Hira believes the H-1B usage data should give pause to the lawmakers who introduced the Immigration Innovation Act. "If that bill were to be passed we'd see a major hemorrhaging of American jobs and it would discourage American kids from studying high-tech fields," he said.
Microsoft would not comment on the USCIS data. The company is perhaps the leading industry advocate for tech immigration reform and increasing the "STEM pipeline," referring to science, technology, engineering and math jobs.
The large hike in H-1B visa use marks the first time that new-use approvals broke 100,000. When asked to double-check those surprising results, a USCIS spokesman said they were confident of the data.
Some sources who saw the numbers speculate that the higher H-1B count numbers may be result of a shift from the L-1 visa, which are used by companies with offices in the U.S. and abroad to transfer employees. Visa rejection rates have been rising, they noted.
Hong Kong-based CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, an equity and financial services group, said visa rejection rates are exceeding 40%. But it believed the outlook for overseas firms is improving thanks to shift in Congress on immigration.
Citing recent moving to liberalize access to work visas and permanent residency, CLSA sees Congress "taking a more reformist and accommodative stance moving away from the anti-business immigration rhetoric which dominated the US immigration discourse through 2011-12."
Search the 2012 H-1B database by employer to see how many new H-1B visas were granted to a company.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.