U.S. demand for skilled worker visas seen topping quota soon

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Apr 1, 2013 9:18pm EDT

People waiting to apply for visas sit outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing May 3, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray

People waiting to apply for visas sit outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing May 3, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A popular U.S. visa program for skilled workers is likely to hit its quota within days after its application period opens, triggering a lottery and signaling that companies feel confident enough about the economy to hire more foreign workers.

The H-1B program will not have reached its base cap of 65,000 so quickly since early 2008, before the economic crisis hit. That was the last time a lottery was used, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the applications.

The application period opened on Monday. The USCIS plans to announce by the middle of next week if it will hold a lottery for the visas, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday. It had previously said it anticipated the quota for the year starting October 1 could be met by Friday.

Last year the cap was not reached until June.

Preliminary paperwork that prospective visa seekers must file with the Department of Labor before applying to USCIS indicates that there is demand for well over 65,000 visas, said Jacksonville, Florida-based lawyer Ashwin Sharma, who handles H-1B visa applications for technology consulting firms. He expects a record volume of applications this year.

U.S. companies, particularly in technology, say they need the visas to fill vacant positions. But some worker-advocacy groups counter that the companies are using the visa program to hire cheaper foreign labor.

While the official quota is 65,000, the actual number of people who enter the United States on H-1Bs is far greater because workers at universities and some other workplaces don't count toward the limit. Masters and PhD graduates from U.S. universities have their own quota of 20,000 visas.

Last year, the government issued 129,000 H-1B visas - almost double level of the official quota.

The U.S. Congress is currently working on immigration reform legislation. Among proposals being considered is a revamp of the H-1B program that could raise the quota based on demand and eliminate the lottery.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (20)
AdamSmith wrote:
The H1B visa program has destroyed the American middle class.

It’s really a simple case of supply and demand.

Consider an analogy. Consider, for example, what would happen if H1B were applied to plumbers instead of engineers.

Pick any city, let’s say, Denver, Colorado. Now, bring in 100 busloads of freshly graduated plumbers (4,000 new plumbers), who want to enter into the plumbing business in Denver, and make a living.

The result? Wage rates for plumbers will become depressed. The existing 960 plumbers in Denver, once busy every day, and making a good living, will now have much less work, or no work at all.

Who can compete with improverished hordes of plumbers from India who will work for any price? India has 1.17 BILLION people, and many of them are coming here, flooding our labor markets.

The H1B visa law was created, written and lobbied for by large American corporations as a means for decreasing their engineering labor costs.

Indeed their corporate profits have zoomed up, up, up — while the wage rates paid to their American engineers have gone down, down, down.

This is what the H1B visa has done to the American engineering profession. H1B has already brought in over one million foreign engineers to America, thus depressing American wage rates, and discouraging American kids from majoring in engineering.

Apr 01, 2013 10:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Burns0011 wrote:
Before the immigration haters comment on this story; the simple fact is that the USA is not teaching critical logic skills, and students are allowed to shy away from the ‘hard math’ subjects like physics, engineering, and chemistry. With the current “Everyone’s a winner” attitude towards learning in the lower grades, college comes as a shock to a lot of students.

Career counseling is also spotty at best. There are few real “Here’s how you get a job; here’s what you should be doing in college to get a post graduation job; here’s how we help you network into a job; here’s how you should be building your skills portfolio” offices, and almost NO “How to get hired 101″ courses.

The demand is for skilled foreign *white collar* workers, because there aren’t enough here in the USA.

Apr 01, 2013 10:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Burns0011 wrote:
AdamSmith’s analysis is simplistic at best, and the analogy is completely flawed; the skillset for plumbers is considerably easier to acquire than a doctorate in genetics and biochemistry. There are more jobs for engineers in the USA than there are engineering graduates to fill them.

Apr 01, 2013 11:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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