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More than half of H-1B visas go to India nationals

U.S. report notes "slow shift of the epicenter of the world economic growth" to Asia

January 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - More than half of H-1B visas issued go to Indian nationals, who received 54% of the total number of temporary visas approved in 2006, according to a government study released Tuesday. And an increasing number of foreign workers who hold these visas -- more than half -- are in computer-related occupations.

China ranked a distant second, at 9%, among H-1B recipients. The next largest group of countries, all with 3% each, were Canada, South Korea and the Philippines, the report said.

Authored by the National Science Board (NSB), which oversees the National Science Foundation, the 588-page "Science and Engineering Indicators 2008" report examines the state of science and engineering training as well as the ability of the U.S. to compete globally, and includes an analysis of H-1B visa trends.

Some of its key takeaways concern education and research. The U.S. spent about $340 billion in research and development in 2006, a record high. But federal support for basic and applied research has been on a multiyear decline, and the report also warned that U.S. grade school students continue to lag behind those in other developed countries in science and math.

Report meshes with other observations

The report's gloomy conclusions echo those reached by other observers. The Association for Computing Machinery, in its policy blog, recently looked at federal spending earmarked for research this year. It concluded that Congress is approving increases that do not match the inflation rate, and including earmarks for construction projects that are outside of its basic research funding mission. It charged that Congress has "abandoned its commitment to lead in science and technology."

The NSB report warns that the growth of the U.S. science and engineering labor force "may decline rapidly over the next decade because of the aging of individuals with science and engineering applications." The number of baby-boomer individuals eligible for retirement is expected to triple.

"If this slowdown occurs, the rapid growth in R&D employment and spending that the United States has experienced since World War II may not be sustainable," the report said.

Regarding the H-1B program, this study said 51% of the approximately 110,000 H-1B visa recipients in 2006 were employed in computer-related occupations. In 2002, about 25% were employed in computer-related occupations, a shift that may be indicative of the rise of offshore outsourcing in the U.S.

Offshore firms are the largest users of the H-1B. In the 2006 fiscal year, the top three employers of H-1B holders were India-based Infosys Technologies Ltd., at 4,908 visas; Wipro Ltd., at 4,002; and Tata Consultancy Services, at 3,046, according to data released by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last year.

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