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Over 14,000 of coveted US’ H1-B visas still remain unused

Posted on November 8, 2011
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There seem to be fewer takers for one of the most sought-after visas for techies to work in the US — the H-1B visa. Even seven months after Washington opened the counter for the visa, only 50,800 applications have been made against the annual quota of 65,000, according to the latest update from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In other words, 14,200 visas still lie unused in this year’s pool. Each year, the US opens up its visa counters for receiving the H-1B applications in April, although these visas can be utilised only a few months down the line (in October when the employment season begins).

H-1B is one of the most popular visa categories for IT professionals, but it is also used by architects, accountant, doctors and college professors.

“We are seeing a similar pattern as last year, and expect the visa pool to get exhausted by December or January,” said the Nasscom Vice-President, Mr Ameet Nivsarkar.

Before 2008, the entire H1-B visa pool would get over within days. The pace of filing was severely hit by the IT slowdown in the US market in 2008. As a result, in 2009, the visa cap was exhausted only in December — nearly eight months after the start of the filing period.

Last year again, it took 10 months for the entire visa quota to get exhausted. A similar situation seems to be unfolding this year as well. However, in a separate category which is reserved for applicants holding US Masters degree, the stipulated quota of 20,000 visas is already over.

Nasscom ascribes the slow demand for visas to multiple factors, including a strong onsite-offshore model and the prevailing unemployment in the US. The Indian IT companies have reached a service delivery model that efficiently leverages offshore staff, says Mr Nivsarkar.

“Moreover, a high unemployment rate in the US means more Americans are available for tech jobs. So, Indian companies are recruiting more locals in the US now,” he says.

Another factor that has dampened the demand is the visa rejection rate.

Interestingly, even though it is taking longer for the overall quota to get utilised, a recent statement from the US embassy here revealed that India cornered 24 per cent more H-1B visas in 2010-11 than it did in the previous year. The visa issued has swelled from 54,111 in 2009-10 to 67,195 in 2010-11.

Mr Nivsarkar was also quick to point out that these numbers represented visas consumed by all type of applicants and not just those belonging to the Indian IT industry.

“It includes all types of applicants…professors and doctors, as well as students who finish their studies in the US and then apply for jobs,” he said. It also includes cases of visa renewals and extensions, he added.

Moumita Bakshi Chatterjee

7 Nov 2011

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/info-tech/article2606849.ece

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