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H1B 2009: Will '2007 H1B Rush' repeat in 2008?

Update: Now its official. USCIS announced today that it received about 163,000 H1B petitions for year 2009 that starts from 1st of October 2008. About 31,200 of those are for Advanced Degree category. Read more. It will be a lottery to accept petitions. I wish you all good luck to you. So, to answer my question I posed in January, whether H1B rush will repeat in 2008, as expected, the answer is a big YES.





Update: USCIS announced today that H1B Visa cap has been reached for both regular quota(65,000) as well as Advance Degree exemption quota(20,000). USCIS hasn’t yet announced concrete number of petitions received. Read more...


Last year, the visa cap for H1B petitions has been reached on Day 1. USCIS had in fact received about 150,000 applications and had to resort to 'lottery'(Random Selection) to pick up eligible applications. Many applicants had to wait quite longer just to know that their application wasn't picked up. Due to sudden rush, many had to wait for months to receive a status on their accepted application as well.

Now, this year, its already almost end of Jan, that means 2 more months to go before USCIS accepts applications on 1st of April for Year 2009 H1B Quota. Having watched and followed the rush last year, I am wondering whether this heavy demand for H1B applications repeat in 2008?

Though there are few concerns that H1B prospects may be considering little carefully this year, the answer to that question will be a 'likely yes'. Here are few things that may affect the drama this year and may change the stats a little bit.

USA Economy Slowdown and Imminent Job cuts in 2008

US economy is not in its brightest of times towards the end of 2007 and economists are predicting that 2008 will be very tough. While some analysts are pronouncing a 'recession', many say that it may be just a 'slow down' of economy due to rising fuel costs and deep troubles in credit markets. Many consider that the recent announcement of such a high of 0.75% in interest rate cuts just confirms the impending deep trouble.

This puts a rather bleak outlook for all IT consultants and Prospective H1B consultants for year 2008. For some, it reminds of the "dotcom" bust in 2001, where 1000s of IT consultants lost their jobs and had to leave for India after spending months searching for their next gig. For H1B consultants, this is a lot more serious issue, as if they loose their job, they almost immediately have to leave US.

Are you ready to throw the dice?

Just like last year, it is expected that visa cap will be reached on day 1 and USCIS may again resort to 'random selection'. That would mean, there is no guarantee and chances are completely based on luck rather than a consultant's qualifications and specialization. That may make some consultants not consider H1B as a serious option.

New Competition for H1B Holders

2007 is a historic year in the sense that visa status became current for green card applicants from India and almost all submitted their I-485 applications. You may recall the Gandhian way of sending flowers to USCIS in protest. Many applicants already received EADs  for themselves and their spouses. Spouses of many of these applicants are currently on dependent visas like H4 and now they have EAD to work without any restriction. That brings in a totally new breed of workforce to the already downsized market for 2008. I am very sure that this additional supply of workforce surely put more pressure in the job market.

Rush of Entrepreneurial Activity in India

For those who want to come to US to work on new technologies and latest applications there is a good news. Recently there has been a rapid growth in Entrepreneurial activities in India and many new startups are hiring with irresistibly great packages. And working in a startup beats flat out working in big companies, for most techies. One of my friends resigned from his excellent paying, often considered as a safe job by his peers, to work with a startup in Chennai for the sheer joy of working in a startup. Its no longer fun and exciting to work at companies like Wipro and Infosys who became so large in such a quick time that no body cares about individuals any more.

Weak Dollar and Upswing of Salaries in India

Just a couple of reasons why US salaries may become less attractive in 2008 to IT consultants coming from India

  • In times of recession, you won't be able to negotiate on price. Particularly if you are on H1B, the whole vendor food chain will definitely exploit the situation to squeeze on price. In general, in times of recession the billing rates/salaries go down, as many are desperate to latch on to anything at any cost, as evident from 2001 bust. Salaries never went up again after that.
  • Upswing of salaries in India combined with weak dollar puts Indian salaries very significant if no way on par with US Salaries. Moreover, they can save daily chores, bland Indian food and little or no social activities in US and enjoy the much more vibrant India.

New IT Consulting Companies

However, there is a recent surge in starting up of new IT Consulting Companies in the last few months, mostly thanks to EADs received in 2007. For sure, these firms will try some innovative techniques to lure as many prospects as they can to bring them to US to work for them. It will be very interesting to see how the tides turn.

Little bit on numbers ...

The official H1B quota still stands at 65,000. No news about any possible increase yet. The actual number of visas available is infact about 58,000 once you subtract the visas reserved for Singapore/Chile. For those who received or receiving  Graduate Degree or any other Advanced Degree from US Universities, there is an additional quota of 20,000.

Better hurry up!

If you are considering coming to US to work, you better prepare now. Ask your employer to file at the earliest possible to reach on 1st of April. If your organization is a large one, make sure you put enough pressure to beat the red tape as quickly as possible. Once you file, it all depends on your luck. But most cases you will have about 50% chance of success. Considering the whole immigration process, it's not that bad.

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