This April, U.S. businesses filed a record 233,000 applications for just 85,000 H-1B visa slots. The H-1B skilled worker visas allow companies in the U.S. to hire skilled foreign workers, mostly from science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds.
The visas are in high demand in part because big tech companies say there aren’t enough Americans with the right skills to fill many new roles as they expand rapidly. This is the third year in a row that distribution of the visas, which are capped by Congress, will be determined by lottery because of over-application.
Tech giants like Microsoft and Google have argued to raise the limit on the number of H-1B visas, pointing to the unfilled positions at their companies. But critics of the system say the skilled foreign workers are taking jobs from U.S. developers, engineers and programmers.
Last October, Disney came under fire for laying off about 250 employees, while handing over their jobs to highly skilled technical workers brought in using temporary visas. The jobs were reassigned through an outsourcing firm based in India, and many of the Disney employees were asked to train their replacements in order to receive their severance packages.
Stanford law professor and immigration policy expert Dan Siciliano says the H-1B visas accomplish a net good for the U.S. economy, keeping jobs and money on U.S. soil instead of abroad.
He says another reason the visas are good, at least for now, is because when it comes to STEM education and training, the U.S. has some catching up to do, and the H-1B program feeds money into training for workers in the U.S.