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Microsoft Corp wants fewer H-1B visas

Microsoft Corp has filed substantially fewer applications for specialty visas for next year as the weak economy depletes its need for workers, a top company official said.

Speaking on the first day the federal government starts taking applications for so-called H-1B visas, General Counsel Brad Smith said he believes the industry will likely follow the software giant’s lead.

“I think we will see substantially fewer H-1B applications filed this year. That is the case here at Microsoft,” Smith told reporters on a conference call.

In recent years, US immigration officials have been overwhelmed by applications for H-1B visas, which let US companies employ foreign guest workers in highly specialised jobs for three years. But worldwide recession and major layoffs at companies such as Microsoft and International Business Machines Corp have changed the picture.

Smith also said that, in contrast to last year, most applications will be for current workers. “Fewer than half of our applications will be for new hires,” he said. “It won’t sunrise me if we see that as a broader trend in the industry as a whole.”

Smith would not comment directly on legislation likely to be reintroduced soon aimed at ensuring US workers are given first priority over foreign workers in hiring decisions.

The legislation, backed by Senators Charles Grassley, a Republican, and Richard Durbin, a Democrat, will likely require companies to pledge to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans for a job before seeking a visa for it.

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