H1B Visa Update & The Issues Ahead For US Companies

As it currently stands now into May, the USCIS has issued no further update to their April 20 H-1B Visa Update whereby about 45,000 H-1B application have been received along with 20,000 H-1B applications for the US Masters Degree additional quota.

Some are now saying given the slowness of the process that this cap could still be not filled up to the 65,000 H-1B visa quota by September for FY2010. This poses a very real danger.

In 2001, the H-1B visa quota was 195,000 and following the dot com bubble burst, that quota was not filled and a short US recession followed of course with may in the IT sector losing jobs. It was soon after that the quota was reduced to the current 65,000 H-1B visas issued annually level with the later addition of 20,000 for foreigners with US Masters Degree Holders.

At the same time of course the new H-1B visa legislation (and L-1 visa for that matter) which is essentially anti-immigrant in its language and not so subtly seeks to restrict the ability of US companies to hire foreign workers on H-1B visas and L-1 visas.

Chairman of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), said if this proposal passes in the current format then it will have a fairly disastrous impact on the IT sector.

This should give you an idea: the number of H1B visas applications filed by the top-three Indian multi-national IT companies . TCS has reportedly applied for 600 visas, a little less than half of last year’s 1,539 visas. Wipro applied for 1,000 visas this year, compared to 2,500 visas last year. The sharpest fall has been for giant Infosys. It has applied for 400-500 visas for FY09 compared to 4,500 filed last year.

You have to bear in mind this is only 85,000 work visas in total so a tiny fraction of the entire US workforce. For some giant US companies it is not even enough workers to staff just their own entire company. However when giants like this are reducing their intake and H-1B friendly employers like Microsoft are publicly stating their numbers of foreign worker applications to appease bigoted and idiot politicians you there is an issue.

The Founder, Chairman & MD, Head Hunters said “Costs in the immediate short term are going to increase. That is because companies will have to hire more locally, also finding the right kind of talent at the right time is going to be a challenge.”

Industry watchers point out that fewer H1B visas filings could also lead to the shrinking of the H1B visa cap, which at present is at 65,000….similar to what happened right after the dotcom bust when the no of visas shrunk from 195,000 to the present levels.

Over half of the Silicon Valley start-ups were pioneered by foreigners and people like Greenspan called for both a temporary worker program for low-skilled jobs and for an increase in visas for highly skilled workers.

Noting the “very large participation” of undocumented workers in both low- and high-skilled jobs, he said, “if you were to remove either of those groups, the economy would be very much in trouble” and not have any signs of the recovery it is now.

President Obama and the G-20 summit in March stated the US would not become protectionist in their economy but if this H-1B legislation would pass it would do just that as it would essentially restrict the free market and put tarrifs and barriers to hiring talent.

NASSCOM also dispelled the notion that this is not in general a temporary worker program as the average engineer on an H-1B visa spends about 2 years working in the US. Given the taxes they pay, the spending of themselves and often a family plus the skills they employ, the only universal benificiary is the US economy and her citizens.

Of course polticians like Senator Durbin and Senator Grassley would never admit to this!!

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