H-1B Visa Demand Spikes

In what the US government calls a sign of an improving economy, the number of applicants for visas that allow foreign workers to live here has spiked. The Wall Street Journal reports that 25,600 people applied for H-1B visas in the first week of the program this year. Last year, it took an entire month to receive that many applications.

“Given the improved economy… it would not be surprising to see the quota filled very early this year,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, told the Journal.

There are two ways to look at the government's assertion that the application increase is a sign that the US economy is improving. On one hand, foreign workers may be anxious to work in the US because overall conditions are better. On the other hand, an improving US economy should spur the hiring of more US workers, which would decrease demand for foreign workers.

The number of H-1B visas granted in any year is dictated by a cap, not by US economic conditions. (As we reported last month, the cap for visas for the 2013 calendar year is 65,000.) This has given rise to widespread criticism that the program hires foreign workers at reduced salaries. (See: H1-B Critics Outline Program Flaws.)

According to the Journal:

Demand for the skilled-worker visas has fluctuated in past years, with the visa limit exhausted on the first few days of filing in 2007 and 2008.
That demand decreased during the economic crisis and its aftermath. In recent years, some lawmakers… have expressed concern about the visa program and whether foreign workers, especially in the software sector, are displacing qualified Americans.

8 comments on “H-1B Visa Demand Spikes

    April 10, 2012

    I do not believe foreign workers are displacing qualified US workers.  If America had the right workers domestically I cannot imagine companies would go to the bother of recruiting from abroad.  On the other point I believe foreign workers are paid the same as US workers (at least from my own experience).

  2. Daniel
    April 10, 2012

    Yes Barbara, there are positive signs for US economic growth. The unemployment rate also had come down and more over country is in a better financial position when compare with the previous years. I think president Obama is trying his best to keep the county in a lime light position in account of coming presidential election.

  3. Jay_Bond
    April 10, 2012

    @Flyingscot, I have to agree with you. I don't believe these workers are displacing many Americans from their jobs, or any future jobs. If they were qualified applicants to fill these positions, these companies would look for citizens to fill these spots and hopefully stay on for many years. Using foreigners to fill spots poses many issues for some companies and it would be much easier to avoid these hirings.

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 10, 2012

    FlyingScot–good to hear the system is working as intended. This is a hot-button issue and like anything else is subject to abuse. I do believe that hiring the best and brightest in any industry contributes to the US knowledge base and the tech industry would not be where it is today without the contributions of non-US citizens.

  5. Anna Young
    April 11, 2012

    “The number of H-1B visas granted in any year is dictated by a cap, not by US economic conditions. (As we reported last month, the cap for visas for the 2013 calendar year is 65,000.) This has given rise to widespread criticism that the program hires foreign workers at reduced salaries”.

    I agree, “number of H-1B visas granted is dictated by a cap and not by US economic conditions”. I don't think a change in hiring foreign worker's application is displacing qualified US workers. I think it is possible to attribute the increase in H-1B application to the US economic recovery though. This is a good sign.  However, reports indicate a shift in hiring pattern to a number of factors. Please see the link.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    April 11, 2012

    Thanks for the link, Anna. I agree there is more going on here than just the economy. I also think it has been a long time since the cap has been increased–I remember during the tech boom the industry was lobbying for in excess of 100k. Outsourcing, offshoring and a number of other trends all contribute to the ebb and flow we see in H1-B.

  7. prabhakar_deosthali
    April 16, 2012

    I am curious to know what percentage of the total skilled workforce in US , this figure og 65000 represent?

    Is the percentage so high as to cause flutter in US job seekers or is it just the hype being created against allowing of foreign workers in US?


    Some opinions also say that the US govt is benefitting economically by collecting higher Visa fees. Is the US economy is really dependent on such small collections? I am doubtful


  8. bolaji ojo
    April 16, 2012

    Prabhakar, 65,000 is a tiny number compared with the total population of working adults in the United States. However, this controversy shouldn't be approached alone from that statistical angle. Emotions are involved and so is the reality that many people believe some employers use the H1-B visa as a wedge tool to keep salaries down or  to get employees to not make certain demands. I don't know that's the case but this is one of the issues generating the controversy.

    The US is still unique in that it offers workers this opportunity. Many other Western nations are rather shutting their doors in the face of global workers. And, by the way, 65,000 each year does add up to 650,000 after 10 years. I wouldn't knock the utility of the H1-B visa to employers and workers but I am also not ignoring the concerns expressed by those questioning how it is being used by some companies.

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