Government Silent on H-1B Visa Lottery Numbers

Dear All:

The information on this year’s H-1B visa lottery is beginning to trickle in. For the 2021 fiscal year, there were some 275,000 registrations, and it is rumored for the latest lottery that there have been more than 300,000. I say “rumored” because USCIS is mum on the numbers. At this time last year, we could at least count on a summary of the results, but nothing has appeared to date.

The record registrations would be a direct result of Trump-era rule changes, wherein the administration dropped registration fees to $10 and made online registration a breeze. There are also rumors that, although illegal, many applicants submitted multiple registrations. With so little to lose and a pathway to citizenship just a few clicks of a mouse away, is it any wonder why the system gets gamed? The short window of time afforded USCIS bureaucrats to scrutinize each registration on the front end simply fuels more incentive to abuse the system. Will there be consequences for this kind of malfeasance? Probably not given that the results have been shrouded in secrecy.

For FY 2021, 67.7 percent of H-1B visa registrants hailed from one country – India! My guess is little would have changed this year other than to increase those numbers.

Employers love the H-1B visa and the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, not simply because they offer a pipeline to college-educated temporary workers, but because the workers can be had on the cheap and are compliant.

If H-1B workers have an issue with the long hours they are being asked to work by their employers, they can’t complain, as the employers could opt to not extend their visas or sponsor them for the coveted Green Card. All and all, it’s a recipe for indentured servitude that was dreamt up by pro-business lobbyists and implemented by a corrupt Congress.

For FY 2021, roughly 40,000 firms sponsored around 275,000 registrations from which H-1B visa lottery winners were selected. As professors Ron Hira and Daniel Costa pointed out in their recently published article, “The H-1B Visa Program Remains the Outsourcing Visa,” more than half of the top 30 H-1B employers were outsourcing firms.

This is significant because the outsourcing business model employed by these now H-1B visa-dependent companies, such as Infosys, Tata, Ernst & Young and Capgemini, fuel the outsourcing of entire IT departments. The article discusses how:

  • These companies exploit the H-1B program’s weaknesses to facilitate the transfer of U.S. jobs offshore as a lower-cost alternative to hiring U.S. workers, and sometimes to replace incumbent U.S. workers with H-1B workers who are paid wages that are far below market rates.
  • More than 33,000 new H-1Bs were issued to the top 30 H-1B employers, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all new H-1Bs in 2020, which are subject to the annual limit of 85,000.
  • Of the top 30 H-1B employers, 17 of them were outsourcing firms. Those 17 firms alone were issued 20,000 H-1B visas, nearly one-quarter of the total annual limit.

We have to continue to push the current administration to reform, if not expunge, the H-1B visa and OPT programs. Short of that, we must see to it that laws are written to ensure these programs are not used to displace Americans and drive down market wages.

In closing, we will be preparing Freedom of Information requests to get the FY 2022 lottery data. Given that USCIS has gone dark on the latest OPT data, we will be preparing requests for that as well. The first quarter of 2021 has proven to be a rocky ride, and the remainder of the year will no doubt prove more so. So, let’s keep ourselves focused and engaged.

In Solidarity.