Wipro, Microsoft, Intel, and Infosys take up the most H-1B visas in 2009

Even though job losses in the US are mounting, employers have stepped up the hiring of skilled workers from abroad, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The acceleration in recent weeks has put companies close to exhausting the 65,000 visas allotted each year for foreign workers under what's known as the H-1B program. Some 61,500 visas had been used as of Dec. 8, and the last visas are likely to be claimed within the next few weeks. Once that happens, companies won't be able to use the program to bring in additional workers until October, the start of the government's fiscal year.
"The numbers are surprising, considering the state of the economy," says Ron Hira, associate professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology. "With 15.4 million people unemployed in the U.S., employers should be able to find qualified workers here." The H-1B program allows employers to sponsor skilled workers from overseas for up to three years, with the possibility of extending for additional years.


The mix of companies receiving work visas is changing in ways that could dull at least some criticism of the program. In past years outsourcing companies, including many based in India, have taken up a substantial chunk of the visas. That's led opponents to charge that the program was being used to send American jobs abroad, since many H-1B employees train at client sites in the U.S. and then rotate back to their home countries to handle similar tasks. But the number of visas received by many non-U.S. outsourcers is declining. Of the top 200 recipients of H-1B visas in fiscal 2009, ended in September, offshore outsourcers got about 22%, or 5,663, compared to 38% in fiscal 2008.
Non-U.S. outsourcers still claimed 6 of the top 10 places in fiscal 2009, although the numbers were off for the largest operators. India's Infosys Technologies (INFY) topped the list in fiscal 2008, with 4,559 visas, but last year got only 440. Wipro (WIT) was the largest visa recipient in 2009, with 1,964, down from 2,678 in 2008. Sridhar Ramasubbu, Wipro's chief financial officer for international operations, says the drop is the result of lower demand caused by the recession and changes in the company's workforce. "We're now operating in 58 countries," he says.
U.S. companies have become more active in the program. Of the top 200 recipients in 2009, American businesses accounted for 49% of the visas, up from 43% in 2008. Microsoft (MSFT) was No. 2, with 1,318 approvals, while Intel (INTC) ranked No. 3 with 723. The chip giant says it's using the visas to recruit for high-skill posts in software and component design. "We only use visas for job categories with a (domestic) skills shortage," says spokeswoman Lisa Malloy.
With the Obama Administration struggling to create jobs, politicians are debating whether the visa program needs fundamental change. On Nov. 19, Senators Bernie Sanders and Charles Grassley introduced a bill to bar major companies that lay off U.S. workers from hiring foreign labor through H-1B and other programs. The legislation, which faces significant hurdles, would apply to companies that have cut 50 or more employees within the past year. "We have a responsibility to ensure that companies do not use the temporary guest-worker program to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas," says Sanders.




  1. That's why we dont have jobs for Americans !

  2. When you use the phrase "labor shortage" or "skills shortage" you're speaking in a sentence fragment. What you actually mean to say is: "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay." That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence and the intellectually honest statement.

    Some people speak about shortages as though they represent some absolute, readily identifiable lack of desirable services. Price is rarely accorded its proper importance in their discussion.

    If you start raising wages and improving working conditions, and continue doing so, you'll solve your shortage and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon.

    And if you think there's going to be a shortage caused by employees retiring out of the workforce: Guess again: With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, most people entering retirement age are working well into their sunset years. So, you won’t be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce.

    Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, the solution is higher wages and improved benefits. People will self-fund their re-education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state. The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980’s and 1990’s was a prime example of people’s willingness to self-fund their own career re-education.

    There is never enough of any good or service to satisfy all wants or desires. A buyer, or employer, must give up something to get something. They must pay the market price and forego whatever else he could have for the same price. The forces of supply and demand determine these prices -- and the price of a skilled workman is no exception. The buyer can take it or leave it. However, those who choose to leave it (because of lack of funds or personal preference) must not cry shortage. The good is available at the market price. All goods and services are scarce, but scarcity and shortages are by no means synonymous. Scarcity is a regrettable and unavoidable fact.

    Shortages are purely a function of price. The only way in which a shortage has existed, or ever will exist, is in cases where the "going price" has been held below the market-clearing price.

  3. You are probably right about the shortage at the price-level, because there is so much difference in the standard market rate and the going rate.

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