Whether due to the economy or bad publicity or not, the maximum number of H-1B visa applications has not been reached yet.
April 1 is when applications begin to be accepted, and based on the high demand in the last couple of years, analysts and immigration experts expected the numbers to be on par with recent trends. But this gap may have to do more with the timing of college graduation schedules than anything else.
As CIO.com reported:
"The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting H-1B visa applications on April 1. Last year at this time, the government had received 163,000 H-1B visa petitions for 85,000 visas. That includes 65,000 visas for foreign workers with at least a bachelor's degree, and 20,000 for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees. (List of 2008 H-1B recipients)A USCIS spokesman said that based on preliminary numbers, the agency has "about half the petitions" it needs to meet the 2010 fiscal year cap of 65,000, but it is "just short of the 20,000 advanced degree cap."The USCIS may well reach both visa caps for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, especially after graduation in May. Foreign students aren't eligible to apply for an H-1B visa until they graduate."
Some have said the economy is to blame, others have cited bad publicity and new government bailout conditions on H-1B visas as something companies are having to consider. As the NY Times reported on the seeming decline in H-1B visa applications:
"Some analysts have attributed the decline to the economic downturn and to new restrictions on financial companies that received emergency federal aid.But Chris Rhatigan, a spokeswoman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles the petitions, said that in 2006, the agency did not reach the regular H-1B cap for at least a month and did not reach the master's cap until July."
Given continued lobbyist pressure to increase H-1B and other temporary worker visas coupled with rising layoffs by technology companies of North American workers, the battle over how to balance foreign talent against homegrown technologists continues to be watched very closely.
John Miano, founder of the Programmer's Guild and an opponent of the H-1B visa program, told Computerworld that he still expects the cap to be reached. The article added, "Miano said that if H-1B usage were largely driven by the economy, the number of applications should have gone down 'close to zero' this year."
We'll see if these numbers perk up to 2007 or 2008 levels as graduation approaches and as the fall deadline looms.