What is the status of the current U.S. H1B visa program and what can we look forward to in the new year?
By Andy J. Semotiuk
Foreigners view the H1B visa as the golden gate to furthering their career, starting a family and building a new life in America. The visa is particularly popular because you can also transition from it to a green card. Many applicants are international students trying to transition from F-1 student status to H1B work visas on route to a green card. Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) opens a total of 85,000 such visas — 65,000 for those applicants who have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and 20,000 for those with a master’s degree or higher. The USCIS begins accepting applications on the first business day of April each year. Within the first week, the visa allocation is exhausted. This year is the sixteenth year in a row that the H1B program has experienced such an overload of applicants. In the first week of this fiscal year, nearly 200,000 petitions were received. To cope with this excessive demand for the work visas, the USCIS has employed a lottery to choose successful candidates.
It is worth considering which individuals have passed through this H1B visa gateway and what they have contributed to American society.
Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies were founded by first or second-generation immigrants and no doubt, many were former H1-B visa holders. According to a recent report, U.S. tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Intel are among the top 10 employers of approved H-1B applicants. Amazon itself, was the second highest guarantor of H-1B visas in 2017 with 2,515 such visas, sharply up from the previous year. U.S. educators have established without doubt that the entry of foreign-born scientists and engineers remains an unmatched source of “strength and vitality” for the country’s tech industry. A loss of foreign employees in the tech sector could result in considerable competition from overseas companies because graduates from American colleges would help foreign companies compete against U.S. firms.