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Alan Kotok , , ,

Slow Demand Again for H-1B Visas (Updated)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week released a report showing demand for H-1B skilled temporary worker visas is well below the levels experienced in recent years.

H-1B visas enable American employers to hire foreign workers in jobs that require advanced scientific or technical skills, such as engineers, scientists, and computer programmers. The law caps the number of visas issued at 65,000 per year, with another 20,000 positions reserved for applicants with a master’s degree or higher. The latest application season began on 1 April 2010, and after one week, USCIS received 13,500 regular H-1B applications, plus another 5,600 requests for advanced-degree visas.

These numbers don’t come close to the demand in previous years. Last year at this time, USCIS had about 32,500 applications for regular visas, about half of the 65,000 limit, while just about all of the 20,000 advanced-degree visas were taken up. Yet even those rates were considered slow compared to 2008 and 2007, where almost all H-1B visas were snapped up by this time.

The H1-B program has both vocal supporters and critics. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and trade groups like the Technology Policy Institute favor lifting the caps on H-1B visas, in order to bring more of the world’s scientific and technical talent to the U.S.

But reports of enterprises and institutions abusing these visas have tarnished the H-1Bs. In 2008, Indian technology outsourcing companies grabbed one of every six visas issued. And last year the Department of Justice filed criminal conspiracy and mail fraud charges against 13 defendants for filing false statements and documents related to H-1B visas. As a result, some of the H-1B program’s supporters in Congress have started distancing themselves from it.

Our columnist Beryl Lieff Benderly has also documented how postdocs with H-1B visas working on American campuses are more liable to be exploited, with lower salaries and fewer publications.

UPDATE 1: Amy Smorodin, v.p. of Technology Policy Institute wrote in to clarify that “the Technology Policy Institute isn’t a trade group ‑ we are an independent, non‑partisan think tank”.

UPDATE 2: ComputerWorld today reports on federal extortion charges levied against two employees of a Chicago-area IT consulting company that allegedly threatened retaliation against an H-1B visa holder who filed complaints with the Department of Labor about being owed back wages. The threats were allegedly delivered in unannounced late-night visits, with forced entry to the visa holder’s home. The report says the victim used audio and video devices to record later conversations, which were given to investigators. The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

3 comments on “Slow Demand Again for H-1B Visas (Updated)”

  1. EngiNERD says:

    USCIS received 13,500 regular H-1B applications, plus another 5,600 requests for advanced-degree visas.
    I’d like to know the names of the companies, the names of the Universities that applied for these visas!!
    Just how many American are Under-Employed, UN-Employed yet we still need to bring in more foreign labor.
    Suggested readings:
    these websites:
    and this must watch video!

  2. P Henry says:

    Here’s an example of a company that uses these h-1b visa workers . Take a look at the site and judge for yourself how much of a role “talent” and “advanced skills” play into determining whether they will hire someone. They spell “careers” and “opportunities” wrong. Yet their client list includes IBM, 3com and United Airlines. It is painfully obvious that the only thing the H-1B provides is a way for companies to hire cheap, foreign labor from overseas. It is also obvious that they get what they pay for.

  3. masher says:

    Here is how the H-1B program works. At Microsoft we use a third party company, InfoSys, to “screen” the resumes. They just happen to filter out all the American resumes. So we only get H-1Bs the pick from. And thus we can honestly say we tried to hire Americans but couldn’t find any.
    Any job we can’t H-1B, we offshore mostly to China or India. Now not every group at MS is like this. But the impact in the labor market is felt. The market for software engineering or computer science is a small market. So any interference by the US federal government has a considerable impact on jobs and wages.
    Wages will never rise above inflation as long as we have H-1B. So get ready for a career with no potential.
    My advice is to go into management, finance, or law.

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