Major U.S. technology companies successfully applied for a rising number of H-1B visas between fiscal years 2016 and 2017, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a Virginia-based policy research group. Over that same period, there was a decreasing number of successful H-1B petitions by India-based consultancies and IT staffing firms, which often direct workers to tech companies.
Here’s the data breakdown, based on their study:
These companies all spent billions of dollars on research and development, perhaps justifying the need to petition for highly specialized talent from abroad.
As mentioned, the percentage of approved H-1B petitions by many India-based consulting firms fell during that same period. Check it out:
“The drop in H-1B visas for Indian-based companies is due to industry trends toward digital services such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence,” NFAP wrote in a report accompanying its data, “which require fewer workers, and a choice by companies to rely less on visas and to build up their domestic workforces in the United States.”
Under the Trump administration, the federal government has taken some steps to restrict the use of the H-1B visa. The fourth quarter of 2017 saw a rise in H-1B denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs); there were nearly as many RFEs in the fourth quarter as the first three quarters of last year combined. Updated guidance for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will allow the federal government to reject visa applications and petitions without asking for any RFE or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
Earlier this month, a research paper by two researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) suggested that increasing a company’s proportion of H-1B visa-holders translates into measurable gains in innovation.
“There’s been a lot of work by economists on the impacts of the H-1B program mostly focused on the wages and employment of native born workers, but little is known about how immigration affects production at the firm level,” Munseob Lee, an assistant professor of economics at UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, and one of the study’s authors, wrote in a press release posted on UCSD’s website. “We find that hiring more immigrant workers is associated with firms introducing new products on the market.”
But critics of the H-1B visa accuse companies of exploiting the system in order to import lower-paid workers. Data from USCIS suggests that H-1B holders at the nation’s top tech firms (such as Apple and Google) make six figures per year, but H-1B holders at consultancy firms (which represented eight of the top ten companies petitioning for the visa) are often paid less. This is a debate that will surely continue well into the future.