The fiscal 2021 H-1B visa acceptance rate was the highest in a decade, despite the fact that pandemic-related restrictions on travel forced the American immigration office to hold a second visa lottery in order to reach its quota of 85,000 visas for the year.
This is according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, the acceptance rate for H-1B visas in fiscal 2021, which ran from October 2020 through September this year, was 97.3 per cent.
During the period, the agency received 398,267 petitions for initial and continuing employment, or renewals. Immigration consultants linked this to the increased demand for tech skills in the United States, as digital change swept across industries.
The significant approval rate also shows a shift in the US administration’s approach to immigration under President Joe Biden.
“Biden’s fair and liberal approach towards immigration is unlike the Trump administration, which was highly restrictive in granting immigration benefits to immigrants. Under the prior administration, USCIS officers were directed to take very conservative views in approving H-1B applications. There were several instances previously wherein genuine & bonafide applications were denied in H-1B matters,” said Naresh Gehi, founder of Gehi & Associates, a US-based immigration law firm.
Under Trump, H-1B visa acceptance rates fell to 84.5 per cent in FY18 and FY19, as the immigration agency introduced procedures that made it more difficult to get visas for individuals who would be employed at third-party worksites. These were subsequently reversed through litigation, resulting in an increase in visa approvals in FY2020, near the end of Trump’s presidency.
Furthermore, the US dropped a plan that would have altered how the H-1B visa process is managed on Monday. The judgment by the Department of Homeland Security came after the rule was vacated by the US District Court for the Northern District of California in September.
The US proposed in January to change the way H-1B visa applications are chosen, moving away from a lottery-based system and toward a system based on ranking and income levels. Various industry groups have come out against it, stating that it would have an impact on American businesses’ capacity to attract talented labour.
The US Chamber of Commerce and others had also filed challenges against the proposed rule, resulting in the court decision.
“I firmly believe that the H1B laws are now being applied correctly and fairly, explaining the spike in approvals. Also, after this global pandemic of Covid-19, it has become challenging to find workers in many specialty occupations. To ensure that the gap is bridged, H-1B workers need to be brought into the US leniently, as approving the right candidates is the best possible approach during such critical times,” said Gehi.
He predicted that high approval rates would continue, at least under the present administration, because of the existing need for highly trained individuals and the skills imbalance in the United States.
According to numerous academic and government studies, H-1B visa holders are paid the same as or more than similar US experts. Businesses in the United States are required by law to pay the higher the actual or prevailing wage paid to U.S. workers with comparable experience and credentials.
As per the National Foundation for American Policy, employers in the United States pay between $5,000 and $30,000 in legal and government expenses to apply for H-1B professionals, and $10,000 to $15,000 to sponsor them for permanent residence.