H-1B Visa Program: 13 Notable Statistics - InformationWeek

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11/20/2014
08:06 AM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
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H-1B Visa Program: 13 Notable Statistics

Demand for new H-1B visas is expected to considerably outpace supply in the coming year. Consider these 13 instructive figures.
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H-1B by the numbers
Like many other systems, the United States's H-1B visa system can be distilled down into numbers: available visas, total applicants, demographic breakdowns, application fees and other costs, salary data, and so on.

Such an exercise may seem reductive. But at its core, the H-1B program, which enables international citizens to work legally in the US if they meet certain criteria, does boil down to two concepts from your Microeconomics 101 textbook: supply and demand. There is currently a fixed supply of new H-1B visas each year -- 85,000, to be precise, a number set by federal mandate -- with exemptions in certain scenarios, such as university and nonprofit employees. Demand varies from year to year, sometimes wildly so. Lately, it's pointed straight up.

In the annual filing period that began April 1, 172,500 would-be H-1B holders applied for new visas in just five business days, at which point United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) closed the window for the year. You need not be a calculus whiz to do the math: Simple arithmetic reveals that there were more than two applications for every available new H-1B. Visas were then granted based on a computer-generated lottery system; successful applicants in the April filing period became eligible to work in the US for their sponsor employer as of Oct. 1, the start of the new federal fiscal year.

The math also meant more than half the individuals and sponsor employers who filed paperwork for a new H-1B visa this year didn't get one. (More on that in a moment.) Demand outstripping supply isn't a new phenomenon, per se, though the difference was more drastic this year. In 2013, USCIS received 124,000 applications before closing the filing period in a similar weeklong timeframe -- again, far more than it needed to fill the federal cap, but well below this year's level.

Employment attorney Scott Fanning told us that his firm, Fisher & Phillips, expects demand to continue rising for the foreseeable future. H-1B demand reacts to a host of variables -- if the global economy tanks like it did in 2008, for example, you can bet H-1B applications will fall -- but Fanning detailed two factors that will drive rising demand next year and possibly beyond. The first is simply that many of the people (and their prospective employers) whose applications didn't survive the lottery process this year will try again next year, in addition to the usual pool of first-time applicants. The second is that some employers are sponsoring more H-1B petitions than they had in the past to manage the growing probability that some of those applications won't result in visas.

So why doesn't the federal government just raise -- or eliminate, as some have suggested -- the cap and let the free market decide the right number of H-1B visas? Fanning said there has actually been some support on both sides of the political aisle for expanding the H-1B program, though Republicans and Democrats don't see eye-to-eye (shocking, we know) on how to address it legislatively. Immigration policy in general is, to put it mildly, a heated topic in Washington and nationwide.

The H-1B program has plenty of critics, some of them vehement in their opposition, and many of whom call "BS" on the assertion of a lack of domestic IT talent. As InformationWeek editor-in-chief Laurianne McLaughlin wrote in a recent piece on the IT skills shortage debate, one noted H-1B critic argues that the visas enable age discrimination in IT, with companies reaping the benefits of less expensive, less experienced labor from abroad.

This becomes an example of where apparently boring numbers get a bit more interesting. If you want to make that link between H-1B visas and age discrimination, here's a number that should catch your attention: In FY 2012, 72% of H-1B holders were between the ages of 25 and 34, according to the USCIS annual report for that year, the most recent it has published on its public website.

Numbers can tell all kinds of stories. Here's another one: 61. That number, expressed as a percentage, helps explain why IT and H-1B visas are so closely associated with one another, though in fact the program covers a much wider range of occupations and industries. Read on for an explanation -- and a breakdown of a dozen other key stats associated with the H-1B program.

(Image: Gulbenk)

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and mid-size businesses. View Full Bio

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vbierschwale
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vbierschwale,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2014 | 10:16:22 AM
Re: You forgot the most important statistic
Believe me, I realize that both sides (visa holders & citizens) are but pawns in a game of greed.

The only solution I can see would be to bring our jobs back from offshore so that we create more jobs than we have citizens for, which would mean that we would need additional help.

The current system does no more than pit citizen against immigrant, and it is a lose / lose for everybody except the corporations

Go to keep america at work and look at the recent article I wrote about infosys and thanksgiving, and getting together to find a solution to see what I mean.
Laurianne
100%
0%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2014 | 10:03:05 AM
Age and H-1B
"If you want to make that link between H-1B visas and age discrimination, here's a number that should catch your attention: In FY 2012, 72% of H-1B holders were between the ages of 25 and 34..." That certainly is an interesting statistic. On the other hand, it shouldn't surprise anyone that companies using H-1B candidates favor using people at the beginning of their careers -- it is a cost equation. Costs drive this whole exercise.
Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
11/20/2014 | 9:58:08 AM
H-1B salaries
I understood the big draw in using H-1B was that companies could obtain cheaper resources. At an average of $79K, I can't imagine that is considered "cheap".

I find it fascinating that in my staffing experience local (Canadian) candidates with master's degrees have lower salary expectations than non-citizen candidates similarly qualified.
Ron_Hodges
100%
0%
Ron_Hodges,
User Rank: Moderator
11/20/2014 | 9:54:47 AM
Competitive Labor Markets
Let us not forget that many of the IT giants claiming that there is a shortage of qualified US IT workers are the same companies that illegally colluded to reduce or eliminate competition in the labor market by agreeing not to "poach" either other's talent, thus suppressing wages that would normally be bid up by those firms to attract talent.  There is NO shortage of domestic IT talent.  It's just that, as with so much else, IT firms are in a race to the bottom in terms of wages and benefits.

I do not blame the people getting H1-Bs for anything.  I have found them to be eager and hardworking and focused on building a life for themselves here in the US, and I agree that getting a green card should be easier.  I have also seen how the whole H1-B process is like formalized indentured servititude, where the company that "owns" your H1-B visa controls your destiny, and usually suppresses your earnings as well until you qualify for a green card.
Ashu001
50%
50%
Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 9:36:58 AM
Re: You forgot the most important statistic
Sir, I agree with your basic sentiments here. even many current h-1b holders are unhappy about the current system which just prompts more abuse and exploitation at the hands of employers. why don't we just shut the system down entirely and speed up the process of those who are already here on their second and third h-1bs so that they get automatic greencards? After all,these folks have already contributed over 10 years of taxes to the us economy andwould like to contribute more as American citizens. why not givethem that chance automatically? Isn't way better (from a skills point of view) than those 5 million illegals (none of whom pay income taxes to uncle sam)who obama wants to hand us passports to?
vbierschwale
80%
20%
vbierschwale,
User Rank: Strategist
11/20/2014 | 9:05:12 AM
You forgot the most important statistic
The percentage of Americans displaced by visa holders in computer related jobs.

On the front page of Keep America At Work you will find the following article that I think you will want to read.

Why exactly are President Obama and our Corporations saying they can't hire enough STEM workers when it is obvious that there is no shortage using the Technology Industries own EEO-1 submissions?


The above link looks at all categories available on a nationwide basis of EEO-1 submissions by companies employing over 100 employees.

I do not believe Americans in America will like what they are seeing because it shows that American software workers, especially white, and black are going to need lots of vaseline to deal with the temporary worker visa scam that is being forced on them via our corporations, and enabled by our politicians.

This is America.

Americans have the skills to build anything in the world better than anybody else can...

Perhaps it is time that we Keep America At Work!
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