That dovetails with the view of many domestic IT professionals, who have never subscribed to the idea that there was -- or is -- a skills mismatch in the industry. Among them is Kristine Serrano, laid off from IBM this year, who calls the skills gap a "myth" told by businesses and parroted by elected officials.
Offshoring and the H-1B visa have become inextricably linked, displaced professionals say.
"The work didn't disappear. It's still being done; it is just being done by a group over in India now," said Serrano, who earned a master's degree in information science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1993 and was initially hired by IBM as a Unix system administrator.
Serrano's point is what makes the issue contentious. IT professionals who have been displaced from their jobs because of offshore outsourcing believe that the H-1B visa has made government a complicit partner in the shift of jobs. They maintain that the H-1B visa and offshoring have become inextricably linked, with offshore companies placing H-1B workers in client sites in the U.S. with the intention of ultimately transferring the work overseas.
Visa supporters say offshoring does not lessen U.S. companies' need to hire foreign students with strong academic achievements, high-tech skills and potential.
Entrenched and expanding
Hate it or embrace it, in its two decades, the H-1B visa has become an entrenched part of global IT business, and its importance in international trade is expanding.
[Related: View maps and data showing the geographic concentration of 2009 H-1B visa applications for tech jobs as a heat map, by city or as a searchable, sortable database. And read H-1B: The voices behind the visa for individuals' stories of how the H-1B program has changed their lives.]
President Barack Obama, in his visit to India this month, assured the Indian government that he doesn't see outsourcing as a bad thing.