News / Economy

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

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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
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 or . 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 . 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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.