The data shows: Top H-1B users are offshore outsourcers

U.S. government's H-1B visa list shows accelerating demand from offshore outsourcers

WASHINGTON -- The largest single users of H-1B visas are offshore outsourcers, many of which are based in India, or, if U.S. based, have most employees located overseas, according to government data obtained and analyzed by Computerworld.

Search the 2012 H-1B database by employer to see how many new H-1B visas were granted to a company.

The analysis comes as supporters of the skilled-worker visa program are trying to hike the H-1B cap to 300,000. Supporters of the raised cap, though, face opposition from critics who contend that H-1B visas undermine American tech workers and shouldn't be expanded.

Based on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data analyzed, the major beneficiaries of the proposed increase in the cap would be pure offshore outsourcing firms.

H-1Bs by year

Year Approved
FY12 134,780
FY11 99,591
FY10 69,266
FY09 80,283
FY08 98,014
Initial petition requests that were approved; does not include renewals. Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service

Most of the largest H-1B users easily account for more than 35,000 H-1B visas under the "initial" visa plan, which includes new H-1B visa holders or those who work second concurrent jobs with a different employer. H-1B visa holders who change employers altogether are not counted as new approvals. The government data could also include visa applications filed in 2011 but not approved until 2012.

"This is just affirmation that H-1B has become the outsourcing visa," said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and researcher of tech immigration issues.

H-1B visa approvals

Company 2012 2011
Cognizant 9281 5095
Tata 7469 1659
Infosys 5600 3360
Wipro 4304 2803
Accenture 4037 1304
HCL America 2070 930
Mahindra Group (incl Satyam) 1963 404
IBM 1846 987
Larsen & Toubro 1832 1156
Deloitte 1668 798
Microsoft 1497 1384
Patni Americas 1260 164
Syntel 1161 363
Employers with the most new H-1B visa application approvals in fiscal year 2012. Source: Computerworld analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service data. Some company divisions were combined, such as IBM Corp. and IBM India, Tata consulting and engineering groups, etc.

Not all of the the major H-1B users are India-based.

Microsoft ranked 11th and has largely been the public face of those supporting a U.S. H-1B cap increase. IBM is also a major visa user but its numbers also include the company's India-based operation. Global firms Accenture and Deloitte use the visa for IT services operations.

The U.S. currently makes 85,000 H-1B visas available annually, but more can be approved for operations with exemptions, such as universities and nonprofit research organizations.

A group of 10 bipartisan U.S. senators last month filed a bill, called the Immigration Innovation or I-Squared Act, that would hike the H-1B visa cap immediately to 115,000 and then allow it to gradually rise further to 300,000.

One of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the bill addresses "the shortage of high-skilled labor we face in this country. This shortage has reached a crisis level."

While the companies who testify in support of raising the visa cap are typically U.S.-based, like firms like Microsoft, the largest H-1B visa users are offshore providers, such as New Jersey-based Cognizant, which at 9,281 visas in 2012 led the list.

At the end of 2011, Cognizant employed 137,700 overall, according to its annual report. Of that number, 21,800 were based in various locations throughout North America and Latin America. The balance was mostly in Asia-Pacific. Cognizant employed 156,700 at the end of last year, but has not yet released a new annual report yet with regional breakdowns.

Of its U.S. workers, Cognizant points out in securities filings that the "vast majority of our technical professionals in the United States and Europe are Indian nationals who are able to work in the United States and Europe only because they hold current visas and work permits."

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