Visa Crunch

Approval rates for H-1B visas take flight as the demand for tech talent soars

As demand for technology talent in the United States continues to rise, the US administration has approved a higher number of H-1B visas this year. H-1B visa approval rates were 98.1 percent in June and 97 percent during the first three quarters of the US fiscal year, respectively, compared to about 84 percent in 2018 and 2019 during the preceding Donald Trump administration.

During the Trump presidency, approval rates dropped as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began dismissing more visa applications or requesting additional supporting documents.

“There are a variety of reasons for the lower number of RFEs (requests for evidence) and an elevated approval rate, along with a change in administration, the reinstatement of the deference policy, and, of course, the ITServe decision regarding IT staffing firms. In the last six months, the environment for legal immigration has improved,” said Nandini Nair, a partner at the law firm Greenspoon Marder.

Having followed a settlement with the US-based IT industry group ITServe Alliance, the USCIS rescinded two policy memos related to the adjudication of certain H-1B visa positions in June 2020. Just after the US district court ordered the agency to scrap the ‘Neufeld Memo,’ which compelled petitioners to develop a specific employee-employer relationship, the agency did so. The immigration agency frequently used this memo, along with another requiring the submission of an employee’s schedule, to deny visa petitions from staffing firms or IT services firms that frequently deployed workers at client locations. The agency announced last month that it would hold a second lottery in the coming fiscal year because it did not receive sufficient applications to meet the Congressionally-mandated limit.

Every year, the US issues 65,000 new H-1B visas, with an additional 20,000 for those who have earned a master’s degree in the US. Immigration experts have called for a revamp of the visa application process, which currently requires employers to apply for visas over a six-month period before the employee can be deployed.

“I believe that the registration system needs to be changed or revised because it has allowed many people to game the system and take away opportunities from others. In fact, I believe that the lottery system should be abolished entirely and that US employers should be able to file at any time during the year as needed.” “Obviously, we have a labor shortage in the United States, and eliminating this antiquated lottery system would be beneficial to the American economy,” Nair explained.

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