Those thinking the H-1B program is about cheap labor might have difficulty explaining why so few H-1Bs are being requested by businesses. After all, if H-1Bs are a way to save labor costs, wouldn't employers be firing their US workers like crazy in order to take advantage?

The demand for the new fiscal year's allotment of H-1B visas is lighter than it has been for many years - even less than during the height of the recession. As of yesterday, only 11,200 H-1Bs had been claimed and week to week demand since the quota opened up on April 1st has been 1000 to 1200. At this pace, numbers could last until next summer (compared to running out in January of this year).

The real story is that H-1Bs are expensive for employers. They must pay lawyer costs, significant government filing fees and deal with a host of compliance rules including meeting minimum prevailing wage requirements. While the antis will point to anecdotal evidence of abuse here and there, the bigger picture is that employers tend to use H-1Bs when the labor supply is particularly tight and they have little choice. The proof of this is the actual H-1B usage numbers which skyrocket when unemployment plunges and plummet when there are plenty of US workers available. That's why I've been filing a lot more physician H-1B applications than programmer petitions over the last few years.