Indian companies dramatically reduced H-1B visa filing: Report
Technology companies depend on H-1B visa to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.Updated: Apr 03, 2018 22:57 IST
The number of H-1B petitions filed in April 2017 for 2018 fell for the first time in many years and most of it was on account of a drop in applications for beneficiaries from India, mostly by Indian consulting firms.
Will that trend hold for 2019, filings for which started Monday? It will be clear by the end of the week when, and if, it is declared closed by US authorities; the application period has lasted exactly five days in recent years.
Indian consulting firms operating in the United States were understood have filed fewer applications than before with the harsh glare of Trump administration on them. No numbers are available for company-wise filings.
Silicon Valley newspaper San Francisco Chronicle noted in an editorial on Monday: “Indian consulting firms, which have been accused of flooding the system with applications, have dramatically reduced their filings.”
It added: “Foreign nationals are exhibiting new reluctance to make the jump to a US company.”
The overall filings had dropped by 63,242 in 2017, from 399,349 in 2016 to 336,107, according data published by the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS), which runs the H-1B programme, that allows US companies, and US-based units of foreign companies such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, to hire foreign workers for speciality occupation for a temporary period of three years, extendable by another three years.
And most of this drop was accounted for by a decline in application for Indian beneficiaries, by 52,975; from 300,902 in 2016 to 247,927.
The Trump administration has dramatically scaled up scrutiny of the H-1B visa programme in the past months with a view to prevent it from being used to displace local Americans with foreign workers. It had even accused Indian IT companies of gaming the system, the electronic lottery used by the USCIS to sort the petitions.
Indian IT giants Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro were among the top five companies in the count of approved H-1B petitions (not filings, but approvals) in 2016, according to the last such compilation published by the USCIS.
Comparable data for approvals in 2017 is not available yet.
Though companies tend not to discuss their filings publicly, Indian IT firms have already announced plans to ramp up their local hirings as a rising proportion of their respective workforce in the United States. Wipro, for instance, says 55% of its employees in the US are locals.
Also, Indians looking for work in the IT sector could be considering other options. A Wall Street Journal columnist has suggested that there is declining market interest in H-1Bs, citing indeed.com, which found that searches related to the H-1B visa, as a share of all searches on the job website have been going down since 2017. And it found talent was headed mostly for Canada.
“The decreased interest in H-1B related work from job seekers is a trend, not a temporary shift in preferences,” Daniel Culbertson, economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, wrote in WSJ.
The San Francisco Chronicle report cited Envoy Global, a technology-oriented immigration services provider, which reported that 26% of employers it surveyed have had to delay projects, and 22% of them have relocated work overseas as a result of the current uncertainties in the US immigration system.
The daily argued that study after study has shown that foreign-born workers are good for the US economy and good for US-born workers.
“When companies are allowed to hire the workers with the best skills for the job — regardless of where those workers happen to have been born — their increased competitiveness boosts all the industries around them,” it said.
The Wall Street Journal said corporations continue to struggle with a paradoxical labour market where 548,000 tech jobs remain open while unemployment in the technology sector hovers below full employment levels.
“There are lots of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them,” it said. (With agency inputs)