Indian H-1B workers particularly affected by green card delays: Migration Policy Institute

On an average, a high-skilled worker from India has to wait anywhere from nine to 11 years for his green card. Regarding increased scrutiny of the H-1B visa applications, the report said that between January 1 and August 31, 2017, the immigration agencies issued almost double RFEs.

Highly-skilled workers from India who are the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B program are also the largest affected lot due to their pending green cards, according to a report by Migration Policy Institute (MPI). Their longer stays due to pending green cards have put more pressure on uncapped work visas, which accounted for more than double the capped visas in the fiscal year 2016 according to the latest data available.

Every year about 85,000 temporary work visas are issued to foreign workers under the capped category. However, a major chunk of approved H-1B visas is outside this category. In the fiscal year 2016, more than two-thirds of the total visas issued were from the uncapped category, the highest so far.

“A total of 345,262 H-1B petitions were approved in fiscal 2016, including 230,759 for continuing workers—the highest level yet,” according to the report. “Rising demand for uncapped visas is driven in large measure by the delays employers face in getting a green card for their H-1B workers. Indian H-1B workers, who face average waits of nine to 11 years depending on the green-card category, are particularly affected.”

As per rules, a high-skilled foreign worker can live in the country for six years, this includes the initial visa period plus the extensions. But, some workers who have a pending employer-sponsored green card are allowed visa renewals even after the six-year stay. In the fiscal year 2016, more than 80 percent of the total petitions approved for renewals or continued employment was of Indian nationals.  “The number of Indian nationals approved for continuing employment has increased 190 percent since 2000,” according to the analysis. “This suggests that Indian nationals are staying in the country in H-1B status for longer periods than other nationals.”

Apparently, the anxieties surrounding the increased scrutiny of new applications are also not unfounded. As per the report, there has been a 45 percent increase in the “requests for evidence” or RFEs between January 1 and August 31, 2017. Renewals too will bear the impact. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gave a limited review to continued employment applications until April 18, 2017, but following Trump’s executive order on Buy American and Hire American, the immigration agency has increased the scrutiny for renewals as well.

The report revealed some interesting facts regarding the sponsoring employers, and the average salary paid to workers in an H-1B dependent company in comparison with the one not dependent on the work visa program.

“Almost one-third of all approved H-1B petitions in fiscal 2017 went to just 20 companies, even as 40,645 firms were approved to sponsor H-1B visas that year,” the report explained. “The top employers are either foreign consulting firms, some accused of using the visa to outsource U.S. jobs, or U.S. high-tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Google.”

In its report, MPI noted that the average salary in an H-1B dependent company was 33 percent less than in a company that is not dependent on foreign workers.

“Workers at H-1B dependent employers in the top 20 earned an average $82,788 in fiscal 2017, as compared to $110,511 for H-1B workers in top firms that are not dependent,” the report continued. “And just 27 percent of H-1B workers in the dependent firms had a master’s degree or higher, as compared to 55 percent working for employers who are not H-1B dependent.”

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