India continued to corner the largest chunk of H-1B visas granted to foreigners hired by US companies for high-speciality occupations, with 75.6% of the approved petitions going to Indians in 2017, the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, according to official data.
But there was a drop by 4.1% in the number of beneficiaries from India approved for “initial employment” — fresh hires — in 2017 over 2016. The number for “continuing employment” — those who applied for renewal, or for a switch to another employer or for adding a concurrent employer — rose by 12.5%.
While the number of H-1B visa petitions filed and approved continued to climb, those for initial employment dropped — by 7% for those filed and by 5.6% for those approved, according to a report by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which oversees a large part of the H-1B visa programme.
The report does not give a break up of numbers for country-wise filings to ascertain the number of denials. And it also did not cite numbers for beneficiary companies. Indian IT firms such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro have been among top recipients, but have faced increasing attention since Trump took office.
The Trump administration also launched a series of measures to ensure the H-1B programme is not used to displace American workers, as laid out in the president’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order signed in February 2017, through enhanced scrutiny, stricter enforcement and new rules.
The impact of these policies was not clear in the numbers in the USCIS report, which also assigned no explanation, for instance, for the drop in overall petitions filed and approved for initial employment — from 144,583 in 2016 to 134,348 in 2017.
“It is unclear to what extent Trump administration policies affected company approvals of H-1B petitions for FY 2017,” said Stuart Anderson of National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan body that has studied the H-1B programme extensively. “Since the increased denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) came towards the end of the fiscal year, it is not known to what extent they affected H-1B cases selected in the ‘lottery’ held in April 2017.”
Even in the changed circumstance, however, India topped as the country of birth for both initial employment and continuing employment with 75.6%, improving over 74.2% in 2016. It was followed by China (9.3%), Canada (1.0%), Philippines (1.0%) and South Korea (0.9), in the top five places.
Among other continuing trends noted in the report was the complete dominance of computer-related occupations as the top group bagging 69.8% of approved H-1B petitions in 2017. The next best were architecture and engineering, administrative specializations, education, and medicine and health.
But in mean annual compensation, the top five occupation groups were law and jurisprudence ($138,000), medicine and health ($130,000), managers and officials ($112,000), social sciences ($90,000) mathematics and physical sciences ($89,000). Computer-related jobs clocked in at $85,000.
And most recipients had a bachelor’s degree or higher, for both fresh hires and continuing employment and those in the age-group 30-34 years accounted for 40.20% of all types of hirings, followed by 26.04% for the 25-29 category and 21.89% for ages between 35 and 39.