Trending: Analysis: Seattle startup ecosystem poised for unprecedented acceleration of company creation

Requests for H1-B visas, the controversial 22-year-old program that allows skilled workers into the U.S. to complete temporary jobs, are increasingly being made by large corporations in the fields of science, engineering and technology. In fact, a new report out from the Brookings Institution finds that a whopping 47 percent of requests were in computer-related industries, followed by 8.2 percent in the fields of engineering.

Microsoft was the top company requesting H1-Bs, with an average of 4,109 between 2010 and 2011. Other big tech companies in the top 20 included Intel, IBM, Infosys, Oracle and Google.

Because of Microsoft (and to a lesser degree Amazon), Seattle ranked in the top 10 cities for H1-B requests with 9,633 and a request rate of 5.6 per 1,000 employed workers. That was behind the number one region of Silicon Valley, which saw 14,926 requests at a rate of 17.1 per 1,000 employeed workers.

The Seattle area’s total share of H1-Bs stood at three three percent, ranking 10th, behind the metro areas of New York, LA, San Francisco, San Jose, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Dallas and Houston.

Sanjay Bhatt at The Seattle Times digs into the numbers and finds that despite the high number of H1-B requests in the area, Seattle ranked 64th in terms of federal money from the program used to train U.S. workers with similar skills. According to the report, the Seattle area received just $1.9 million in federal skill grants during the period of 2001 to 2011, representing 72 cents per worker.

That contrasts with a city such as Pittsburgh, with just over 2,000 H1-B requests, which received $7 million or $3.61 per worker. Gainesville, Florida, meanwhile, had 336 H1-B request between 2010 and 2011. However, the home of the University of Florida attracted $4.9 million in grant dollars, the equivalent of $22 per worker.

Silicon Valley’s San Jose, perhaps the closest comparable to Seattle, also attracted more federal dollars. It received $2.9 million, or $2.07 per worker.

The report notes:

Metropolitan areas with a high demand for H-1B workers are only receiving $3.09 on average per working age person 16 years or older of the technical skills training grants compared to $15.26 for metros that have a lower demand for H-1Bs from 2001-2011. STEM education funds are similarly distributed with the high H-1B metros receiving only $1.00 per working age person 16 years or older compared to $14.10 in the low H-1B metros.

The authors also suggest that the U.S. government implement new policies that allow caps on visas to be adjusted based on the needs of employers in specific regions.

According to the report, employer requests have exceeded the number of visas issued each year, except from 2001 to 2003 when the cap was raised from 65,000 to 195,000.

You can read the full report here.


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