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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Jawid from: Afghanistan
    April 16, 2014 11:11 PM
    That is good thing for us but I want to know how we can apply for that and get forther information I complet my degree in computer science. But looking for a jobe and how can apply for H-1B visa

    by: john80224 from: Denver, CO
    April 16, 2014 12:51 PM
    @econdataus, Well put. The truth of most any issue tends to lie somewhere in the middle and thanks to the author for presenting both sides. The addage, "follow the money" holds true here. There are many questions one could ask. Why does supposedly "everyone" support the H-1B, yet most comments on articles are against it? Why do most studies "disprove" common sense? It boils down to who benefits, who buys studies and who has the government's ear--citizens or "citizens united" (companies)? Let's face it, the non-CEO is an anecdote at election time. The CEO is the ongoing politician's consultant.

    The chart in the article is the first step in the truth of the visa's use and the fallacy of its "job creator" status. Over half of these visas are going to offshoring companies. These companies' engagements with their clients more often than not coincide with laying off domestic workers. Any (perceived) savings don't go to "job creation" they go to profit. If profit comes through expanding other operations, then yes, jobs might be created in lieu of those lost, but that's a possible side effect--not a corporate goal. More damning to the visa's "job creation" myth is what these outsourcers do. They create efficiencies that diminish the need for other labor.

    I don't ask any reader to take my side nor do I condemn companies for attempting to make money. I do ask that readers consider the motivations and real meanings behind data and arguments presented before they choose. And I do condemn companies for abusing policies and truth in pursuit of their own profits.

    by: econdataus from: Silicon Valley
    April 16, 2014 4:05 AM
    Good article. I liked that you gave arguments from both sides. I'm especially bothered by much of the pro-H-1B visa commentary such as at http://www.fwd.us/ or http://www.competeamerica.org/ . They give sources for none of their claims and make no mention of valid, conflicting opinions. These two sites seem to just offer to put readers names on prewritten letters (don't worry your pretty little head about what they say) and send them to their representatives. In fact, I've noticed that Facebook is constantly offering to write a letter for me. Thanks but no thanks Zuckerberg!

    In fact, I have recently looked at data from the American Community Survey and posted some results at http://econdataus.com/svworkers.html . As can be seen, about half of the software developers in Silicon Valley are non-citizens (a proxy for H-1B visa workers), about a quarter are naturalized citizens, and about a quarter are citizens by birth. I find it interesting how nobody ever mentions these numbers. Even the first episode of HBO's Silicon Valley made a joke about programmers always traveling in groups of five where "there’s always a tall skinny white guy, a short skinny Asian guy, a fat guy with a ponytail, some guy with crazy facial hair and then an East Indian guy". This implied (along with the makeup of the main characters) that U.S. born programmers were still in the majority. That may have been the case twenty years ago but not today. However, that mix makes everyone more confortable so that's what the media shows.

    by: Dave 94302 from: Silicon Valley
    April 16, 2014 3:05 AM
    The purpose of the H1-B visa program is to import cheap slave labor and to then lay off the American workers.

    Anyone who is in favor of H1-B is an enemy of the United States.
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9098
    JPY
    USD
    105.75
    GBP
    USD
    0.7631
    CAD
    USD
    1.3189
    INR
    USD
    67.209

    Rates may not be current.