It once caused skirmishes and queues. This year, the US recession has made it fall quiet.
The much sought after H-1B visa — the official code for resident work permits — used by US employers to hire high-skilled foreign professionals from countries like India has fallen short of finding applicants this year.
This is the first such year since the Internet bust which hit business in 2001.
Since H-1B is an employer-sponsored visa, fewer applications indicate less demand for skilled workers. Indian information technology companies, which are among the leading beneficiaries of this visa to deploy their employees at the clients’ offices overseas, say demand is flat and business volumes lower after Western markets were hit by the recession.
“H-1B visa is directly linked to trade and fewer applications indicate the business is slow. Traditionally it used to get filled up on day one” Ameet Nivsarkar, vice-president at the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) told Hindustan Times.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had received only 44,900 H-1B petitions until August 7 for the fiscal year 2010 beginning October 1 — well short of the 65,000 annual quota set by Washington.
“The unique thing about H-1B application is that an employer has to apply for it in advance in anticipation of projects while there is uncertainty on the business front this year,” Nivsarkar said.
IT leader Infosys said its need for additional visas has come down in line with flat demand. “We also knew or we kind of anticipated that the quota would not get filled up because the demand is low. We felt that we could just in time if need be and so we did not apply for the number we normally would have applied. We have sufficient visas at this point and that is really not a concern,” Kris Gopalakrishnan, chief executive officer at Infosys Technologies said in an analyst call last month.
Infosys said its visa cost has come down to around Rs 25 crore during the April-June period this year from Rs 60 crore or $15 million in the year-ago period.
No 1 software exporter Tata Consultancy Services also said it had sufficient visas. “Companies like TCS are increasingly using their US campuses to train locally recruited engineers from universities,” a TCS spokesperson told Hindustan Times.