MANHASSET, N.Y. IEEE-USA is protesting the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service's continuing issuance of H-1B visas to foreign workers while unemployment levels remain high for electrical engineers and computer scientists.
The INS issued 79,100 first-time H-1B visas in the 2002 fiscal year ended Sept. 30, according to agency statistics. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 120,000 electrical engineers and computer scientists were unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2002.
In addition to the first-time H-1B visas issued in fiscal 2002, the INS allowed "[an] estimated 215,000 extensions and initial H-1B visas granted in exempt categories such as non-profits, laboratories and colleges," the IEEE-USA said in a statement. That swelled the number of H-1B visas "to more than 294,000" for the fiscal year, the group said.
IEEE-USA President Jim Leonard said he believes "It's time for Congress to lower the H-1B visa quota back to 65,000 from its current level of 195,000," said IEEE-USA president Jim Leonard. "This will happen automatically if no new legislation is approved."
Congress raised the number of H-1B temporary visas that INS could issue to foreign workers in the late 1990s at the height of economic and industry expansion. The unemployment rate for EEs was 1.3 percent in 2000, but has more than tripled since then. "The large pool of guest workers makes it much more difficult for skilled U.S. workers to find jobs," Leonard said.
Twenty-six thousand electrical and electronics engineers and 94,000 computer scientists were to be unemployed in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2002. The unemployment rate for EEs in that quarter was 3.9 percent, down slightly from 4.0 percent in the third quarter. The unemployment rate for computer scientists was 5.1 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 4.6 percent in the third quarter.
IEEE-USA noted that Despite a grim job outlook for the U.S. high-tech work force, "industry has petitioned, and government has granted 799,700 new or renewal H-1B visas in the past two years," IEEE-USA said. "This includes 163,600 new visas in 2001 and 342,000 in exempt categories. And when FY '02 ended, another 18,000 new H-1B applications were pending."
EE Times could not verify IEEE-USA's statistics with the INS by press time.