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Despite H-1B lottery, offshore firms dominate visa use

Patrick Thibodeau, Sharon Machlis | July 31, 2015
Offshore outsourcing firms that do most of their work in India remain the largest users of the H-1B visa for computer-related jobs, seemingly unaffected by the odds of the visa lottery, according to new data.

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Offshore outsourcing firms that do most of their work in India remain the largest users of the H-1B visa for computer-related jobs, seemingly unaffected by the odds of the visa lottery, according to new data.

With the exception of a few tech firms -- notably Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Oracle -- the top 25 H-1B-using firms are either based in India or are U.S. firms running large offshore operations.

These firms include Tata Consultancy Services, the leading H-1B user with 7,149 approved visa petitions for last year, and Infosys, which ranked third on the list at just over 4,000 approved visas. Both were major contractors at Southern California Edison, where IT employees were fired as work was shifted to contractors.

HCL, one of the contractors at Disney Parks and Resorts, was approved for just over 900 visas. IT employees at Edison and Disney complained of training their visa-holding replacements prior to losing their jobs. (Disney later said it was canceling its recent IT outsourcing plans).

The IT services firms in the top 25 H-1B using firms accounted for approximately 43 percent of the 76,272 H-1B approvals in new computer-related jobs only in the U.S. government's fiscal year 2014, which ran from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014.

This is the first time we have data broken down by job type, via a federal Freedom of Information Act request. These totals will likely be lower than H-1B totals reported in prior years when Computerworld did not have breakdowns by employment categories. Visa requests for employment changes (as opposed to new employment) are not included in these totals.

The U.S. has been distributing its annual 85,000 H-1B allotment via a lottery because of high demand. This system works against many small U.S. tech firms that make up the bulk of the visa applicants. They must compete against large-volume IT services firms that submit multiple H-1B visa applications to improve their odds of winning the lottery, according to immigration experts.

New computer-related employment last federal fiscal year represented almost 64 percent, or two out of every three, such visas issued. Other job categories included engineering, medicine, science, law and, yes, modeling. (While rumors persist this is a large use of the H-1B program, in fact there were only 38 visas approved for fashion model new employment last fiscal year).

Computerworld requested but did not receive information about how many of these approvals were not subject to the H-1B cap, as well as a breakdown of approvals by gender and data about wages.

The tally of top H-1B users includes Computerworld analyses to combine various iterations of company names; there were, for example, 64 different versions of Cognizant Technology Solutions, including Cognizant Tech Solns US Corp, Cognizant Technology Solns US Corp and so on. The analysis also combines a company's different divisions and business units -- IBM Corp and IBM India, among others.

 

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