As recently discussed in the Wall Street Journal, the H-1B visa program has slowed drastically in the United States. The program has attracted about 50% fewer petitions so far this year than last year, and 80% fewer than in 2009. Typically for the years preceding 2009, the H-1B cap was typically met the first day of filing, which is April 1st.
As the article discusses, there are a variety of reasons for the slowdown. The obvious is the economy. With unemployment high and the number of companies hiring new workers at a record low, the most obvious reason for the decline in H-1B workers is the economy. Even for companies that are hiring, there are still plentiful of qualified workers in the U.S. who are looking for problem. But from our experience, there are still a scarce number of available workers in the science, technology, engineering, and medical industries.
Another reason for the H-1B slowdown has been related to higher fees and burdensome requirements from USCIS. The cost and bureaucracy of applying for H-1B visas is becoming a deterrent for some companies. Last year, Congress passed a law that adds an additional fee of $2,000. This is on top of lawyers’ fees, normal H-1B filing fees and other expenses. Total fees can reach up to $9,000 a applicant. In addition to higher fees, USCIS has increased the amount of evidentiary documents needed for H-1B approval. For example, many IT companies have to go much beyond as far as documentation than years past. Now USCIS requires overly burdensome documents such as employment agreements, service contracts, employee charts,
Finally, many foreign workers are deciding to return to their home countries. Countries such as India and China have undergone rapid growth in the past few years and both countries are expected to grow at rates higher than the U.S. Many foreign workers now believe they can earn higher relative salaries and have better standards of livings back their home countries than the U.S.
One of the reasons why many immigration attorneys and H-1B program advocates want the elimination of the annual cap and less restrictions is that keeping talent in the U.S. would be good for the U.S. long-term by spawning innovation and creating jobs.
In the Immigration legal field, most people believe that once the economy starts picking up, the number of H-1B filings will rise also because working and living in the U.S. still have a lot of attractions for many foreign workers and foreign students.