WASHINGTON: The current H-1B visa system, the numerical limit of which was set by the Congress in 1990, is incredibly disruptive to business planning and operations of US employers, software giant Microsoft told lawmakers on Monday.
The company came out in support of the comprehensive immigration reform which recommends substantial increase in the H-1B visas.
Referring to the fact that the US received 40,000 more applications for H-1B visas this year and the cap was reached in the first week itself, Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice-president, legal and corporate affairs, Microsoft Corp, told a congressional hearing that running out of H-1B visas this quickly has significant consequences for the economy.
He said: "This year, employers are faced with a scenario in which one-third of the H-1B petitions that they submitted will be rejected in the H-1B lottery.
"These are 40,000 positions that will remain unfilled despite the fact that qualified candidates have been identified and job offers have been extended after a careful, intensive recruiting process in a very competitive market for talent. This is incredibly disruptive to the business planning and operations of US employers."
In his prepared statement, Smith said Microsoft entered this year's H-1B cap season knowing that "we could not file H-B petitions for 250 candidates we had identified for job offers" simply because the cap would be exhausted in the first week, a full two months before their graduation dates in June.
"Among the H-1B petitions we were able to file this year, we will likely have more than 200 additional candidates to whom job offers were extended, but who will not be selected in the H-1B lottery. When this happens, we don't simply rescind these offers of employment," he said.
Smith added: "We begin the process of identifying alternative options for employing these talented individuals at one of our subsidiaries abroad.
"The inability to employ these individuals in the US means the loss of work that was intended to be performed in the US and along with it, the output and productivity our business groups were planning, not to mention the potential tax revenues and economic activity associated with the salaries for those jobs."
He said these immigration challenges also have very real consequences for the talent US is trying to attract.
Smith said some potential hires are unwilling to jump over all of the hurdles presented by the H-1B cap and will simply walk away from the offer of employment in the US, opting to instead pursue alternative options in their home countries.
"A few specific examples from our own experience will help illustrate the tangible impact to these individuals. Last year, we were unable to file an H-1B petition for one of our candidates before the H-1B cap was exhausted due to his graduation date.
"The inability to start working for us in the US was incredibly distressing to him, not only because of the delay in staring a job he was excited for, but also because of an uncertain political situation in his home country," he said.
The company has filed an H-1B petition for him under this year's H-1B cap, a year and a half after his original offer of employment was extended, Smith said.
In the meantime, he continues to wait on the sidelines for the approval of the petition, he added.
"This year, we extended offers of employment to two candidates who happen to be engaged to one another. Again, due to the timing of graduation dates, only one of them could have an H-1B petition filed before the cap was reached," Smith said.
This couple is now confronted with the reality of being separated in order for one to pursue employment with Microsoft in the US while the other seeks options abroad, he added.
Smith said: "Without reform to address these unnecessary impediments in the H-1B program, these kinds of challenges will deter future high skilled immigrants from investing their skills in our economy."
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