All the slots for H1B visas for the year 2010 were finally filled on December 21, breaking a record, and making it the longest time it has taken to meet the quota in the previous five years. In the previous two years, these slots were grabbed within two days of the applications being accepted in the beginning of April.
As the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS announced that it had received “sufficient petitions to reach the statutory cap”, it would “apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions that are subject to the cap and were received on December 21, 2009.”
There are 65,000 such visas available every year. Indians have typically accounted for over a one third of the H1B visas granted in recent years.
This decline in interest could well scupper years of lobbying efforts by major US companies including Microsoft to increase the cap with most seeking a doubling of the numbers.
The tone against H1Bs has become strident in recent months with a bill being introduced in late November seeking to prohibit American companies that lay off workers from hiring people on visas such as the H1B.
However, immigration proponents believe such measures may prove counterproductive.
Richard Herman, co-author of recently-published Immigrant, Inc., said, “In the new economy, immigrants are disproportionately doing technology innovation and commercialisation.”
New York-based immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta ascribed the slow pace of H1B filings this year partly to “hostility of certain elected representatives” and “populism” in creating a climate where companies are less likely to hire H1B workers.
“Rather than assume every H1B is fraudulent and taking away jobs, they should remove artificial conditions,” he said.
Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at Duke University, sees anti-Indianism. “This anti-H1B sentiment is directed at Indians. This is racism at its worst and they’re targeting Indian immigrants with this,” he said.