By Shuran Huang | Capital News Service
Xiaomin Wu, who is from Wuhan, China, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in May with a master’s degree in information systems. But she hasn’t left VCU. Instead, she now works in the provost’s office as a business intelligence analyst.
“When I was doing the job hunting, I threw out three applications within Virginia Commonwealth University,” Wu said. “Two offers were received in the end.”
To get the job in VCU’s student affairs division, Wu needed a visa called H-1B. This program allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
During the 2015 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. employers received approval to hire almost 1.2 million foreign workers with H-1B visas, according to an analysis of OFLC data. More than 32,000 of these immigrant employees were approved to work in Virginia, including about 7,600 in the Richmond metropolitan area.
Nationwide, the government granted about 25 percent more H-1B visas in 2015 than during the preceding year.
During the 2014 fiscal year, U.S. employers received approval to hire about 925,000 foreign workers with H-1B visas. More than 25,000 of these immigrant employees were approved to work in Virginia, including about 6,100 in the Richmond area.
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Employers using the H-1B program range from technology firms to hospitals. Colleges and universities often hire foreign workers for their language skills, research prowess and academic expertise. More than 20,000 H-1B visas were granted to universities nationwide in 2015, including about 525 in Virginia.
For example, VCU received approval to hire 64 foreign workers – mostly researchers and assistant professors – under the H-1B program in 2015. (The VCU Health System Authority hired an addition 28 foreign employees, almost all of them physicians.)
In the same way, Virginia Tech obtained H-1B visas for 123 foreign workers during the past year. And the University of Virginia got 114 such visas. The numbers fluctuate annually: In 2014, Tech got 106 H-1B visas; U.Va., 94; and VCU, 74.
“It has to do with the fluctuation in demand,” said Timothy White, a senior immigration consultant at U.Va. “Other visa types are being used more than H-1B to picking back up the economy.”
White said most of the foreign workers at U.Va. are employed in the schools of medicine, engineering and architecture. Generally, most foreign workers on H-1B visas at U.Va. are researchers.
Of all universities in the U.S., the University of Michigan received the most H-1B visas in 2015 – 391. Then came Stanford (368), Purdue (269), Harvard (236) and the University of Pennsylvania (223).
Other kinds of employers – especially in the technology sector – also rely on H-1B visas.
In Richmond, the employers that were approved to hire the most H-1B workers during the past year were:
- Cognizant Technology Solutions, 1,262
- Deloitte Consulting, 1,176
- Igate Technologies Inc., 987
- Wipro Limited, 830
- Experis US Inc., 242
- Capital One, 189
Those numbers vary year to year. In 2014, for example, Wipro was tops in the number of H-1B visas (1,277), followed by Cognizant (673), Igate (602) Deloitte (304), PricewaterhouseCoopers (250) and Capital One (248).
Debra Dowd is a business immigration attorney and the founder of Dowd & Co. in Richmond. She counsels and assists employers in getting the right visas for their international employees.
“Capital One has a lot of computer and financial analyst need,” Dowd said. “They do a lot of recruiting on college campuses. The field in which they are seeking employees happens to where they need a lot of international students.”
Dowd said international students with valuable skills know Capital One is willing to sponsor them. Many international students prefer to apply for this company.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sets aside 65,000 H-1B visas for new applicants and 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a master’s or doctorate from a U.S. university.
The demand for H-1B visas outstrips the supply. The number of applications quickly reaches the cap. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services conducts a lottery system to award the visas.
According to the American Immigration Council, “A computer-generated random selection process is used to select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree ‘cap exemption.’”