H-1B Applications Fall, Employers Anticipate Trump Reforms
Employers applied for about 16% fewer H-1B visas for highly skilled workers this year than in Y 2016 reflecting concern that The Trump Administration will take a more restrictive approach to the program.
Employers seeking visas for Y 2018 submitted 199,000 applications this year, compared with 236,000 last year, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said late Monday.
The visa program, which is designed to let companies hire highly skilled workers for technical jobs based in the US that have trouble filling, is a central policy focus of the technology industry.
As in past years, the number of applications far exceeded the 85,000 visas available.
But this is the 1st time in the past 5 years that the total number of requests decreased. While the federal government made some incremental changes this year, it did not make any fundamental shifts.
There are several bills in Congress that would implement bigger adjustments, but they would not impact the program until next year at the earliest.
The changes The Trump Administration did make were intended to cut back on aggressive use of the visas by outsourcing companies.
These companies tend to use the visas to hire less-skilled workers at much lower rates of pay. Indian IT companies have begun to prepare for a policy landscape that undercuts their current reliance on the program. To the extent those changes would cut back on the use of the program by India-based IT companies, it would benefit Silicon Valley giants that say they would like to hire more employees on H-1B visas.
Bruce Morrison, who helped create the H-1B program and is now a lobbyist for tech-worker advocacy group IEEE-USA, said that the drop in applications reflects a shift in strategy rather than a true change in demand for the visas. Because the visas are granted via a random lottery, many companies apply for far more than they actually plan on using.
Infosys Ltd. (NYSE:INFY), one of the heaviest users of the H-1B program, has said that it’s looking for other ways to hire given the changing atmosphere.
“Because of the visa-related matters, we have to get more local hiring done,” Vishal Sikka, CEO of the Bangalore, India-based company, told investors last week.
As a candidate, President Donald Trump was critical of companies who use the H-1B program to displace American workers.
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