The US IT industry may have been hit hard by the economic recession last year, but demand for visas to hire skilled foreign IT workers still rose dramatically in 2001.
US companies and other groups applied for over 342,000 H-1B work visas in 2001, up 14 per cent from 2000, according to the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service which issues the visas.
The H-1B visa is a six-year visa used for bringing skilled foreign workers in sectors that have shortages of qualified US workers.
About half the H-1B visas the US government grants each year are for computer related jobs.
Last year also saw more H-1B visas issued than any year before. Numbers rose by 40 per cent after Congress, under pressure from the technology industry, increased caps on quotas.
But whether the increased numbers reflect confidence in the US IT market is debatable. Around 80,000 new engineering and computer jobs were thought to have been created in the technology industry over the past year.
But opponents to hiring foreign workers argue that recession-hit firms are simply bringing in cheap labour.
Some studies estimate that the average annual wages of computer programmers and engineers working in the US on the visas are 15 to 33 per cent lower than those of US citizens.
Similar UK plans for fast-track immigration schemes have also been blasted as being used to bring cheap IT contractors into the UK market to undercut the home grown competition.
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