Migrants Agree America Stinks, H-1B Visa Edition

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/01/2011 12:01:00 AM
Let's have a look at some figures that indicate the relative attractiveness of the United States as a destination for economic migrants at the current time. Sometime ago I wrote about Chicago School economist Gary Becker's plan to charge foreigners $50,000 for the privilege of America citizenship [whoopee!] Or, more accurately, the privilege of being saddled with $14.3 trillion in US debt with far more to come--a significant part of which will likely be owed to countries they brainlessly left in the first place. I'm proud not to be American, for at least I know I'm free from being a debt slave to the grind.

Anyway, I have been a keen follower of migration trends in general--especially under the H-1B visa category for skilled workers AKA the "green card." See my previous post on the matter. In previous years, the cap of 65,000 eligible petitions would be filled literally within days of becoming available. Since the subprime crisis, though, let's say many have come to their senses and began contemplating a number of things:
  1. There are more jobs to be found in India and previous H-1B-heavy sending countries than America at the current time;
  2. The United States is scaring away productive migrants with its heavy-handed post 9/11 tactics;
  3. American employers are hard up;
  4. America is an increasingly unattractive destination due to its ever-declining global standing.
The Economic Times has a pretty good article relating how Indian IT professionals have become, as The Clash once sang, so bored with the USA. Like during the past two years, H-1B is drawing flies once again this year:
The H-1B visa, the most sought after by India. IT professionals has opened to a lackluster response, with less than 6,000 applications received after it opened on April 1...US businesses use the H-1B programme to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.

The H-1B cap for the fiscal 2011 was reached in January this year and on December 22 for the fiscal 2010. Till a few years ago the cap was reached within the first few days of USCIS starting to accept H-1B petitions. As a result, USCIS had to resort to computerized draw of lots to determine successful applicants.

Because of stringent monitoring provisions and general economic recession, there has been a sharp drop in the number of Indian receiving H-1B visas in the last few years, official figures reveal. For instance the Infosys which received as many as 4,559 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2008 and was on top of the list of companies receiving this coveted work visa for professionals; received just 440 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2009 (October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009), according to the latest figures released by the US immigration services. Similarly, Wipro, which in 2008 got 2,678 H-1B visas, received just 1,964 H-1B visas in 2009; but still topped the list in the fiscal 2009.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) figures pretty much back up this trend as April draws to a close:

If skilled (read: smarter-than-average) migration under H-1B is a useful barometer for the attractiveness of living in America a decade into the twenty-first century, consider it a big "NO." I hope Gary Becker, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, can understand what the supply and demand curves imply here for his far-fetched ideas. Framed properly, it's a matter of paying migrants to come and work in America (land of the bankrupt) given their ever-dwindling appetite for doing so. As the title of this post says, smarter migrants agree America stinks by simply not going there. Face it: nobody's beating a path to America's door. And it should read:

Attracting the best and brightest? You must be joking.