By Miriam Jordan
A coveted visa program that feeds skilled workers to top-tier U.S. technology companies and universities is on track to leave thousands of spots unfilled for the first time since 2003, a sign of how the weak economy has eroded employment even among highly trained professionals.
The program, known as H-1B, has been a mainstay of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, where many companies have come to depend on securing visas for computer programmers from India or engineers from China. Last year, even as the recession began to bite, employers snapped up the 65,000 visas available in just one day. This year, however, as of Sept. 25 -- nearly six months after the U.S. government began accepting applications -- only 46,700 petitions had been filed....
Vivek Wadhwa, a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley [School of Information] who has studied H-1B visas, said that trend has been compounded by what he sees as rising anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. "The best and the brightest who would normally come here are saying, 'Why do we need to go to a country where we are not welcome, where our quality of life would be less, and we would be at the bottom of the social ladder?'" Mr. Wadhwa said.