April 1, 2010 marks the opening day for filing H-1B visa cap petitions for the 2011 federal fiscal year. The previous year’s cap was met on December 21, 2009 at a time when the economy was recovering at a relatively steeper rate. Feedback from the USCIS during November of 2009 indicated a sudden surge in the filing of cap-subject H-1B visa petitions.
What is the Job Prospect of Highly Skilled Workers?
While industry pundits predict a slow economic recovery, the information technology field and certain manufacturing jobs are expected to make the corner in 2010 and 2011. Especially the hiring of IT professionals possessing the “right skills” is set to experience growth this year. A recently released report by Foote Partners states two important and logical observations: 1) during the downturn in the economy many companies lost good higher paid talents. These firms will try to re-acquire these talents again as the economy swings back; and 2) as the economy slowly recovers, firms will be more aggressive to “reshuffle” its IT workforce and with that comes the hiring of brighter and more technically savvy employees. These reasons will cause employers to retain more skilled labor and to seek foreign workers when they are unable to meet their requirements from the available pool of US workers.
The “Foreign Student” Element
Another force which will affect the way the 2011 H-1B visa season will be shaped is the graduation of an unusually higher population of foreign students during 2007 and 2008 academic years. The US experienced a peak in the enrollment of foreign students from India and Asia in those years. Several recent studies show that the foreign student population in the US had declined and then leveled off without growth in 2007. But a steady increase began in 2008, mostly in students seeking advanced degrees. These students will be looking for permanent employment in late 2010 and 2011 and thus will make an impact on 2011 cap season.
Will The Cap Be Met on April 1, 2010?
The H-1B visa cap is not likely to be completely met by April 1, 2010. Despite the surge in economic activity late 2009, the first quarter of 2010 experienced a regression in employment prospect. For instance the Bureau of Employment Statistics reported an increase of unemployment in January 2010. This volatility in the market place causes low confidence in corporate outlook and postponement of spending. In other words, corporations are not yet ready to embark on big projects because of the uncertainty in the short term future. While confidence in the long range remains strong, yet corporate CEOs are keeping their change in their purses on the short range.
The market will show stability in the second quarter and at the time corporations will hurry up to securing highly skilled workers. Hence, I see the cap to reach before Halloween this year.