Government Rules Overstate H-1B Demand

By David North on April 14, 2015

Both Congress and USCIS have taken actions that tend to overstate the actual demand for H-1B visas. The first filling date was April 1.

USCIS announced on April 7 that it had accepted 233,000 applications when only 85,000 are available annually; so a lottery will be conducted to allocate the 85,000 slots among the would-be employers. The implication is that there is a huge shortfall of talented workers in the U.S. and the hard-strapped American corporations have to look way beyond the U.S. labor market to run its operations.

Is the number, 233,000, what the government received on the first day that such filings could have been accepted, April 1? No, the receipt period, as defined by Congress, is the first five business days.

Further, perhaps to make sure that there are as many applications as possible, USCIS refunds the fees for all applications that are not approved – so the corporations only pay for applications that end up giving them nearly-indentured H-1B workers. So it costs nothing to employers, just staff time, to pitch for more, to many more, applications than they really need.

That is yet another administrative decision made by the government to help create the illusion of a dire need for H-1B workers. Withdraw the return-of-fees policy, and we would see a much more realistic number of applications.

The fees are not cheap; they vary a bit according to different factors, but $4,000-$5,000 fees are the norm.

If the government is really pro-immigrant it would not go through a lottery at all. It would simply approve petitions for the top 85,000 applications in terms of the salary offered; employers really wanting such workers, and willing to pay for them, would get the workers, and the low-balling employers would be left out.

But USCIS has thus rigged the process to maximize the number of applications it appears to get, and to minimize the pay that will be given to the H-1Bs. All of which is not in the interests of the American people, nor the displaced citizen high-tech workers, nor the foreign workers themselves, but which certainly helps the employers who use the program.

The trouble is that all these administrative manipulations are so subtle that no one notices.

[Note: This posting has been edited since it's original publication.]