US has just over 580,000 H-1B visa holders, says USCIS


PUNE: The US immigration agency said there were an estimated 583,420 H-1B authorised work permit holders in the country as of September 2019.

This is the first time that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released this data.

The USCIS estimate of the H-1B population also factors in applicants who have gone on to acquire permanent resident status or moved out of the country.

According to its report, ‘H-1B Authorised to Work Population Estimate’, an estimated 96,798 H-1B visa holders adjusted to permanent resident status at the end of financial year 2019.

It estimates that the overall authorised to work population in the first two quarters of financial year 2020 (October-March) is expected to be approximately 10% higher than this.

ET has reviewed the data.

The H-1B population size has come under the scanner recently with unemployment levels in the US increasing on account of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

Last week, the Trump administration suspended issuances of new H-1B and other non-immigrant work permits till the end of this year in a bid to protect US jobs.

Although it does not impact current H-1B visa holders, there are concerns around them being targeted in future.

Every year, the US issues 85,000 new H-1B visas in addition to renewing those that have lapsed. The visas are typically issued for a period of three years. In recent years, Indian nationals have received about 70% of all the H1-B visas issued.

The presidential proclamation said that over 20 million US workers lost their jobs in key industries where employers are currently requesting H-1B and L workers to fill positions.

A Washington D.C based think tank has, however, called the decision as one that misreads US economic data.

David Bier, immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, said nearly all workers in the top H-1B occupations were still employed in May.

“It turns out that from January to May, total employment increased by about 185,000 in the top 20 H-1B occupations, which account for 85% of all H-1B requests, according to the Current Population Survey,” said Bier.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed during the same period increased by 194,000, making for only a slight net increase of 9,000 unemployed people.

“This is substantially different from the 20 million cited by the president. Moreover, unemployment in H-1B occupations was already falling in May from April,” he said

The USCIS report said it “does not remove from the final estimate of the ATW (Authorised to Work) population, aliens who held a valid H-1B visa/status but have abandoned their visa/status (leaving the United States permanently or did not attempt to enter the United States if they are the beneficiary of an approved I-129 petition for new employment).”

“Nor does it remove from the final estimate aliens with a valid H-1B visa or H-1B non-immigrant status who were denied entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the ports of entry.”

Table: Authorized to Work Population Estimate September 30, 2019 (Source: USCIS)

Total Authorized Unique Beneficiaries (AUBs) 619,327
Consular Denials -2,100
Change of Status (COS) -1,475
Adjustment of Status (AOS) -32,332
Authorized to Work as of 9/30/2019 583,420





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