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

By Patrick Thibodeau and Sharon Machlis
February 14, 2013 03:28 PM ET

Cognizant didn't want to comment on the data, but did raise a caution flag that it believes the 2012 government numbers are higher than the number of H-1B visas the company actually used. However, USCIS confirmed that the data in their list was accurate.

According to the USCIS data, initial H-1B approvals for all employers combined jumped 35% year over year.

The USCIS initial data includes some 134,000 entries. Some companies are entered multiple times because of variation in their identification due to multiple business units (IBM Corp. vs. IBM India, for example) and multiple versions of the same company name (such as Microsoft Corp. and Microsoft Corporation).

The different versions were consolidated in Computerworld's analysis but left in their original form in the searchable database above. It also includes institutions that are exempt from the cap, such as universities and research institutions. This data is for the 2012 federal fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30.

While the USCIS data shows a higher number of initial visa requests for all the outsourcing firms last year, the numbers have not changed the overall trend. The pattern of usage remains the same.

Offshore firms, including India-based Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, Mahindra Group (which includes Satyam) and Larsen & Toubro, have been among the largest users year after year.

Hira believes that more H-1B visas will lead to more offshore outsourcing.

"The failure of Congress and the Obama Administration to close loopholes in the H-1B program is reducing job opportunities for American high-tech workers and undermining their wages," said Hira.

Hira believes the H-1B usage data should give pause to the lawmakers who introduced the Immigration Innovation Act. "If that bill were to be passed we'd see a major hemorrhaging of American jobs and it would discourage American kids from studying high-tech fields," he said.

Microsoft would not comment on the USCIS data. The company is perhaps the leading industry advocate for tech immigration reform and increasing the "STEM pipeline," referring to science, technology, engineering and math jobs.

The large hike in H-1B visa use marks the first time that new-use approvals broke 100,000. When asked to double-check those surprising results, a USCIS spokesman said they were confident of the data.

Some sources who saw the numbers speculate that the higher H-1B count numbers may be result of a shift from the L-1 visa, which are used by companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad to transfer employees. Visa rejection rates have been rising, they noted.

Hong Kong-based CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, an equity and financial services group, said visa rejection rates are exceeding 40%. But it believed the outlook for overseas firms is improving thanks to a shift in Congress on immigration.

Citing recent moving to liberalize access to work visas and permanent residency, CLSA sees Congress "taking a more reformist and accommodative stance moving away from the anti-business immigration rhetoric which dominated the U.S. immigration discourse through 2011-12."

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

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 email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

is online managing editor at Computerworld. Her email address is smachlis@computerworld.com. You can follow her on Twitter Twitter @sharon000, on Facebook, on Google+ or by subscribing to her RSS feeds:
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