The United States of America is a very popular working destination, in particular among youngsters. A high number of workers from all across the globe travel to the US under a work visa.

The number of foreign workers employed on a full-time basis in the US as of December 2017 is 125.44 million. Thus, foreign workers make 17.1 percent of the 27.4 million workers in the US, as of the same date.

The H-1B visa also referred to as Person in Specialty Occupation Visa is among the most popular among non-American highly skilled professionals.

Brief History of the H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows companies in the United States to hire and bring to the US foreign workers in specialty occupations, who are in possession of an advanced educational degree.

The program offers the chance to IT specialists, architects, accountants, professors, doctors, lawyers, and other skilled professionals to temporarily move to the US and work there. The visa has a maximal cap of approved applications of 65,000, and an additional 20,000 applications for foreign professionals with a Master’s degree or higher.

The H-1B visa was created and signed into law in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. Alongside with the H-1A visa created for nurses, it replaced the former H-1 visa established in 1952. The program went through a lot of changes, with the fee increasing on each update, and the rules getting tighter and tighter gradually.

Also known as Person in Specialty Occupation Visa, the program has often been criticized by different parties. The most frequent criticisms are related to allegations that “the H-1B holders taking jobs from Americans” and “the H-1B workers are exploited”.

In spite of the tighter rules, higher fees, criticism and the insecurity caused by the Trump Administration for visa holders and potential future applicants due to recent changes in the program, the H-1B visa petitions have reached the highest number ever in 2018.

H-1B Visa Program and Trump Administration

Though the H-1B visa program has always been subject to changes, the program has undergone some major changes during the Presidency of Donald Trump. Within the last two years, not only the application process for an H-1B visa but also the denial and rejection rates have drastically changed.

H-1B Changes Introduced During Trump Presidency

With the signing of the executive order “Buy American and Hire American”, Trump made way for the introduction of several new rules and policies regarding the H-1B visa program. The most important (proposed/announced/undertaken) changes so far, are as follows:

An increase of H-1B Denials and Requests for Evidence

The number of H-1B denials and requests for evidence has increased under the Trump Administration, with the latter encountering a very high increase.

According to a report of the National Foundation for American Policy, while in the first quarter of 2018 the H-1B visa rejection rate was 19.8%, in the fourth quarter the rate increased to 22.4%. There was a drastic increase in the rate of Request for Evidence, with 17.3% being requested to submit additional documents in the first quarter, with 68.9% receiving a Request for Evidence in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The highlights of the report:

  • Requests for Evidence for H-1B petitions more than doubled between the 3rd quarter and 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from 28,711 to 63,184
  • There was a 42% increase in the proportion of H-1B petitions denied for Indian-born professionals from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of FY 2017
  • USCIS adjudicators were much more likely to issue a Request for Evidence for applications from Indians than for people from other countries

According to the report, the increase in denials and Requests for Evidence of even the most highly skilled applicants seeking permission to work in the US suggests that the Trump administration is interested in less immigration, and not “merit-based” immigration.

“Observers note the administration has implemented no policies to facilitate the hiring of high-skilled foreign nationals. Instead, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has enacted a series of policies to make it more difficult for even the most highly educated scientists and engineers to work in the United States,” the report reads.

It also asserts that the USCIS no longer defers to prior determinations, approvals or findings of facts when extending a current H-1B or other high-skilled visas.

10 Last Years of H-1B Visa in Numbers

The popularity of H-1B visa has gradually increased especially among Asian countries. In 2018, the demand for an H-1B visa is higher than ever, and the numbers are expected to grow with this trend, next year and beyond.

We analyzed the latest official statistics on the number of H-1B visa applications based on nationality, gender and age as well the refusal rate, and came up with a number of conclusions.

Key findings of the report

  • There was an increase of 70.4% in H-1B visa applications within the last 10 years.
  • The number of Indians applying for an H-1B visa has spiked up with an increase of 153.1% in the last decade.
  • Indians and Chinese accounted for 58.8% of the overall number of applications in 2007, which percentage increased to 1% in 2018.
  • There was an approval rate of 74.69% in 2009 and of 73.8% in 2017
  • French make the biggest national group of applicants from Europe. However, in the last ten years, the number of French applicants has gradually declined.
  • In 2018, only 1.9% of the applications were from Schengen countries.
  • In 2018, women accounted for only 25.3% of the total number of petitions filed.
  • The number of female applicants surpassed the number of male applicants only in 12% of the 206 countries and entities

Number H-1B Visa Applicants from India 153.1% Higher in 2018, Compared to 2009

The H-1B visa is the most famous visa among Indians, with 2.5 million applications filed in the last ten years by Indians only. The number of the rest of applications filed from 2009 until now is around 3.3 million.

In 2009, there were 122,475 applications filed by Indian nationals or 49.7% of the overall number of applications received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. 10 years later, in 2018, the number spiked up to 309,986 applications or 73.9% of the total number of H-1B applications for that year.

Observers from VisaGuide.World believe that the recent changes introduced by the Trump Administration will have little to no effect on the interest of applicants from India to work in the US through the H-1B visa.

Gent Ukëhajdaraj from VisaGuide.World asserts that in case the DHS scraps work authorizations for H-4 visa holders, spouses of those in the US with an H-1B visa, only then the number of applications may be affected.

