Home Government Tech Policy H-1B visa applications down for first time in four years

H-1B visa applications down for first time in four years

Changes made by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to the criteria for granting H-1B visas appear to have had an effect, with the number of applications falling for the first time in four years.

The USCIS received 199,000 applications for H-1B visas for the next fiscal year, compared to 236,000 received last year.

A total of 85,000 H-1B visas are issued annually and are meant for foreign workers who have specialised skills to spend a maximum of six years working in the US for a company that has sponsored them.

As the application process kicked off earlier this month, the USCIS said that computer programmers would not be presumed to be eligible for an H-1B visa.

Rather, it specified that there needed to be details of the qualifications of the programmer supplied so that it was clear that the individual was fit to do the specialised task for which the visa was being sought.

The new guidance means that H-1B visas will go to very high-skilled and higher-paid professionals, with low- and mid-level jobs presumably to go to American workers instead.

Right from the time of Donald Trump's election as US President, there have been fears that wholesale changes will be made to the H-1B visa system.

Trump and others in his administration had said repeatedly that H-1B visas were being used by companies in the US to cut costs, by outsourcing work to outfits that bring in workers from abroad, mostly from India.

Prior to his inauguration, Trump held a summit with leaders of major technology companies where the idea of doing away with the lottery system for granting H-1B visas was discussed. There was also a proposal to make the application fee for an H-1B visa much higher.

Indian outsourcing companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam, among others, have been the ones most fearful about changes to the H-1B visa regime.

They undertake a fair number of projects for American companies. Some work is often done in India, but in many cases Indians are sent to the US to carry out the work.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.