WHAT THE LACK OF H-1B FILINGS REALLY MEANS
This year a mere 9,200 cap-subject H-1B Petitions have been filed through April 29. In prior years we have seen many more H-1B cases accepted as slots were available; in the go-go years of the 2000s, the H-1B cap was reached on the first day.
This year's paucity of H-1B Petitions provides compelling evidence against the argument that internationally-trained workers are being used to displace American workers and lower US workers' salaries. That argument just does not jibe with what is actually happening.
If H-1B visa labor was being used primarily to lower US workers salaries, the H-1B filing numbers wouldn't be impacted to any meaningful degree. Why? Because the incentive to reduce workers' salaries is likely greater in a recessed economy, not less. This logic is straightforward.
Yet, this year we've seen a dramatic downtick in H-1B visas filed in industries like Information Technology and Finance. Meanwhile industries with continued staffing shortages, such as healthcare and teaching, continued to file H-1B Petitions. If the H-1B program was being used to lower salaries, why aren't the IT and financial industries continuing to file H-1B petitions? Are these industries not interested in cutting costs?
Critics of the H-1B system fail to acknowledge just how well the system actually works. In robust times, the H-1B system allows growing companies to attract more workers from overseas when they can't fill those jobs with US workers. In down times, when jobs are few, the market does what it is supposed to do and fewer H-1B job offers are made.
If Congress really wants to reform the H-1B process, it ought to eliminate the arbitrary quota and just let the market sort out the numbers question. Congress also ought to give non-bachelor degree occupations with well-documented staffing shortages, such as nursing, access to the H-1B program.