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Tech firms moving away from H1-B visas? USCIS sees 4% drop in applications

Romita Majumdar/Mumbai 14 Apr 18 | 10:46 PM

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that it received a total of 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period for 2018-19, a drop of 4 per cent from what it received last year, signalling that companies, especially the technology services firms are steadily reducing the dependency on non-immigrant visas. 

The number of petitions had reached a record-high of 236,000 in 2016 but have since dropped following US president Donald Trump's call to embrace a "Buy American, Hire American" strategy. For the 2017-18 filing period, USCIS had received 199,000 applications.

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H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies in the United States to employ foreign workers in occupations that require skilled expertise. 

On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated process to select random H-1B petitions to meet the US Congress-mandated cap and the US advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap, for the fiscal year (FY) 2019.

USCIS announced on April 6, that it had received enough H-1B petitions to meet the statutory cap of 65,000 and the master’s cap of 20,000. USCIS will reject and return all unselected applications along with their filing fees unless the petition is a prohibited multiple filing.

"USCIS is expected to begin working on cap cases soon after they are receipted, but high filing volume and suspension of premium processing through September 2018, and a backlog of non-cap cases could mean lengthy H1B cap processing times," said US-based global immigration service, Fragomen. 

USCIS received 95,885 advanced-degree H-1B cap submissions and 94,213 standard H-1B cap submissions during the FY 2019 filing period.

The immigration department conducted the selection process for the master’s cap first. All unselected master’s cap petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 cap. 

However, it could still take few weeks for employers to finally know how many of their applications have cleared the lottery as USCIS continues receiving other applications.

Fragomen also noted that based on the statistics provided, advanced-degree filings had a 21 per cent chance of selection in the advanced-degree lottery. All remaining cases had a 38 per cent chance of selection in the standard lottery. Odds for advanced-degree cases were somewhat higher because these filings had a second chance for selection if they were not chosen in the initial lottery.

Following Trump's clampdown on foreign professionals in the country, experts estimate that the top IT giants will reduce the number of applications this year but the overall numbers won't be affected largely due to smaller companies applying for visas. “We have applied for as many number of H-1B visa petitions based on the business demands," Infosys’s Chief Operating Officer, U B Pravin Rao told reporters during the company’s earnings call on Friday. However, the company, like many other Indian IT services firms, has stepped up hiring in the US including recruiting candidates through campus interviews.   

Subburaju Pericherla, founder of strategic business solutions provider CrossBorders said, "The fact that larger IT companies have reduced their applications is beneficial for smaller startups, as this gives them a higher chance of acceptance than what was possible in the past. If a company with 2,000 applications gets only 50 per cent approved, they don't lose much in terms of skill availability but startups are selective about the resources they choose and these numbers may prove beneficial for them." 

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempted from the cap. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted towards the FY 2019 H-1B cap.

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