News / Economy

    H-1B Visa Lottery to Determine Fate for Thousands of Tech Workers

    x
    Ira MellmanTerry Wing
    The U.S. government has held its annual lottery for H-1B visas and the lucky 85,000 winners (and their employers) will be notified soon.

    The winners, from among more than 172,000 foreign citizen applicants, will be granted three-year visas to work for companies who have already agreed to sponsor them.

    Most of these potential workers are already here.  More often than not, they are recent graduates from U.S. universities with a bachelor’s degree or higher in technical fields requiring a highly-specialized knowledge.

    Typically, these specialty fields include IT, engineering, and science. 

    The program has been in existence since Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990.  The law currently limits the number of visas to 85,000 each year.

    “This year we met the Congressionally-mandated cap within the first week; last year we met it within the first week,” said spokesman Bill Wright of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  He notes it has become more competitive every year.

    Still, Wright said potential foreign employees should not be discouraged.

    “I would prepare well in advance – and employers should be prepared as well,” he said.

    The next deadline is April 1, 2015, and Wright advises a good place to start is the USCIS website.

    U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch thinks the program falls short.  He contends even more foreign workers should be given visas. 

    “Here we are four months into the year, yet we are closing the door on highly-skilled foreign workers, many of whom are American-trained.  And then we push them out of our country because of stupid laws,” Hatch said in an interview with VOA.

    “These are people that we educated here, who want to stay here and work in their fields of expertise. They want to help American companies grow the American economy,” he added. 

    Hatch said U.S.-based companies tell him there is a huge need for graduates in science, technology, engineering and math – the so-called STEM fields.

    “What you see and hear from the tech community is that there are not enough Americans trained and ready to fill these jobs," he said. "We can’t continue to hope that American companies won’t move these jobs overseas.”

    Hatch has introduced the Senate's bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, a law that would increase the cap in the H-1B program to as many as 300,000 foreign workers.

    “Our proposal will allow them to stay here, and down the line – if I had my way – give them the opportunity to apply for citizenship,” he said.  “If I had my way, we’d be much more open to immigration.  There’s a lot of reason for us to do this.”

    Because employers may petition for permanent residence for their H-1B employees, the visa is sometimes described as a “bridge to immigration” that will keep the smartest foreign STEM workers in the U.S. permanently and thus, the argument goes, improve the nation’s competitiveness.
     
    A number of studies dispute the claims from industry that Hatch cites about the shortage of American STEM graduates.  David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, offers figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Education to show that America has more high-tech college graduates than needed to fill high-tech jobs.
     
    So who’s right?  The arguments suggest it all depends on how you crunch the numbers.  The business-friendly Wall Street Journal provides some believable insight, noting high-tech businesses want to continue to staff their operations “with Indian expatriates who earn significantly less than their American counterparts.”

    VOA found more than a dozen studies that charge the visa program serves as a subsidy for corporations, paying their H-1B employees less than the prevailing wage required by law.

    Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is blunt in his criticism of the H-1B visa program.  He calls it a program to hire foreign workers rather than Americans.  
     
    “Rather than keeping jobs from leaving our shores, the H-1B does the opposite, by facilitating offshoring and providing employers with cheap, temporary labor – while reducing job opportunities for American high-tech workers in the process,” said Hira in a 2013 blog he wrote for the Economic Policy Institute.

    At look at the top 10 H-1B employers in 2013 shows a list comprising some of the largest IT consulting firms in the world. 
     
    Wipro Limited 102,218
    iGate Technologies, Inc. 57,735
    Syntel Consultin, Inc. 44,280
    Syntel, Inc. 41,096
    Infosys Limited 39,944
    Cognizant Technology Solutions 33,065
    PriceWaterhouseCoopers 29,084
    Tata Consultancy Services, Ltd 21,220
    Deloitte Consulting, LLP 19,146
    Mphasis Corporation 18,282

    Further examination shows most of their employees are based in India.

    Whether the H-1B visa program is good for the United States is a matter of opinion.  But the large number of foreign workers wishing to obtain an H-1B visa does argue for the huge desire to work in the United States. 

    Being about to learn a job in the United States, then have the option of applying for citizenship or take the job back home in a few years is a pretty good deal.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: econdataus from: Silicon Valley
    April 22, 2014 12:44 AM
    @john80224, I've posted the number of new H-1B visas approved for the top firms at http://econdataus.com/h1binfo.htm . As can be seen, the top firms are dominated by outsourcing firms. Their numbers dropped relatively low in 2009 and 2010, possibly due to the financial crisis, but have exploded the past two years. I have included links to the other H-1B visa data that I previously mentioned at the bottom of that page and will likely link all future H-1B visa related info to that page.

    by: Thu Thi Nguyen from: Danang Vietnam
    April 20, 2014 1:38 AM
    I would like to go to work in united state

    by: leng dany from: siem reap town cambodia
    April 19, 2014 11:37 PM
    How can we get this good opportunity ?

    by: pao sreytoch from: cambodia
    April 19, 2014 10:54 PM
    I think,it's a good opportunity ,but I would like to know about the way to apply that job.can you show me about the clearly applying form?
    In Response

    by: Ranjit from: Hyderabad
    April 22, 2014 5:02 AM
    you can get all information in redbustous or immihelp websites

    by: Vanda Sok from: Phnom Penh of Cambodia
    April 19, 2014 10:52 PM
    How to apply to work there?

