H1B Visas in 2004
With immigration (legal and illegal) issues all over the news these days, you
might be interested in a few of the 2004 statistics on H-1B visa holders. 1,990
new H-1B visas were issued to bring the current number to around 450,000 (down from
710,000 in 2003). The annual limit according to law is 85,000 (down from 195,000
in 2003). 92 occupations across 17 occupational sectors are eligible for H-1B visas.
Prevailing wages are required (i.e., no indentured servitude) to successful holders
of the visas; however, many non-immigrant foreign H-1B workers are paid minimum
wage as their official salary, and the rest of their salary is paid as "U.S. Living
Expenses" that are non-taxable.
An application fee of $185 starts the process,
and an addition $2,000 is required after acceptance. To be considered for issuance
of a H-1B visa, the prospect must have an employer attest to his or her being needed
to perform a unique job in a "tight American job market," and possess specialized
knowledge that must be proved, usually in the fields of engineering, science, and
medicine (H-2A and H-2B are being used to import blue collar and agricultural workers).
45% of the PhD holders employed in the U.S. are foreign nationals. H-1B visas are
valid for a maximum of 6 years. So, Congress and the President have listened (thanks
largely to the IEEE USA lobbying efforts).
Staunch anti-immigration and temporary
worker antagonists will argue that as long as there is one unemployed American engineer,
there should be no H-1B visas issued. This attitude does not allow for the fact
that there are tens of thousands of American professionals working overseas on visas
issued to them by other countries. It also does not factor in the reality that there
are bona fide instances where, truly, a foreign national does possess a unique talent
that can and should be exploited for the good of the H-1B holder, the company that
hires him or her, and the country as a whole. Not every motive is born out of greed,
but, I will concede, probably most are. Fortunately, we do seem to be moving toward
an equitable middle ground.