Friday, 27 April 2018 10:28

Study finds more H-1B visas going to US tech companies

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More H-1B visas are now going to American technology companies and fewer visas are being used by India-based companies, a study of government data for 2017-18 by the research organisation National Foundation for American Policy, has found.

The NFAP said that the data it had obtained from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service appeared to undermine the argument that the government should impose new restrictions on H-1B visas.

While the Trump administration has said repeatedly that changes would be made in the H-1B visa system, the process this year went through more or less in the same way as in 2017.

Donald Trump came to office with promises to reform the H-1B visa process and introduce a number of changes that would skew the system to favour Americans and not foreigners as has been the case all these years.

But few of the changes that have been mentioned in the media since Trump's inauguration have been implemented, apart from some tightening of the rules around the application process.

The NFAP said Amazon (2515), Microsoft (1479), Intel (1230), and Google (1213) were among the top 10 employers for approved H-1B visas for initial employment in FY 2017.

Facebook, with 720 new H-1B initial visas approved in FY 2017, an increase of 248, or 53%, and Apple, with 673, a 7% increase, were 14th and 15th on the list.

Amazon had the second most number of H-1B visas approved for initial employment in FY 2017, with an increase from 1416 in FY 2016 to 2515 in FY 2017. NFAP said Amazon’s use of H-1Bs reflected its increased growth in the US, particularly in research and development.

The top seven Indian-based companies received only 8468 approved H-1B visas for initial employment in FY 2017, a decline of 43% since FY 2015.

"Given that 199,000 applications were filed in FY 2017 for the FY 2018 cap, the data shows even if none of these companies received new H-1B visas the annual limit still would have been reached on the first day of the April filing period," NFAP said.

"The data indicates the problem is not which companies are receiving H-1B visas but that the 85,000-annual limit is too low for an economy the size of the United States."

Major findings of the NFAP study:

  • H-1B visa demand reflects, in part, the composition of students in key tech fields in the US.
  • Emerging technologies, such as driverless vehicles, may also be increasing the demand for people with high levels of technical skill, including foreign-born researchers. Tesla (207 approved new H-1B petitions in FY 2017), Uber (158) and General Motors (179) all employ individuals in H-1B status.
  • The decline in H-1B visas for Indian-based companies is due to industry trends toward digital services such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence, which require fewer workers, and a choice by companies to rely less on visas and to build up their domestic workforces in America.
  • The number of new H-1B petitions for Tata Consultancy Services declined by over 50% from FY 2015 to FY 2017 (from 4674 to 2312). The same is true for Infosys (a 57% decline from FY 2015 to FY 2017) and Wipro (a 61% decline from FY 2015 to 2017). Five of the seven top Indian-based companies saw declines in FY 2017 from FY 2016 – Infosys, Wipro, HCL America, Larsen & Toubro and Mindtree. Only TCS, with an increase of 13%, and Tech Mahindra, which increased by 42%, had more H-1B petitions for initial employment approved in FY 2017 than in FY 2016.
  • Reducing the H-1B annual limit in 2004 after the temporary increases of FY 1999 to FY 2003 did not increase the hiring of US-born professionals and limited hiring of the most highly skilled foreign nationals.
  • H-1B visa holders contribute to productivity growth and can lead to higher wages for natives.
  • When companies submitted applications in April 2017 (for the FY 2018 H-1B cap), the unemployment rate was 2.5% for “computer and mathematical science” occupations and 2.1% for “architecture and engineering” occupations, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
  • According to US government data, 60% of H-1B visa holders approved for initial employment possess a master’s degree or higher.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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