Techies Alert! Number of US H1-B visa holders with high-tech jobs, plunges
- Number of foreign workers holding US H1-B visa, mostly techies, has dropped in a major way over the last 10 years.
US H1-B Visa holders, holding high-tech jobs, who are mostly from India, has plunged to a decadal low. The visa programme had been under the spotlight for a long time under former President Donald Trump who wanted to protect American jobs from foreign workers. However, the US H-1B visa ban imposed by Trump has been revoked by the administration of President Joe Biden. The fall in the US H1-B visa holders comes despite the fact that job openings in the technology sector have shot up in a significant manner. The pandemic, which has forced authorities to impose travel restrictions, is also to blame in a significant manner. Now with the new Covid-19 strain of South African origin rising, things are not expected to get better.
The drop in US H1-B Visa holders was largely due to a significant slowdown in visa processing during lockdowns, according to immigration lawyers and experts.
Under the US H-1B visa program high-skilled foreign workers can apply for jobs in the US in specialty fields like coding and engineering. It is seen as a solution to chronic worker shortages in the US of this high calibre. The majority of US H-1B visas are issued for Engineering and mathematics jobs - subjects that are not very popular among students.
Every year the US H-1B visa program is capped at 85,000. However, foreign workers can move from their roles but it has to be in the same field. They can even change companies and importantly, extend their visas too.
Foreign engineering and mathematics workers on H-1B visas fell 12.6% in the fiscal year ending September 2021 compared to the previous year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
It was the second consecutive annual decline for a segment of the workforce that has historically seen consistent job growth.
Compared with pre-Covid levels in 2019, this year’s number of H-1B employment cases was down 19% for the engineering and mathematics job category.
“Since March 2020, the processing of any new visas has been dramatically slowed and almost halted by travel restrictions,” Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis told Bloomberg. Some jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, may be lost in the visa crunch for good as remote work could offshore them outside of the U.S., according to Peri.
For all job categories, this number amounted to over 497,000 during fiscal year 2021, a 9% decrease from 2020 and 17% decline from 2019, Bloomberg News revealed.
The contraction in hiring for H-1B foreign STEM workers indicates the field of technology wasn’t immune to the disruptions caused by Covid-19.