While large Indian IT companies are working towards reducing their dependency on H-1B visas by stepping up local hiring in the US, smaller companies and start-ups are learnt to have increased the applications for H-1B this year. Immigration experts say that while they are expecting a drop in the number of applications by large Indian technology firms, the total number of applications that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will receive this year is not going to be much different from the previous year.
“We have not seen any significant drop in H-1B visa applications and we have also added some new clients this year who had not applied previously. We as a law firm have seen a total increase due to the new clients but a drop of about 20% from cumulative cases filed for existing clients,” said Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner, Lawquest International, a global immigration and employment firm.
She adds while there might be a drop in the number of cases filed from established companies, the drop could be due to the unique nature of a particular company's business as the work for their employees does not fit "exactly" into any job description that qualifies for an H-1B. Because of this, they had seen a high level of rejections last year and decided not to file many this year.
Another immigration expert who did not wish to be named said that while the number of applications from individual companies may have come down, the cumulative number is almost at par with previous years.
“With major IT players ramping up their local hiring, the number of applications from these companies has almost halved. The new wave of applications is coming in from a large number of start-ups,” said the person.
Further, most of the bigger IT companies have increased their local employee base from about 10 to 12 per cent earlier to almost 50 per cent lately which has changed the overall talent mix in the country.
Given the new guidelines from the USCIS, the duration of visa granted may last anywhere between 6 months to three years as compared to two to three years earlier. Also, the increased scrutiny on applications means that a higher number of applications are likely to be rejected this year. The applications will be accepted till the authorities feel they have enough applications to meet the visa cap of 65,000 and only after evaluating all applications will the actual number of applications being released.
Out of almost 40,000 H-1B visas availed by Indians every year, only around 15,000 come from the IT companies. The remaining bulk of visa applications are from third-party intermediaries who hire and deploy skilled professionals as per requirement. With USCIS increasing scrutiny on these third-party applications, clients dependent on them could be affected.
According to data from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) last year, the 9,356 new H-1B petitions for the top 7 Indian-based companies approved in FY 2016 represent only 0.006 percent of the labor force in the US.
The number of approved new H-1B petitions by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) declined by 56 per cent in FY16 to 2,040 when compared with the previous fiscal. Wipro saw a decline of new petitions by 52 per cent in FY16 to 1,474. The number of new applications by Infosys declined 16 per cent in FY16 at 2,376.