April 1 marks the start of H-1B season. Starting today, companies begin their rush to secure one of 65,000 open H-1B slots. They better hurry, too: Last year there were 163,000 applicants, and the government usually stops accepting paperwork after a few days, eventually deciding who gets in via random lottery.
Lottery winners can begin work Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year.
No telling yet whether a combination of new restrictions on TARP-takers from recruiting H-1Bs or the economy will lower this year’s applicant total. But at least Microsoft (MSFT) will be asking for “substantially fewer” foreign staffers this year. Microsoft is historically the biggest U.S.-based employer of H-1Bs and the company H-1B foe Senator Chuck Grassley said had a “moral imperative” to prioritise U.S. jobs as it laid off workers.
That’s what Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said earlier today in a conference call, Bloomberg reports. But even as Microsoft asks for fewer workers, Brad reiterates his support for the program in a blog post today. calling H-1B support “a pet cause for Microsoft.”
It’s still an open question where the H-1B program will go from here. The White House recently promised a delegation of Indian businessmen that no new H-1B restrictions are likely — unless unemployment gets worse, which it is. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sen. Grassley is promising to introduce legislation to expand the new restrictions on the H-1B program to all U.S.-based employers.
Update: Microsoft reps point out we misattributed one quote, and Brad Smith did not call the program “a pet cause for Microsoft.” We apologise for the error.