HIB Quota Forecast
The economic downturn has hit immigration lawyers across the country badly. One of the indications of the depressed conditions for immigration attorneys is the state of this year's H-1B quota. We discuss our quota forecast below and then make general observations about the immigration law business today.
First, lets take a look at the H-1B market, for new beneficiaries. There is no question that the quantity of applications for this year's quota is significantly down. Lets look at the worst hit categories. Not surprisingly, the financial sector is very hard hit, reflecting its general malaise. Furthermore, Congress's action making many in this sector subject to dependency rules came too late in the season for recruiting in an uncertain market. Also down are many of the larger corporations again consistent with general economic conditions. Surprisingly, many of the smaller H-1B dependent companies are also significantly down. The downturn in all the above categories is likely in the 50%-80% range. However, the larger H-1B dependents, who are the largest users of the H-1B program, appear to be down less, perhaps in the neighborhood of 30%. Proportionately, this year will see greater usage by smaller companies (translation: more RFEs per I-129). A big chunk of filings will be "legacy Fs and Ls", folks who lost the lottery in the past, and will now get H-1B status. Based on our informal survey, it appears to us that, despite the last minute rush currently under way, the quota will not be reached in the initial days of April. Instead, the Bachelor's quota will likely be reached in mid-April, and the Master's quota not before late-April. In other words, for the first quarter, H-1B quota-related business is down in the neighborhood of 60% - a terrible number for any industry. However, April performance will make up somewhat for this since the H-1B season will be longer this year, and the final H-1B business for the bar can be exactly forecast – simply divide 65,000 (plus 20,000 less Chile and Spore) by last year's applications (approximately 126,000 plus 24,000) – i.e. down by about 45%. Add to this the fact that the longer season will be kinder on everyone who works at an immigration law firm, as everyone will have fewer sleepless nights spent preparing for last minute filings.
Warren Buffet, the noted investment guru, recently said that the US economy had "fallen off a cliff" in early February. This is certainly true for the immigration bar. Business immigration is down overall in the 30% range, family immigration in the 10% range. However, Removal business continues to rise sharply, say around 30% (all numbers in this para are current trends, annualized). The immigration field as a whole is shrinking in the 15% range currently, the sharpest contraction ever. It is entirely possible that the dim economic conditions may continue for many more months, until CIR, or economic recovery, whichever comes earlier. CIR, when it comes, is likely to change the fundamental shape of the immigration law field, perhaps ending the domination of corporate immigration dollars. We will have much more on this matter in future issues of Immigration Daily, stay tuned.
Why has this gloomy state come about? The reason is political and cultural, not legal. Immigration is viewed as primarily an enforcement area (witness former ICE chief Julie Myers, who has gone into the compliance business) and the Executive Branch views immigrants literally as animals (see the demeaning code words the Department of State uses for immigrants, one of them is "donkey"). Recent statements by President Obama, Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid extolling immigration and decrying the view that immigration is primarily about enforcement could not have come at a better time. CIR cannot come fast enough.
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