October 1, 2004 3:40 PM PDT

H-1B visa limit for 2005 already reached

The cap of 65,000 new H-1B visas for the fiscal year that began Friday has already been reached, CNET News.com has learned.

A federal official on Friday said the annual limit for the controversial guest worker program has been met for fiscal year 2005, which runs from Oct. 1, 2004, to Sept. 30, 2005. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes applications for the H-1B program, is no longer accepting petitions for visas for initial employment for this fiscal year, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The visas, which allow skilled foreign workers to work in the United States for up to six years, have frequently been used by technology companies. That the cap has been reached as of the first day of the fiscal year is sure to stir up debate over the visa program. Businesses are seeking an exemption from the annual cap for foreign students graduating from U.S. schools with master's and doctorate degrees. Labor groups oppose the proposal.

Legislation to create such an exemption, along with other changes to the H-1B and L-1 guest worker programs, is under serious discussion in the U.S. Senate.

Exemptions to the cap already exist for institutions of higher education, nonprofit research groups and governmental research organizations.

Although the cap has been reached, H-1B visas for 2005 have not necessarily been issued. USCIS has not finished processing the applications, the official said. Visas will be issued by the state department throughout the year, he said.

U.S. employers do not have to attest that they sought U.S. workers to fill a job before applying for an H-1B visa, but they are supposed to pay the prevailing wage to the guest worker. One-third of the approved visa applications in 2002 were for system analysts or programmers, though that figure was down from half of all approved visa petitions in 2001, according to USCIS.

In February, the government said it had received enough applications to reach the cap for the last fiscal year, which ended Thursday.

The fact that all the fiscal year 2005 visas have been accounted for so quickly is not a complete surprise. As of Aug. 18, USCIS had received petitions amounting to 71 percent of the annual cap.

Earlier Friday, Compete America, a coalition including businesses, universities and research institutions, warned that the H-1B allocation likely would be exhausted within weeks, "leaving U.S. companies with no ability to hire highly educated foreign nationals for nearly one full year."

Sandra Boyd, chair of Compete America, said in a statement: "A logical and immediate remedy would be to exempt foreign students receiving advanced degrees from U.S. universities from the H-1B cap...This is a critical talent pool that U.S. business and research institutions cannot afford to lose to foreign competitors. Indeed, we should encourage these individuals to stay."

But labor advocates point to a recent study finding significant job losses in the technology sector and high unemployment among tech workers. Critics also say guest worker visas accelerate the trend to send highly skilled work offshore to countries such as India or the Philippines.

41 comments

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More cheap labor!
With Job creation lagging and unemployment high in the same fields that they are bringing in these H1-b's, I'm just plain disgusted with corporate America. I have been in the industry for 15 years. I've been a systems architect for the last 8 years. I'm going back to school for structural engineering. At least they can't off shore building an office building.
Posted by TheMidnightCoder (61 comments )
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...results in more Green Card sponsorship
Some companies don't worry about their H1-B limits because they have other options. I know for a fact that a "foreign" company with IT offices in San Jose sponsors H1-B holders for Permanent Residency (Green-Card). Can anyone explain to me how this is allowed?
Posted by ooper (1 comment )
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Compete, dont cry !
Anyone who thinks the US of A can lead the world in technology with cry-babies who can't compete with the best talent from the world over, is naive at best and a complete idiot at worst. Darwin said it all -- its the survival of the fittest and if you can't, get out and do something else where the competition's less cut-throat. Offshoring can reasonably be labeled unfair for the American worker, but competing with the best talent of the world in a level playing field (with equal or more expense on the part of the employer such as in H1-B/green card), simply can't.

JS
Posted by Soliton (39 comments )
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God, what a bunch of whiners!
Cheap Labor...
Indentured Servants...
Taking away American Jobs...
Ageism...
Blah... Blah... Blah...

This is the United States of America folks! Having lived in three countries, I can certainly say this with great confidence: If you can't make it in the USA, then you can't make it anywhere!

I have seen homeless people get off of the streets, educate themselves, get a job, and then go back to the very soup-lines helping others where they used to be the ones in need.

I have seen poor immigrants with little education and money succeed in this country thanks to hard work and smart decisions.

If these people can succeed, anyone can! The solution is surprisingly simple. STOP ******** AND START THINKING! There will always be a way to make a living in the US, as long as you are willing to use your head, and work hard at it.

To all the H1B, anti-immigration whiners, I can only say one thing. If you want the government to offer you 100% job protection without having to work for it, then move to Socialist Europe!

But be prepared when you get there, because they are facing the same problems many of us over here are facing: How to compete in a global economy against the cheaper Eastern Europeans and Asians.
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
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What about TN Visas for Canadian workers?
What about TN Visas for Canadian workers? Does anyone know if there's a limit for those, and do they fall under the H1-B limit?
Posted by hdalle (2 comments )
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Compete with what? Whine about what?
Majority of "skilled IT" workers coming in from other countries have falsified resumes and there is no way to verify qualifications and work experience. The foreign IT worker is also subject to exploitation. They work for 12 hours a day, work weekends while getting paid the "standard salary". The foreign worker tolerates exploitation because the company holding the H1 can send them back anytime. Then there is the lure of Green Card. Why do you think companies are more inclined towards hiring foreign workers? Sure American workers must learn to "compete" and "must stop whining".
Posted by AXG (235 comments )
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Compete for tech jobs or not?
I personally would prefer to hire a creative, common-sense man or woman of any color or shape who communicates well verbally & writing with plenty of success/failure under their belt in real-life project ANYTIME...Top Talent isn't one who is quick to tell me that it takes half the number of workers to open twice as many holes, and that they have graduated from India's "top schools..."

