U.S. holds visa lottery for 85,000 skilled workers

WASHINGTON Mon Apr 8, 2013 4:55pm EDT

A new U.S. citizen waves a U.S. national flag in front of a display of flags of the more than 40 nations represented by the more than 90 immigrants becoming U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A new U.S. citizen waves a U.S. national flag in front of a display of flags of the more than 40 nations represented by the more than 90 immigrants becoming U.S. citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts March 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. visa program ran a lottery on Sunday to award 85,000 slots for high-skilled workers just one week after the application period opened, the Citizenship and Immigration Service said, signaling companies feel confident enough about the economy to hire more foreign workers.

The USCIS held the lottery to approve petitions for the slots after it received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions last week, including petitions filed for holders of advanced degrees from U.S. universities. The USCIS started accepting petitions for the visas just a week ago, on April 1 and stopped accepting them five days later because of high demand.

The last time the USCIS used a lottery this quickly to grant H-1B visas, a type companies must initiate, was in 2008, before the economic crisis hit. In April that year, when unemployment was around 5 percent, it received 163,000 petitions in five days.

Now the economy seems to be improving, with the unemployment rate nudging down to 7.6 percent last month according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as wages edge up.

The cap includes 65,000 high-skilled workers, plus a separate H-1B allocation of 20,000 masters and PhD graduates from U.S. universities. The actual granting of visas is made by the State Department, the final step for any H-1B applicant.

Petitioners are being notified by U.S. mail if they have won a slot, USCIS said. Those who have not will receive their petitions in the mail, along with their refunded filing fees.

The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa in the United States that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years.

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 higher because workers at universities and some other workplaces do not count toward the limit. The USCIS is still accepting petitions for those exempted categories of worker, it said.

Last year, the government issued 129,000 H-1B visas. Indian nationals received the largest number.

U.S. Congress is currently working on immigration reform legislation. Among the proposals 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 Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (29)
rdinTempe wrote:
I find it hard to believe that with 350 million people living in this country that employers cannot people with the needed skills already living here.

What the real issue is that these employers don’t want to pay yhe wages that American workes demand for these jobs. The kids they bring in on the H1-B’s work for nearly half of what an American worker demands.

And why is that? It is because American employers created a competetive market for skill labored labor during the 80′s and 90′s and the American worker has now outpriced themselves in this global market.

And then we have the best government money can buy, selling these jobs to overseas competitors, giving employers the slave labor they want, and leaving Americans underemployed.

If you are an American and can’t find a job, blame Congress and the INS. They’re the ones giving the jobs away.

Apr 08, 2013 5:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AdamSmith wrote:
The dangerous 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 Indian or Chinese 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 driving down American wage rates, and discouraging American kids from majoring in engineering.

Apr 08, 2013 6:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bobber1956 wrote:

“If you are an American and can’t find a job, blame Congress and the INS”

Actually after 40+ years in the working world of American politics I blame closed shop unions for a lot of it. The wages are too high and so is the cost living all being fuelled by corruption, gross mismanagement, and cronyisms. The immigrants will work for less because they have less debt, are naive about the system, get grants, and just a want a better life. Americans have become spoiled rotten and have caused their own problem and if we do not wake up our own downfall. It is just too easy to point a finger and say congress/government…it is a little more complicated than that and not seeng or admitting it proves it. Ever talk to an immigrant (other than hispanic)? They do not really care about our politics they just want a good life. Me too.

Apr 08, 2013 6:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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