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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More on the H-1B Visa Shortage

The title of an April 14 report from Information Week said it all: “U.S. Overwhelmed by H-1B Visa Requests.”

The story noted: “During the five-day window in April that the United States was accepting H-1B visa petitions, the government received 163,000 H-1B applications, nearly double the 85,000 visas that can be issued for fiscal 2009 starting Oct. 1.”

This year’s 163,000 exceeded last year’s 133,000 applications accepted during a two-day window.

Obviously, business demands for professional, high-tech workers are not being met, and now firms are left to taking their chances in a lottery.

What are the possible results? Well, consider the following from an April 13 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"We need more qualified people in this country than we have," said Jim Marczak, chief executive of Sycor Americas and its Montreal sister company. Sycor, an IT consulting firm, applied for 40 of the visas, meaning they've agreed to employment contracts with 40 foreign workers, most of them from India and Eastern Europe.

If Sycor should happen to win some of the visas for which it has petitioned, those temporary workers won't be able to work here until October, the beginning of the federal fiscal year. (In Canada, they'd clear immigration in eight weeks.) Those who don't win a visa have been promised back-up offers in Sycor's German and Canadian operations, even though, Mr. Marczak said, "I would have preferred to focus here in Pittsburgh" rather than abroad…

And economists contend the resistance to "professional" immigrants has cost Americans ancillary and support jobs associated with the positions -- secretaries and such that now work at Microsoft's new Vancouver programming center, instead of in Seattle.

"When an employer can't get the workers here, then it's possible that the employer will say, 'Well, we might need to send the work elsewhere,' " said Catherine Wadhwani, an immigration attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle, Downtown.

That is, business goes elsewhere. And there goes income, consumption, investment, economic growth and jobs.

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