TechAmerica renews drive to increase H-1b visas

US Citizenship and Immigration Services to begin accepting applications on April 1

Two days before the April 1 annual application period begins for H-1b visas for skilled foreign workers, the TechAmerica Foundation is renewing its call to reform the visa system to allow more highly skilled foreign-born scientists and engineers to work in the United States.

The TechAmerica Foundation’s Immigration Committee today urged Congress to increase access to H-1b and L-1 visas and improve adjudication procedures for the sake of competitiveness.

About one in every four scientist and engineer in the United States is foreign-born, according to TechAmerica.


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In addition, 54 percent of doctoral degrees in math, 60 percent in computer science degrees, and 65 percent in engineering awarded in the U.S. go to foreign nationals. For master’s degrees, the overall average is 40 percent.

By attracting the best and brightest, the United States can maintain its global competitiveness and ultimately create more new jobs and benefit the domestic economy, TechAmerica said.

“Today’s immigration system is hindering current and future competitiveness, innovation, and job creation in the U.S.,” TechAmerica President Phil Bond said in a news release. “We must act now to ensure that the U.S. does not lose its competitive edge for innovation. High-skilled immigration reform legislation needs to promote effective and transparent visa processing, adjudication, and reporting requirements, and must address the challenges and limitations skilled industries and employees face with H-1B and L-1 visas and green cards.”

Under the current system, employers file petitions for H-1b foreign workers each April 1. The total number of visas is capped by Congress, and in previous years the cap often was reached in hours or days after April 1. The number of H-1b visas initially was capped at 65,000 per year, and it has risen and fallen from year to year, as Congress added various stipulations. In most years, demand exceeded the cap.

The L-1 visa allows U.S. companies to transfer workers in their foreign subsidiaries to work within the U.S. for up to seven years.

The H-1b visa program was created by Congress in 1990 to allow U.S. employers to hire skilled foreign workers, including recent foreign-born graduates in science and technology. Microsoft Corp. and other federal contractors are strong advocates for H-1b visas, but some American IT workers believe it has a dampening effect on wages.

The Government Accountability Office recently recommended that Congress reevaluate the program because it questioned whether it was working effectively and might not be protecting American workers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the H-1b visa program, recently proposed allowing employers to register electronically with USCIS in advance of the application period. If demand starts to exceed supply, registration would be halted, and only those who registered would be allowed to apply for the available slots.

The goal of the proposed new system is to save employers the time and expense of filling out the lengthy applications when the number of applications far exceeds available slots.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Sun, Apr 3, 2011

"H1B visa curb by successive US goverments have led to outsourcing of the IT jobs." No. Outsourcing is inevitable. Every job that can go overseas, will. H1B doesn't even slow the process. H1B's are three times more expensive than oveseas workers (they are only slightly cheaper than Americans.) As a result, they are substitutes for American workers, not overseas ones. They don't prevent outsourcing, they merely lower the wage on the few jobs that cannot be sent overseas.

Fri, Apr 1, 2011 Jennifer Dorning DC

The U.S. does not need more H-1B visas; it needs a better H-1B system. While foreign workers with advanced degrees may be important to our future, simply increasing the number of available H-1Bs will not ensure that we are recruiting and retaining the workers that will grow our economy. Over 200,000 H-1B visas are issued every year (new applications and renewals). Over 100,000 of those H-1B visas go to fill entry level positions. There is no evidence that there are an insufficient number of U.S. workers to fill these positions. There are numerous ways to improve the H-1B system, including the establishment of a labor market test. The H-1B visa was intended to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the United States to fill positions that could not be filled by the domestic workforce. Yet H-1B visas are issued regardless of worker shortages. In the second quarter of 2010, computer scientists, systems analysts, and computer programmers all had unemployment rates of around 6 percent, which is high for this occupation field, yet nearly 90,000 H-1B visas were issued to hire foreign workers in computer-related occupations. Any changes to the H-1B program will have significant consequences for our future. Access to even more foreign workers creates a disincentive to invest in our domestic education programs and leads to fewer U.S. students pursuing math, science, and engineering degrees. We should be supporting programs that have the opposite effect. For more information about these issues, see the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO website, www.dpeaflcio.org and two of its reports on the H-1B visa system: Guest Worker Visas: The H-1B and L-1 and Gaming the System: Guest Worker Visa Programs and Professional and Technical Workers in the U.S. (www.dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/).

Thu, Mar 31, 2011 Greg

Once unemployment levels drop back to below 5% then we can have discussion about increasing H1-b visas. I will go one step further. Until unemployment for engineers, scientists, and professionals drops below 5% we shouldn't even be discussing H1-b visas. I know too many unemployeed engineers and scientists with multiple degrees and advanced degrees who can't find work. Ask the existing engineering community how many have taken pay cuts and/or haven't seen a raise in years how they feel about bringing in lower paid workers to compete for their jobs.

Thu, Mar 31, 2011

H1B visa curb by successive US goverments have led to outsourcing of the IT jobs.If in the last decade the h1b visa cap would have been continuously increased no one would have thought to set up comapny offices in countries like India that does not have good infrastructure and other services.Had the then US government not encouraged the companies to set offices elsewhere the situation would have been diffrent.India would not have been on the growth path while US economy would have been booming.Its not late to change the stratergy but bit difficult now.

Wed, Mar 30, 2011 Jake Leone USA

Let's not forget that 9 of every 10 foreign outsourcing company employees, in the United States, are also here on an H-1b. Let's not forget the massive fraud and corruption in the B-1 visa system, where the U.S. government and U.S. customers are being ripped off hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and tax revenue. Let's not forget that more than 1-in-5 H-1b application are fraudulent. Let's not forget that if you are a U.S. citizen you need not apply for a technology job on U.S. soil, because there is a cheaper foriegn worker that can be brought in under H-1b. Let's not forget that the H-1b visa, is "THE OUTSOURCING VISA" and is being used to remove millions of U.S. jobs at all levels. Indeed let's never forget.

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