Technology companies may face a shortage of skilled workers later this year after U.S. immigration services reached its annual quota for visa applications in one day.
“Clearly there is a need for science and engineering talent in this country that is not being met by home-grown talent,” said William Morin, director of government affairs for Applied Materials Inc., the world’s biggest supplier of equipment for making microchips.
“These are people who are going to develop the next big thing, and you’re driving people offshore. It boggles the mind that we would come to this point,” Morin said.
The Citizenship and Immigration Services received a record of more than 150,000 applications for the H-1B visa on 2 April, nearly double the number of visas it can grant for the fiscal year beginning 1October, 2007.
Individuals cannot apply for the visa. The employer must apply or submit a petition on the worker’s behalf. The visa is good for up to six years.
The government will grant 65,000 visas to those who hold the equivalent of an undergraduate degree and possess the technical expertise in a specialized field, such as engineering and computer programming. Another 20,000 visas will go to people with advanced academic degrees who have technical expertise.
The agency will review the petitions to ensure that all applications are correct. After that, applications will be compiled, and individuals will be chosen by a computerized lottery system.
“It’s a very fair process, so everyone who submitted their application has the same shot,” Chris Rhatigan, a spokeswoman with the immigration agency said on 4 April. “This process could take a couple of weeks, and then they will notify the individuals.”
Rhatigan was unable to say how soon the visas would be issued due to the volume of applications received. Last year, the cap was reached at the end of May.
“What stronger signal could be sent for the need for immigration reform in the high-skills area than this?” Morin said.
Margie Jones, U.S. immigration manager at Intel Corp., the world’s biggest maker of microchips, said, “Each year the cap has been reached earlier and earlier and earlier. By hitting it the first day, it means it is severely under-rated how many we need.”
Intel employs about 90,000 people worldwide, and about 4 percent of the firm’s U.S. workforce are foreigners with work visas, she said.
“If the cap is truly reached, that means there are no (visas) available until 10/1/08,” Jones said. “It will impact hiring.”
Applications can be resubmitted 1April , 2008 when H-1B visas become available for the following fiscal year.