While Trump administration is going on with its plan to slash or do away with the H-!B, highly skilled workers visas, Americans want the number of H-0! B visas issued per year to be increased from its current 85,000.
Some 400 hiring managers in the science and tech fields say by a ratio of nearly six to one that they will be looking for foreign talent this year. According to a survey by Chicago-based Envoy Global, an immigration services firm, 59% of respondents said they would be hiring more foreign employees at their U.S. offices, up from 50% who said so in 2017 and 34% in 2016.
“The survey respondents tell us they need higher skilled immigrants and think Washington should increase the cap for the H-1B,” says Richard Burke, Envoy’s CEO. The survey was released on Wednesday.
Seven in 10 employers said that having a global workforce was “very” or “extremely important” to their talent strategy (up from 63% last year). Some 77% cited the need to fill a skills gap for looking abroad. Almost 100% of human resource managers surveyed said that their companies changed their green card policy over the past year, with 31% saying they are sponsoring green cards faster.
H-!B is not exactly an immigrant visa, though it does allow for foreigners to work legally in the United States for at least two years. But it is one of the most controversial immigration topics after building a wall and the “Dreamers.”
The H-1B visa, dominated by the big three Indian outsourcers, is in more demand this year than last. Demand is nearly double where it was in 2016. The visa program has been roundly criticized by American tech workers who have been replaced by foreign workers, or feel their salaries have stalled out due to imported, skilled labor.
The U.S. issues 85,000 new H-1B visas annually, including 20,000 that go to foreign nationals graduating from Masters or Ph.D. programs in the U.S. A similar number of H-1B visas get renewed each year. “We asked if human resources executives would prefer a merit-based immigration system and 77% of them said yes,” Burke says.
A new H-1B reform bill by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake introduced legislation that aims to increase the annual quota of H-1B visas to around 100,000 and lift the cap on the 20,000 visas going to recent graduates of U.S. schools if the employer agrees to sponsor them for a green card. The bill also would allow spouses of H-1B holders a special visa to work.
Some politicians want to see minimum pay stretched out from $60,000 for basic computer software engineers to $100,000. The U.S.-centric tech companies think that will pull some of the visas away from the big Indian firms that dominate the visa program. Roughly 60% of those visas go to Indian nationals working for the big three.
Although the numbers are low in terms of the overall new immigration population here, the H-1B has run into public relations problems due to lawsuits against a number of companies, including India IT outsourcer Infosys.
60 Minutes did a special on the H-1B visa program, with workers citing abuses of the program by their American employer. But immigration policy changes in Washington are making the process of bringing in foreigners slower, with more rings of fire to jump through.
“Trump’s immigration enforcement push is making it harder,” says Burke, citing survey data. “Requests for applications go through slower, site visits are up from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and requests for evidence on applicants is increasing.”