Here we go again: Outsourcers snap up H-1B visas at a record pace

The tech industry continues to push hard to raise the cap on H-1B visas to import even more lower-paid foreign workers

The French have an elegant way to put it: Plus les choses changent, plus elles restent les mêmes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. That's especially true when it comes to the never-ending drive by the tech industry to bring in more lower-paid foreign workers to Silicon Valley and the rest of the United States.

Last year, tech companies snapped up all 65,000 H-1B slots in five -- count 'em -- days. This year, all 65,000 (plus 20,000 more for holders of advanced degrees) were gone in, yes, five days, despite the marked slowing in IT hiring this year and the increased use of benefit-deprived contractors.

[ More underhanded tech labor practices: How tech giants get around H-1B caps: The call the hires studentsAre you endangered? Offshoring now targets corporate IT jobsDebunking the H-1B hogwash: STEM grads are pouring out of U.S. colleges | Get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

In 2012, the companies that were the largest users of newly approved H-1B visas were outsourcers, notably Infosys, Tata, Cognizant, Accenture, and Wipro. This year, Tata, Cognizant, Wipro, and Accenture again led the pack, according to an analysis of government data by our colleagues at Computerworld.

So nothing much has changed. The tech industry is still lobbying hard to raise that cap, amid hyped and inaccurate reports written by credulous journalists and PR propagandists about a shortage of both skilled workers and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates.

I'm not just being snarky when I use the word "credulous." Consider the widely held belief that a "skills shortage" is holding back the economy. As New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote last week:

Some news media reported that 92 percent of top executives said that there was, indeed, a skills gap. The basis for this claim? A telephone survey in which executives were asked "Which of the following do you feel best describes the 'gap' in the U.S. workforce skills gap?" followed by a list of alternatives. Given the loaded question, it's actually amazing that 8 percent of the respondents were willing to declare that there was no gap.

Outsourcers are the biggest users of H-1B

Companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook are leading advocates for raising the H-1B cap to 115,000 immediately and eventually as high as 300,000. There's a well-funded lobbying campaign to do so, and with tacit support from the White House there's a good chance it will happen this year.

But their arguments are undercut by the reality of who is actually using the imported labor. The two largest H-1B users are Indian-based: Infosys, with 6,298 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with 6,258. In third place with 5,186 is Cognizant, which is based in New Jersey, but runs large offshore centers. These firms have long dominated the top H-1B list spots. Those three companies accounted for 27 percent of all the H-1B visas issued last year.

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