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New rules may bring 'false H-1B demand'

June 1, 2011 03:19 PM ET

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is warning that the system will create a rush of registrations and "generate false H-1B demand" by "creating a flood of unnecessary or unqualified registrations, potentially numbering in the thousands, that will ultimately be abandoned or denied."

It's expected that the USCIS will set up this electronic registration period each March, just prior to the April 1 start date for new fiscal year applications. The lawyers' association said the proposal presupposes that employers will have completed work on projecting staffing levels needed for the entire U.S. fiscal year.

The USCIS projects that the new rules would save employers some $24 million in preparation costs over the next ten years.

The USCIS ended the comment period on the proposal rule last month.

This USCIS proposal was borne out of the crush of the H-1B petitions the agency received in the pre-recession years. The pace of demand has slowed since then.

As of last week, the government has received 13,100 H-1B petitions toward its 65,000 cap, and 9,000 petitions toward the cap of 20,000 that's set aside for advanced degree holders. It's expected that the USCIS will reach the fiscal 2012 cap for the year, though it's still months away from doing so.

The relative fall-off in demand is blamed on a still weak economy, as well as a recent move by Congress to impose a new $2,000 fee for H-1B petitions on companies, mostly offshore firms, that rely heavily on holders of U.S. visas.

Offshore firms may be shifting to other visas, such as L-1, as well as improving the efficiency of their onshore operations, and/or boosting U.S. hiring, to reduce the need for visa holders. But some in Congress believe that the slowdown in H-1B visa requests will be short-lived.

Late last week, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at a press briefing that he would support doubling the H-1B cap.

He has not introduced a bill yet to do so, but has previously advocated an increase.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter@DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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