The Data Behind America’s H-1B Visa Program

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by visualcapitalist

The H-1B Visa in Charts

The Briefing

  • The H-1B visa is extremely tech focused, with total software developers making up 38% of all applications
  • More than 275,000 applications were filed in fiscal 2021, but only 85,000 will be accepted

H-1B Visa Origins

The H-1B Visa is an immigration program that brings highly skilled workers into America when a shortage of those skills exists in the domestic labor market. The program came to life as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, under the George H.W. Bush administration. Although the program was temporarily suspended for 10 months under the Trump administration, this stoppage has since been lifted by Biden.

Though regulations permit specialized knowledge workers from various fields, it is primarily tech jobs that crowd these occupations. For instance, software developers and computer systems engineers/architects collectively cover almost 50% of all roles.

Competition Intensifies

The H-1B visa is highly competitive. In fiscal 2021, program applications hit 275,000, a 15-year high. The program follows a lottery system where 85,000 applicants are selected at random. Today, that means a given applicant has about a 30% chance of getting in.

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Year Number of Applicants
2021 275,000
2020 200,000
2019 187,500
2018 200,000
2017 237,500
2016 225,000
2015 175,000
2014 125,000

Although the system is a lottery, the first 20,000 spots are reserved for those with a master’s degree or higher, so those holding a higher education tend to have improved odds.

Roughly two-thirds of applicants come from India. The large Indian presence exists in the sponsor companies list as well.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an IT services and consulting company, headquartered in Mumbai, India. In addition to being a top visa sponsor, they’re also among the top two US recruiters of IT services talent, an industry India thrives in. The company trades on the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and hold a market cap of $160 billion (₹12 trillion).

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America’s Immigration Question

Unlike some other immigration programs, the H-1B visa is not permanent, with a duration of stay between three to six years, contingent on maintaining employment. Should a termination occur, the person must leave the U.S. within the 60-day grace period.

America’s view on immigration can fluctuate over time, affecting application numbers in some cases, like for university and MBA programs. A 2020 poll showed that “the social and political climate in the U.S.” and “feeling welcome in the U.S.” were two growing factors for a decline in international students over the last few years.

But as of now, it looks like this sentiment hasn’t transferred over to H-1B Visa applicants and the program remains more attractive than ever.

 

 

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