Low annual limit for H-1B petitions main problem facing employers trying to secure foreign-born talent
Denial rates of H-1B work visas coveted by Indian tech professionals have returned to low levels following the Trump administrationâ€™s losses in federal court during former President Donald Trumpâ€™s last year in office, according to new research.
This means the low annual limit for H-1B petitions is currently the main problem facing employers trying to secure foreign-born talent, according to a new analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonpartisan research organization based in Arlington, Virginia.
Read: Biden lets Trump era H-1B visa ban expire (April 1, 2021)
In April 2022, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported employers submitted over 483,000 H-1B registrations, almost 400,000 more than the 85,000-annual limit for H-1B petitions.
H-1B temporary visas are important because they generally represent the only practical way for a high-skilled foreign national, including an international student, to work long-term in the United States and have an opportunity to become an employment-based immigrant and a US citizen, NFAP said in a media release.
At US universities, more than 70% of full-time graduate students in electrical engineering and computer and information sciences are international students it noted.
â€œDespite the end of the Trump administrationâ€™s restrictive immigration policies that made US companies less competitive in the global battle for talent, companies in America still must deal with the low annual limit on H-1B petitions and employment-based green cards,â€ said Stuart Anderson, NFAPâ€™s executive director.
â€œThese and other policies encourage employers to send work and people outside the United States and make it difficult for many talented people to pursue their dreams in America.â€
A 2022 NFAP study found 55% of Americaâ€™s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more have at least one immigrant founder, illustrating the importance and contributions of immigrants to the US economy.
The denial rate for (new) H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2022 was 2%. The H-1B denial rate declined during the final year of the Trump administration after judges declared many of its H-1B-related actions unlawful.
That forced a legal settlement and changes to restrictive immigration policies that resulted in the denial rate for new H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2021 dropping to 4%, far lower than the denial rate of 24% in FY 2018, 21% in FY 2019 and 13% in FY 2020.
H-1B petitions for â€œinitialâ€ employment are primarily for new employment, typically, for companies, a case that would count against the H-1B annual limit.
Absent significant changes in government policies, high denial rates are unusual since employers would be unlikely to apply for H-1B petitions for individuals who do not qualify, given the time and expense.
The NFAP analysis is based on data from the USCIS H-1B Employer Data Hub, according to a media release.
Read: H-1B Visa Denial Rate Drops (January 24, 2022)
- The denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment was 2% in FY 2022, and 4% in FY 2021, the lowest known levels since data on H-1B denial rates became available.
- During the Trump administration, the denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment was much higher at 13% in FY 2017, 24% in FY 2018, 21% in FY 2019 and 13% in FY 2020. The denial rate in FY 2020 would have been higher if not for a legal settlement before the fourth quarter of FY 2020. Between FY 2010 and FY 2015, the denial rate for H-1B petitions for initial employment ranged between 5% and 8%.
- Amazon had the most approved H-1B petitions for initial employment in FY 2022, with 6,396. Amazon also had the most new H-1B petitions approved in FY 2021 and FY 2020.
- Infosys had the second most H-1B petitions in FY 2022 approved for initial employment at 3,151, which was approximately 2,000 fewer for the company than FY 2021.
- Next was TCS with 2,725, also lower than the previous year, followed by Cognizant (2,521), Google (1,562), Meta/Facebook (1,546), HCL America (1,260) and IBM (1,239). H-1B petitions are counted in the fiscal year they are approved, not in the cap year the H-1B visa holder begins to work.
- According to USCIS data, the median annual salary for H-1B visa holders was $108,000 in FY 2021. In computer-related occupations in FY 2021, the median salary for H-1B visa holders was $111,000, and the average salary in computer-related occupations was $118,000.
- A company could spend up to $31,000 to file an initial H-1B petition (for three years) and an extension for an additional three years based on an NFAP analysis of government fees and attorney costs.
- In January 2023, USCIS proposed a regulation that would significantly increase the fees for employers hiring H-1B visa holders.
- Nearly 70% of H-1B visa holders approved for initial employment in FY 2021 earned a masterâ€™s degree or higher, according to USCIS. At US universities, foreign nationals account for 74% of the full-time graduate students in electrical engineering, 72% in computer and information sciences, and 50% to 70% of full-time graduate students in statistics, civil engineering, materials sciences and pharmaceutical sciences.
- Without international students, it would likely be impossible to sustain graduate-level programs in key fields at many US universities.
- The 85,000 new H-1B petitions allowed each year for companies represent only 0.05% of the approximately 165 million people in the US labor force. Beginning in FY 2004, the supply of H-1B petitions has been exhausted every fiscal year up to the present.
- The denial rate for H-1B petitions for continuing employment was 2% in FY 2022 and FY 2021, much lower than the 12% denial rate in FY 2018 and FY 2019 and the lowest level since data on H-1B denial rates became available.
- H-1B petitions for â€œcontinuingâ€ employment are usually extensions for existing employees at the same company or an H-1B visa holder changing to a new employer.
- Much of the increase in denials for continuing employment during the Trump administration was due to an October 2017 memo that instructed adjudicators to no longer â€œgive deference to the findings of a previously approved petition.â€
- Many extensions of H-1B status were reviewed under a new, more restrictive standard based on policies that judges later determined to be unlawful.
- Employers and attorneys credited USCIS Director Ur Jaddou and the Biden administration for rescinding the October 2017 memo, according to NFAP.