Number of US H1B visa holders slumps to highest in decade

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The number of H1B visa holders in the US has slumped by 9%, representing the highest drop in a decade. Following an analysis of data released by the US Department of Labor (DoL), foreign engineering and mathematics workers on H1B visas fell 12.6% in the fiscal year ending 2021, compared with the previous year.


This is reportedly the second year in a row that H1B visa numbers in engineering and mathematics have slumped, despite growing consistently in the years prior. The decline has largely been attributed to travel and US visa restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the data analysis, the combined metric for all job categories totalled more than 497,000 during the 2021 fiscal year, representing a 9% decrease from 2020 and a 17% decline from 2019.


Trump administration 

Under the Trump administration, certain visa holders – including H1B visa holders - were banned from entering the US in a so-called effort to protect American jobs in the early days of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the pandemic also prompted the closure of US embassies and consulates around the world, further slowing down US visa processing. Compared with pre-COVID levels in 2019, the number of H1B visa petitions was down by 19% across the engineering and mathematics categories.

However, it has been mooted that the decline could be attributed to H1B visa holders switching to US permanent residence status over the last 12 months. 

Furthermore, the decline could be down to the many who have pending adjustment applications, and have not yet received their US green card, who may have decided to remain in the US pending adjustment applicants with work permits rather than remain in H1B status.

Most pending adjustment applicants tend to find it easier to remain in the US without an H1B visa and only have a work permit as they can switch between jobs more easily.


H1B visa lottery

The slump in H1B visa holders correlates with a recent, and historic, third H1B visa lottery announced by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

It’s the first time ever that USCIS has had to hold a third lottery in order to meet the required number of candidates. Back in July, the second round of applications was opened as not enough were received during the first round. Those selected from the next lottery will be able to start working in the US from October 2022.

The H1B visa cap is set at 65,000 per year, with a further 20,000 set aside for applicants who hold a Master’s Degree from a recognised US University.

A USCIS statement said: “On November 19, we selected from among previously submitted electronic registrations using a random selection process. The petition filing period based on registrations selected on November 19 will begin on Nov. 22, 2021, and close on Feb. 23, 2022.”

“We recently determined that we needed to select additional registrations to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H1B numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption,” the statement added. can help with US employment-based visas

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