NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tech-Trained Immigrants Find They're Not Needed

June 18, 2001

Less than a year after Congress increased the number of H-1B visas available to would-be immigrants with high-tech skills, thousands of the visas are going begging and some of those who came to the U.S. in search of Silicon Valley jobs are returning to their native lands.

High-tech companies that campaigned strongly for the visa increases in the then tight labor market are now laying off employees.

  • Congress had upped the limit on the limited-time entry permits from 115,000 to 195,000 per year through 2003.
  • But the Immigration and Naturalization Service says that as of April 1, only 72,000 H1-B visas -- which permit their holders to remain in the U.S. for six years -- had been issued since the start of the fiscal year on October 1.
  • Only 16,000 new H-1B workers came to the U.S. in February -- half the 32,000 who arrived in the same month of 2000.
  • H1-B workers legally have just 10 days after losing one job to find another, after which they are required to go back home -- and they are not eligible for either unemployment or welfare benefits.

Figures are not collected on how many of them may have lost their jobs. And efforts to ensure that they return to their homelands are lax.

There are reports that some of them are receiving illegal, under-the-table payments from labor contractors hoping they will be available if and when the technology job market turns around. The payments are usually in the $1,000 a month range.

Source: Thomas D. Elias, "Hard-Won Tech Permits Go Begging," Washington Times, June 18, 2001.


Browse more articles on Government Issues