    by: Shir from: Kabul
    April 18, 2014 2:22 AM
    Nice shot

    by: mam kunpidor from: Phnom penh
    April 17, 2014 10:43 PM
    How can i apply this job?

    by: shahab khan from: pakistan (swat)
    April 17, 2014 10:42 PM
    This is great oppertunity for us thank u

    by: econdataus from: Silicon Valley
    April 17, 2014 3:59 AM
    @john80224, I agree very much about following the money. Yesterday, I posted a comment at http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/06/its-not-about-skills-shortages/ that references a Brookings study that, contrary to nearly every other study I've seen, claims that H-1B workers are generally paid MORE than U.S.-born workers. The post by Professor Norm Matloff that I reference points out serious problems with this study and the fact that Microsoft is a major contributor to Brookings. For similar reasons, I have big problems with our system for funding campaigns under which politicians are totally dependent on big-money contributors for their financial survival. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!".

    I agree that the chart is in the article is the first step in the truth of the visa's use. To see a number of similar stories, just google "companies with most h-1b visa" (with or without the quotes). I've also posted links to a number of articles describing how the "skills gap" is overstated at http://econdataus.com/skillsgap.html .

    I work as a programmer in Silicon Valley and I think that the misuse of H-1B visas and related policies are having an insidious effect. I used to share my knowledge freely with all of my co-workers and managers. Now, I usually just share what is required. That's especially the case with our overseas office to which most of our jobs have been outsourced. I used to feel that I had a strong interest in seeing our American companies remain strong. Of course, I know that they are still the only ones likely to hire me. However, I wonder if they will only start treating their American workers better when their overseas competition becomes strong enough to grab up the cheap labor that they're now dependent on. That will also be when THEIR jobs start getting outsourced, so to speak. Finally, this likely does have some affect on our supply of STEM workers. Years ago, I would recommend that any young person with a strong technical background go into computers. I still think computers is a great thing to learn but would now recommend that young people hedge their bets by leaning toward finance, economics, or some other field where they could use computer skills but hopefully not be quite so exposed to cheap labor.

    Finally, I do want to stress that I'm not bashing H-1B workers. They are likely not told anything about these controversies when they are hired. And, of course, anyone who becomes a citizen is entitled to the full rights of any other citizen. Also, as you said, I don't condemn companies for attempting to make money. However, I do oppose, if not condemn, what seems to be a cynical misuse of our political system and an unwillingness to debate the issues openly. If someone insists on putting forward unsourced numbers and arguments that can't survive open debate, they likely are not very good numbers/arguments. I'm reminded of a few lines from James McMurtry's "We can't make it here" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbWRfBZY-ng , especially about 3 minutes in.
    In Response

    by: john80224 from: Denver, CO
    April 17, 2014 12:50 PM
    Wow, you get this! Thank you for getting involved.

    It's sad we need to keep restating this, but I wholeheartedly agree that this isn't about the foreign workers, racism, xenophobia or whatever other false trail we may be pigeon-holed into. It is about national policy being tipped to the detriment of the citizens it's supposed to represent. It is about being discriminated against in my own country for having had the misfortune of being born here.

    The campaign of mis- and disinformation that relies so heavily on the ignorance of the masses is downright shameful. To your point about numbers, I can't estimate how many times I see numbers that seem impressive on first glance being presented without context. Case in point, this lamenting a shortage of visas based on number of applications. The immediate conclusion in a vacuum might be, "Wow, we don't have enough." Factor in where those largely go, why they fill out so many applications and that requests for a subcategory of a resource do not necessarily corelate to a lack of that overall resource and the picture changes.

    by: Bolen Thy from: Soung
    April 17, 2014 3:33 AM
    I interest
    In Response

    by: teamhellraiders from: india
    April 30, 2014 8:28 AM
    USA can sell there product all over the world, with big margin; they should allow to have immigrants or else rest of the world lose buying power...!
    In Response

    by: econdataus from: Silicon Valley
    April 18, 2014 5:07 AM
    I am likewise amazed at the amount of misinformation and basically bad data that is out there. I originally started my budget and economic website at http://econdataus.com/budget.html because of large amount of bad data that I saw in public debate. Of course, you eventually have to build on the data to reach opinions on actual policies. But it seemed like the first step (and the easiest for me as a math major) was to strive to get the data as correct as possible. Also, I consider it critical to give easily verifiable sources for the data. As a rule, I ignore unsourced data or, at best, consider an interesting avenue for future study.

    I agree that lamenting a shortage of visas based on number of applications is deeply flawed. It signifies that there is a strong DESIRE for visas, not a strong NEED. That desire may simply be for cheap labor, regardless of how many Americans it deprives of jobs. Or, since the visa process involves a lottery, companies may apply for more positions than they want, knowing that many of them won't be filled.

    Anyhow, thanks for the comments. I've posted some related data at http://econdataus.com/svworkers.html and http://econdataus.com/skillsgap.html and will likely link in other data to one or both pages as I do more research.
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9007
    JPY
    USD
    102.72
    GBP
    USD
    0.7444
    CAD
    USD
    1.2956
    INR
    USD
    67.519

    Rates may not be current.