The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits businesses to hire foreign workers in speciality areas that require theoretical or technical knowledge. Every year, IT corporations use H-1B visas to hire tens of thousands of professionals from nations such as India.
The fiscal year of 2021 saw the highest H-1B visa approval rate in a decade, despite the fact that pandemic-related restrictions on travel forced the American immigration agency to hold a second visa lottery in order to meet its quota of 85,000 visas for the year.
The approval rate for H-1B visas in fiscal 2021 from October 2020 to September this year was 97.3 per cent, according to data published by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
During the period, the agency received 3,98,267 petitions for initial and continuing employment, or renewals. Immigration experts credited this to the high demand for technical talent in the United States, as digital transformation drifted across industries.
The rising approval rate also implies a change 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 approval rates fell to 84.5 per cent in FY18 and FY19, as the immigration authority enacted policies that made it more difficult to obtain visas for people employed who would be located at third-party worksites. These were subsequently overturned through court proceedings, resulting in an increase in visa approvals in FY2020, near the end of Trump’s presidency.
In the meantime, the US withdrew a rule that would have altered how the H-1B visa process is handled on December 20. The rule, Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions, was one of the last implemented by former US President Donald Trump’s administration. It was assumed to go into effect on March 9 of this year and would have affected the H-1B process for the fiscal year 2022, but it was postponed.
The judgment by the Department of Homeland Security comes 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 applicants are chosen, shifting away from a lottery-based system and toward a system based on ranking and wage levels. The change is welcomed by Indian technology corporations and their subsidiaries, as they are among the most frequent consumers of H1B visas.
According to a New York Times report published on 8 May and updated on 11 May 2021, Indian technology companies such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, and Wipro are among the top firms that are "heaviest users of H-1Bs" in 2020.
Multiple industry groups had spoken out against it, asserting that it would have an influence on American businesses’ ability to attract talented employees. The US Chamber of Commerce and others had also taken legal action against the new proposal, resulting in the court decision.
According to Gehi, the prevailing demand for highly skilled workers, as well as the skills gap in the United States, indicate that high acceptance rates will continue, at least under the present government.
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