Microsoft was the leading U.S.-based recipient of H-1B visas during the federal government's 2008 fiscal year, getting approval for a total of 1,037 visas -- up slightly from the number it received the year before.
But the the four largest H-1B recipients were outsourcing and IT services firms based in India. And on an overall basis, their use of the controversial visa program also increased in fiscal 2008, according to government data released last week.
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Topping the list was Infosys Technologies, with 4,559 visas, followed by Wipro, Satyam Computer Services, and Tata Consultancy Services. The number of visas issued to Infosys was identical to what it received the year before, but the other three vendors all saw their visa counts rise.
The overall number of IT jobs in the United States is declining because of the economic recession, according to an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses in Alexandria, Va. The NACCB found that IT employment declined by nearly 50,000 jobs in December, after falling by almost 34,000 in November.
Janice Miller, a city councilor in Oldsmar, Fla., said that workers from India continue to be brought in to work at a technology center operated in Oldsmar by The Nielsen Co. On the other hand, she said, "there are a lot of [local] people out of work."
Nielsen, which is best known for measuring TV audiences, began laying off some of its employees at the Oldsmar facility last year, on the heels of announcing a 10-year, $1.2 billion outsourcing agreement with Tata in October 2007.
The $787 billion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Barack Obama two weeks ago restricts H-1B hiring by financial services firms that receive federal bailout funds. But those limits don't affect outsourcing vendors that provide IT services to the financial sector.
Srini Pallia, vice president of business technology services at Wipro, said his company will likely hire more workers in the United States if the restrictions on H-1B use are expanded. But, Pallia added, such restrictions may well drive companies that planned to keep IT work in the United States -- even if it would be done partly by H-1B holders -- to look offshore.
This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition. Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.