayag), will provide an accommodation but meager (as in 2 or 3 kayo sa isang bahay na maliit,

    etc.) and be forced to live off $100 per week. Di dahilan ang walang SSN para di magkawork at mabayaran ang

    suweldo nyo. There's always a thing called "retro" you know.

    4.) WHEN YOU'RE ON H1B VISA, OPPORTUNITIES ARE LIMITED - do not compare this to other working visas that USA

    gives out. h1b visas are being exploited by staffing companies as a weapon to force indentured servitude,

    meaning, nakatali ka sa kumpanya nila sa ayaw at sa gusto mo. You are limited to working for them and be sent

    off anywhere in the US with contracts as short as 3 months. masuwerte kung long term iyong project mo, but, if

    the company is desperate you'll be put in very short contracts spanning 1-2 or even 3-6 months, after which,

    ala ka na naman trabaho.


    just after your money. once they get what they want from you, just pray that they'd still be around to help

    you when you get in trouble here in the US. They may help, but will always dissuade you from returning to the

    Philippines. kasi mawawalan sila ng kita eh.

    bottom line, if you want to migrate to the US, do it right the first time.

    1.) check your employer
    2.) check your salary and benefits
    3.) put everything in writing
    4.) if possible, apply direct with the US firm and not pass through our local employment agencies.