J S, you need to make up your mind.

On the one hand you are telling us to "Compete, don't cry." On the other, which you titled "Sure," you are saying that Americans should, "go and compete in the field where they are inherently better at." Which is it? Should we compete for TECHNICAL JOBS with those "top talent" Asians or not, because that's the issue here.

Your argument about H1-Bs being top talent and technically better is so (put kindly) plain silly. Some people inference the H1-B to the Mexican farm worker program, which legally allows them to work in the US. They would argue that it's not whether there is a lack of Americans who CAN do the job, it's that they wouldn't because the job cannot feed their families in the US. It is cheap labor.

I'm not against the Mexican Field Worker Program because American jobs are not lost and helps our neighbors. I even think that in the 90's there was a strong argument for the H1B program when the demand for skilled IT workers was higher than the supply of Americans --ever heard of Economics?

Today, the above is no longer true. The fact that the quota mentioned herein has not decreased is what is disturbing to some us, because what I am seeing is that the new candidates come to serve as middle-men for more offshore work, which will surely result in more Americans loosing their jobs.

In brief, it's not top talent, it's cheap labor.

Your assessment that H1B are technically better is extremely silly and disrespectful to those Americans who set the technical standards in the first place.
Posted by (8 comments )
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Capitalist Country
This is a Capitalist Country. Any company with meager presence in the USA can list itself on the NYSE or the NASDAQ or raise finance through ADRs. When this is allowed (because it is beneficial to the market here), then the repercussions should also be allowed.
Posted by (2 comments )
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Not Cheap Labor
H 1 workers are not cheap labor. They are "Knowledge Workers" and they are rightly priced workers. Globalization should not be limited to one particular avenue. When American companies can enter any country and sell their product(and hamper local competition), then H 1 workers are doing the same. They are selling their talent.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
empirical data says it all...
You said, and I quote: "How can H1-B and green cards be "cheap" labor when the employers have to pay for the lawyers and all the processing, not to mention compensation AT PAR ?..."

I don't have a lot of time for an exchange of abstractions; perhaps some empirical data will illustrate the issues in which you and I still disagree upon: Cheap labor and "top talent" --not really:

One company I worked for brought in two H1-Bs from an Indian consulting company with offices in the East Coast. This company was responsible for bringing them to the US and effectively payed all the fees that you mentioned. I will refer to these gentlemen as S and R. IT WASN'T ALL THAT EXPENSIVE, I found out, the INS fee was less than $700 and the legal fees did not exceed $3000.

In R's case, he told me his salary was $60k in 2000. I don't know what kind of rate the consulting company was getting for them, but an avg. employee at our company at that time was around $85K. You do the math...Moreover, S and R signed a contract with their employer that prevented them from leaving. My boss, who was also Indian (and R's friend), fought real hard to hire him and R became a permanent employee, making $85K. Even though R got a nasty letter from his former employer, he wasn't actually sued. I believe California law had some protection around this bogus contracts. The Indian director then applied for Green-Card sponsorship for R. His story, it turns out, is similar to R's.

I won't say much more about R, because he left our company without notice (not even his employer was informed --now that I know the basis of the contract, I can see why. In 3 months S produced 0 LOCs. Yes, 0 Lines Of Code, my friend!

Granted it was our fault we fell for his demos --He was supposed to be writing a UI framework around the Swing libraries and his demos had the potential to look and behave the same as any off-the-web examples. Shame on us for not checking!

BTW, S and Rs' resumes both listed "top Indian Schools." In contrast, one of the best American software engineers I've met was a passionate, creative, communicative, and hell-of-a troubleshooter non-degreed mechanic with a High School diploma...

In fairness, after a lot of tutoring from my part, R became an average Java programmer --though he continued to send emails with tons of space in and around words that wrapped weird...

Now back to the future. The current company I work for is now replacing its employees with H1-B contractors who are essentially middle-men for offshore work. Some of the people that left their jobs were Indians with green-cards...

This is the picture and it's very real. So, please forgive me if I'm less than optimistic.

My issue has more to do with CEOs that pocket the savings from cheap labor TODAY (H1-B middle-men to offshoring work). My issue with you is that you're wrong that jobs being filled by H1-Bs cannot be replaced by truly "top talent" American engineers who could care less about management, because if you think that the US is built only by management-types, you don't know us at all.

John
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, right.
Seems to me that you're more of a salesman than a technical guy.

If you're really top talent --you know, with lots of accomplishments, including US patents and all, I'd say that at $150K a year you are being cheated in the UK and in the US.

I would never hire you or your CS friends on a Masters in CS alone. I don't care what school you attended.
Posted by (8 comments )
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test
testas df
Posted by headpill (1 comment )
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