Offshore firms took 50% of H-1B visas in 2013

Government data shows who is really using the visas

WASHINGTON - The U.S. today began accepting H-1B visa applications for the next fiscal year, with heavy demand expected. The visas will likely all be claimed by end of this week, and a major share of the H-1B visas will go to firms that use visa holders to displace U.S. workers.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, provided to Computerworld, is very clear about who are the largest users of H-1B visas: Offshore outsourcing firms.

The U.S. makes 65,000 H-1B visas available each fiscal year under its base cap, with an additional 20,000 set aside for advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities. On April 1 each year, it accepts visa petitions for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Click to expand the chart of top H-1b users below (click a second time to fold the chart up again).

Top H-1b visa approvals in FY 2013

Applicant Visas
INFOSYS 6298
TATA 6258
COGNIZANT 5186
ACCENTURE 3346
WIPRO 2644
HCL AMERICA 1766
IBM 1624
MAHINDRA GROUP 1589
LARSEN & TOUBRO 1580
DELOITTE 1491
IGATE 1157
MICROSOFT 1048
SYNTEL 1041
QUALCOMM 909
AMAZON 881
INTEL 772
GOOGLE INC 753
MPHASIS 556
CAPGEMINI 500
ORACLE 475
UST 475
PRICEWATERCOOPERS 449
CISCO SYSTEMS 379
ERNST & YOUNG 373
NTT DATA 350
FACEBOOK 337
MINDTREE LTD 302
ZENSAR TECHNOLOGIES 288
APPLE INC 262
POLARIS SOFTWARE LAB 262
HEXAWARE TECHNOLOGIES INC 250
JP MORGAN CHASE & CO 213
GOLDMAN SACHS & CO 185
BIRLASOFT INC 159
DELL MARKETING LLP 157
NIIT TECHNOLOGIES LIMITED 152
HEADSTRONG SERVICES LLC 144
THE MATHWORKS INC 144
INFOTECH ENTERPRISES AMERICA INC 142
CUMMINS INC 141
PERSISTENT SYSTEMS INC 140
SMARTPLAY INC 139
EXPERIS US INC 138
KPMG LLP 133
HITACHI CONSULTING CORPORATION 132
EBAY INC 128
GLOBALFOUNDRIES U S INC 124
NETAPP INC 123
HEWLETT-PACKARD 117
FUJITSU AMERICA INC 115
ITC INFOTECH (USA) INC 115
YAHOO INC 111
UNIV OF MICHIGAN 110
VMWARE INC 110
BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE 107
CERNER CORP 106
BANK OF AMERICA N A 103
CERNER CORPORATION 101
EMC CORPORATION 98
MU SIGMA INC 97
AGILITY TECHNOLOGIES LLC 96
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV 96
BLOOMBERG LP 92
CSC COVANSYS CORPORATION 92
MARVELL SEMICONDUCTOR INC 90
MORGAN STANLEY 90
MAYO CLINIC 88
RELIABLE SOFTWARE RESOURCES INC 87
NESS USA INC 86
SCHLUMBERGER TECHNOLOGY CORP 86
SYSTIME COMPUTER CORPORATION 86
SAMSUNG TELECOMMUNICATIONS AMERICA 85
CIBER INC 84
COLLABERA INC PREVIOUSLY KNOWN AS 84
YASH & LUJAN CONSULTING INC 84
HCL GLOBAL SYSTEMS INC 82
CGI TECHNOLOGIES AND SOLUTIONS INC 81
CALSOFT LABS INC 80
BUSINESS INTELLI SOLUTIONS INC 79
GRANDISON MANAGEMENT INC 78
CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION 77
RS SOFTWARE INDIA LTD 77
UNIV OF MINNESOTA 77
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN 77
NVIDIA CORPORATION 76
ERICSSON INC 75
SYNECHRON INC 75
FIDELITY INVESTMENTS 73
JUNIPER NETWORKS INC 73
YASH TECHNOLOGIES INC 73
NVIDIA CORP 72
KPIT INFOSYSTEMS INC 71
MCKINSEY & COMPANY INC U S 71
NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE 71
UNIV OF PENNSYLVANIA 71
COLUMBIA UNIV 70
CSC COVANSYS CORP 70
MERRILL LYNCH 70
COMPETENT SYSTEMS INC 69
HEALTH CAROUSEL II LLC 68
Click to expand/fold up the chart Source: Computerworld analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service data

The IT services firms among the top 20 H-1B users accounted for a little more than 50% of the annual base visa cap of 65,000. This is for initial visas approved in the 2013 fiscal year, not renewals. This percentage excludes some other top 20 H-1B users, such as IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, Google and Oracle. (See list chart)

The two largest H-1B users are Indian-based, Infosys, with 6,298 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with 6,258. In third place is Cognizant, which is based in New Jersey, but runs large offshore centers. These firms have long dominated the top H-1B list spots.

These numbers represent only the visas approved last year. The H-1B is a six-year visa, and IT services firms have consistently been the largest visa users year after year. (Note: The list also includes H-1B users exempt from the cap, which includes universities and research institutions.)

IT service firms use H-1B workers in offshore outsourcing contracts. IT workers affected by offshoring decision will typically train their replacements as a condition of severance. This has been the situation, for instance, at Northeast Utilities in Connecticut, which late last year announced plans to outsource some its IT work to Infosys and TCS and cut around 200 IT workers.

"The offshore outsourcing firms are once again getting the majority of the visas," said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. "The program continues to promote the offshoring of high-wage American jobs."

The tech industry, through lobbying organizations such as Compete America, argues that there is a skills shortage in the U.S., which justifies the need for H-1B visas. The claim of a skills shortage is in dispute, however.

Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, argued in a column Monday that the idea of a skills gap is something "that should have been killed by the evidence, but refuses to die."

The IT offshore industry is worried about the prospects of immigration reforms that may restrict access to H-1B visas. These firms have been saying that they are increasing their hiring of U.S. workers, permanent residents or U.S citizens.

Cognizant, in a statement, said it "is committed to attracting and retaining the top talent in the United States and around the world. We create and support thousands of American jobs, including 7,000 U.S. workers hired locally over the past two years and a commitment to hire at least 10,000 more locally over the next three years. Cognizant has a robust campus recruitment process at U.S. colleges and universities, leveraging our proximity to STEM education hubs."

But Cognizant does not disclose data to support its U.S. hiring claims, such as the percent of its U.S. workforce on visas.

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