The area comprising Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Marietta ranked 14th among U.S. metropolitan areas in a poll conducted by the Brookings Institution into the number of most high-skilled foreign workers awarded H-1B visas in 2013.
According to an April 2 Brookings news release, there were 5,062 such approvals in 2013 representing 2 percent of the total 256,335, with the highest metro area, New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, registering a count of 29,161.
Daryl Buffenstein, a partner in the Atlanta office of the global immigration firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP, told Global Atlanta that the approvals registered in the poll seemed high to him and probably included some positions not recognized by the quotas such as government research agencies and higher educational institutions.
He also said that the number may have included H-1B employees who had switched jobs from one company to another.
“I think that the situation is really even more critical,” he said. “Even with these numbers it’s a very small percentage of the American workforce.”
The Washington-based think-tank recently released the Freedom of Information Act search results since employers submit applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for temporary employment visas for foreigners in specialty occupations on April 1.
If the number of applications submitted during the first week of April exceeds the 83,000 cap, visas are awarded via lottery.
The release says that “every year businesses report frustration with both the limited number of visas and the first-come, first-served system for allocation.”
For the past three years, according to the release, the cap has been reached more quickly, adding that “all indications point to high demand again this year.”
Brookings recently held a roundtable discussion to discuss policies toward high-skilled immigrants, including reforming the H-1B visa program and measures to retain foreign students studying in STEM fields.
The release says some policymakers have proposed regional visa programs for allocating visas for high-skilled workers based on local labor market needs, while others have proposed a Global Entrepreneurship in Residence Program to get around the H-1B cap by allowing foreign graduates of U.S. universities to start their own businesses in the U.S.
Mr. Buffenstein is not optimistic of a political solution in the near term, calling immigration issues “a political football.”