At a time when uncertainty over H-1B visa regulations and its future continues to loom over migrant workforce in the US, the approval rate for both new and extended visas has gone down. According to the Centre for Immigration Studies (CIS), government statistics show that the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is slowly reducing approval rates on a case-by-case basis in 2019, as compared to 2015. However, there are no major policy changes being officially announced by the Trump administration.
According to government statistics, Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of H1-B visas. 76% of the total visas issued went to professionals from India last year.
CIS states that while there are nearly 750,000 H-1B workers in the US, there are usually more H-1B workers on extended visas than on new ones. More questions are now being asked when visa extensions are sought, CIS says. This is usually called requests for evidence (RFEs) and as per the data, approval rates after RFEs have dropped from 95.7% in 2015 to 61.5% in the first three months of this fiscal year.
In terms of companies that apply for a majority of these H-1B visas, approval rates show that the large firms such as Cognizant, TCS and Infosys – which outsource workers to other companies -- are much more likely to run into denials as compared to US-based tech firms such as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft that employ foreign workers directly, according to the CIS study.
The CIS study states, “The major U.S.-based firms, such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, increased their H-1B workforces during the year, while net reductions were imposed on the big Indian outsourcing firms, such as Cognizant, Tata, and Infosys.”
While Infosys and TCS are Indian firms, Cognizant is a US-based tech company, but also follows an outsourcing model, with most of its workforce being based in India. According to its annual report for the year ending 2018, Cognizant had approximately 281,600 employees at the end of 2018, of which 194,700 were in India.
While firms like Cognizant, Infosys and TCS apply for most number of visas, their approval rates stood at 62%, 74% and 82% respectively, while firms such as Microsoft and Apple had an approval rate of 99%.
Calculations by CIS based on newly released USCIS data shows that in 2018 Cognizant faced the highest amount of denials of H-1B extensions, which stood at 3,548, followed by Infosys which saw 2,042 denials, TCS saw 1,744 denials followed by Deloitte, which saw 1,281 in H-1B visa extensions. Among the top 30 firms that apply for H-1B visas, there were a total of 13,177 visa extension denials. In total, the H-1B workforce for the 30 firms increased by only 244 in 2018.
Another study by CIS states that while it is unlikely that the program will be terminated or see any major policy change, its rate of growth might be slowed down.
Interestingly, this data comes nearly 2 months after US President Donald Trump promised ‘certainty’ and a path to citizenship for those on the H-1B visa.
"H1-B holders in the US can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US,” he had tweeted on January 11, 2019.