Silicon Valley Hiring Fewer H-1B Workers Amid Downturn

More than seven months after Silicon Valley companies could first submit new H-1B applications, several thousand slots remain open. Earlier this week the USCIS reported that approximately 52,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions, and approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. The annual cap for H-1B's is 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 for workers with a Master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution.

This is the lowest number since 2003. The past few years has seen the cap reached within the first few days that companies could submit petitions. The reasons vary. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, Silicon Valley tech insiders attribute the lower numbers to the economic downturn. Companies are just hiring fewer workers.

Another reason is based on the restrictions placed on financial companies that received money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Restrictions formed companies like Bank of America to rescind job offers to foreign professionals.

Of course politics plays a role as well. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has criticized tech companies for not protecting jobs of U.S. citizens over those of foreigners as the unemployment rate reaches highs not seen in decades. The Iowa Republican and Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, in April reintroduced a bill that would require companies to do everything they can to hire Americans before seeking H-1B visas.

For years the Silicon Valley attitude was to seek out the most talented people, regardless of whether they needed to be sponsored for an H-1B or a green card. However, as reported in the San Jose Mercury News article, some employers feel they should be hiring a U.S. worker with the unemployment statistics so high. That, coupled with the costs involved of sponsoring an H-1B worker, and the new likelihood of receiving a surprise visit from the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security , and it's not a surprise that the H-1B numbers are down this year.

H-1B Visas / by Michelle Gee