Microsoft Cut Some H-1B Workers but Will Hire More

Microsoft is letting H-1B workers go as part of its plan to lay off about 5,000 employees over 18 months, but the vendor will continue to hire visa holders as well, according to a letter that it sent to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) last week.

Microsoft layoffs add more fuel to H-1B fire

In the letter, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith told Grassley -- a vocal critic of the H-1B program -- that company officials "do not expect to see a significant change in the proportion of H-1B employees in our workforce following the job reductions." Smith didn't disclose the percentage of H-1B workers at Microsoft, saying only that it is "small."

He also said that it's "too early to know the precise answers" to questions such as how many visa holders and U.S. citizens will lose their jobs in the layoffs. But he noted that most of the 1,400 employees laid off in January were U.S. citizens, in keeping with the makeup of Microsoft's workforce.

The letter was a response to one sent to Microsoft in January by Grassley, who said it was "imperative" that the company give job priority to U.S. citizens over visa holders during its layoffs.

Grassley likely targeted Microsoft, rather than the many other IT vendors that are laying off workers, because Chairman Bill Gates has called for an increase in the annual cap on H-1B visas in congressional testimony.

Microsoft also was the top U.S.-based H-1B recipient during the federal government's 2008 fiscal year, with 1,037 approved visas -- putting it fifth overall.

Smith said H-1B holders "have long made crucial contributions" to Microsoft's development efforts and its "ability to help create jobs in this country." He added that about 90% of Microsoft's H-1B employees work in core technology positions or engineering jobs.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld 's print edition.

This story, "Microsoft Cut Some H-1B Workers but Will Hire More" was originally published by Computerworld.

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