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H-1B demand this year will be fast, furious

Patrick Thibodeau | April 2, 2013
Proponents will call demand come April 1 evidence of need while opponents will emphasize offshore outsourcing is behind demand

In a statement, IEEE-USA president Marc Apter said, "Proponents of an H-1B visa increase will bemoan the fact that the H-1B cap is already used up, but it was outsourcing companies -- businesses who use the visas to take American jobs -- who used nearly two-thirds of them."

The LCA numbers are higher than actual H-1B applications because companies can file more applications than they may need and may never use them. This leads to some interesting results.

One company, Syntel, a Troy, Mich.-based services firm, was listed as the top employer by the DOL with about 55,000 LCAs, even though the company only employs about 21,000 people globally. About 81% of Syntel's billable workforce is in India, according to its most recent annual report.

Asked about the applications, Syntel, said in a statement: "The number of slots in LCAs that Syntel has filed is not indicative of the number of actual workers placed at a given location, nor does it accurately reflect our future hiring plans."

Syntel said that the DOL allows a company to file an LCA for an unlimited number of workers per application. "It takes the same amount of time and effort on an employer's part to file [and for the government to approve] an LCA for 100 slots as it does for a single slot," the firm said. Based on that, it decided that "filing LCAs for up to 100 potential workers per application instead of a single application" saved the government and the company paperwork.

Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and researcher on H-1B issues, said, "It is plainly obvious that the LCA process has so many loopholes to render it a joke. Heavy users of the H-1B program should be making good faith efforts to recruit American workers but exploit loopholes that enable them to bypass American workers."

Hira added: "And the wage floors are so low that the LCA process invite firms to use the H-1B program for cheaper labor."

Among the immigration attorneys expecting a high number of H-1B petitions next week is Ian Macdonald, co-chair of Littler Mendelson's Global Mobility and Immigration practice, who believes a lottery may be implemented this year and will result in some casualties, companies which don't get the workers they need.

"The demand for H-1Bs is a strong indicator that the economy is improving," said Macdonald.

The bad news, said Macdonald, is that in many of the areas where the economy is improving highly skilled workers are needed, "and the H-1B category is used to obtain highly skilled workers in areas where there is no U.S. workers or a limited amount of U.S. workers," he said.


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