“If the US scraps the right of work for H-4 visa holders, only then the trend of the increasing number of applications by Indian nationals may stop or slow down.  However, if the H-4 visa holders will still be allowed to work in the future, the rest of the changes introduced for the H-1B visa program will show little to no change at all in the number of applications,” Ukëhajdaraj claims.

india, china, canada h-1b visa applications in the last 10 yearsIndians More Likely to Be Issued a Request for Evidence Than Applicants from Other Countries

However, 2018 has been quite more difficult for Indians to get an H-1B visa. Aside of a slight increase on the number of denials, compared to the previous years, more Indians that applied for an H-1B visa received a Request for Evidence, which means they had to submit additional documents to support their application.

In the first quarter of 2018, 18.2% of Indian applicants received a Request for Evidence, and 13.8% of the applicants from all other countries received such a request. The numbers increased so that in the last quarter of the year 72.4% of Indians and 61.2% of applicants from the rest of the world countries were asked for a Request for Evidence.

Country Receipts Approvals Denials Denial Rate Requests for Evidence Request for Evidence Rate
Quarter 1 Total 65,11686,29721,30419.8%18,57817.3%
Other countries12,952
16,801 5,695 25.3% 3,109 13.8%
Quarter 2 Total 97,266100,214
Other countries23,27318,8594,75320.1%2,84412.0%
Quarter 3 Total 169,785107,29120,29915.9%28,71122.5%
Other countries51,18530,5074,96514.0%6,38118.0%
Quarter 4 Total 71,911
Other countries14,38522,8785,58219.6%17,42361.2%
2017 Total 404,078 364,989 83,014 18.5% 126,783 28.3%

Only a Quarter of Applicants in 2018 Were Women

According to 2018 statistics, women accounted for only a quarter of the total number of H-1B visa applications.

In India, 20.4% of applicants were women. On the other side, in China, which is listed second with the largest group of applicants, 45.2% of applications were filed by women. As per Canada, third in this list, women accounted for 33.2% of the number of Canadian applicants for an H-1B visa.

Though Indian women hold only around 1/5 of the overall petitions filed by Indians, with 63,220 petitions in 2018 so far, the number is still almost 1.5 times higher than the petitions of the rest of the women of other nationalities combined.

The highest percentage of women applicants is held by Grenada, from which country 27 out of 33 applicants were women.

h-1b visa statistics by genderNationals of Schengen Countries Not So Tempted by H-1B Visa

Only 8,129 skilled workers from the countries of the Schengen territory filed an H-1B visa application in 2018. French applicants make 20.6% of this number, with 1,681 applications filed.

Nationals of the Nordic countries have shown little, to no interest on the H-1B visa as well; despite a suggestion of President Trump that the US should bring more people from countries such as Norway, probably having in mind other highly developed EU countries.

During talks on an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, Trump called these countries “shi*hole countries”, and asked why the US isn’t bringing over people from Norway instead.

“The reason why the number of applications from these countries is so low is obvious. While the US is listed 13th in the Human Development Index 2018, Norway is listed the first. Eleven out of the first 20 positions of the index are occupied by countries of the Schengen or the EU. On the other side, the top two national groups of applicants, China and India, are listed 86th and 130th respectively,” Ella Worehead from VisaGuide asserts.

Number of Applications From EU Countries Going Downhill for 10 Years Now

According to statistics, the number of H-1B applications from the EU/EFTA countries has immensely decreased.

The number of applicants from the United Kingdom has fine down from 5,394 in 2009 to 2,181 in 2018. The number of applications from France and Italy has also decreased. Spain is among the very few European countries that has marked an increase of 13%.

h-1b applications from schengen countries 

H1B visa applications from France hit a 10-year low in 2018

The number of applications from France, the second EU country with most annual H-1B visa applications after the UK, has been declining almost every year for more than a decade now.

Statistics show that over 45% less French citizens applied for an H-1B visa in 2018, compared to 2007. While the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received 3,056 H-1B visa applications in 2007, there was a noteworthy smaller number of 1,668 applications received in 2018.

However, the decrease in the number of applications from France has not been affected by the policies of Trump administration. In the years since Trump took office, the decrease has been much slighter than in the previous.

As for France in particular, according to statistics, the most drastic fall in applications seems to have happened between 2007 and 2008, when there were 558 fewer applications.

The only a-bit-more-significant increase during the last 12 years took place in 2011 when there were 2,644 applications filed by French citizens, while in the previous year there were 2,595. Whereas in 2014 as well, there were a number of nine more applications filed compared to 2013.

H-1B Visa Applications From Turkey at Their Lowest in 10 Years

The number of H-1B visa applications from Turkey has reached a record low in 2018, the lowest number since the 2009 fiscal year. 50% fewer applications were filed by Turkish nationals in 2018, compared to 2009.

Ella Worehead from VisaGuide.World believes that the politically tensed relations between both countries may have driven the decline in H-1B applications.

“Statistics show that the decrease in the number of H-1B visa applications from Turkey started in 2007, the same year when relations between Turkey and the US started to get tense after the House Committee on Foreign Affairs had passed a US resolution on the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. As a result, Turkey had then recalled its ambassador to the US,” Worehead explains.

She further points out that while in 2009 there were 2,724 applications from Turkey, the number fell to 1,362 in 2018.

“The number of applications increased to 2,724 in 2009, in which year President Obama made his first official visit to Turkey. However, in the following year, the decline continued to 2,467, then to 2,169 and so on. We cannot say for sure that the political situation drove the decrease in the number of H1B visa applicants from Turkey, but it surely was a factor,” Worehead concludes.

h1b visa applications decline in turkey and france 

An Increase of 2% to 8% Foreseen for 2019

Observers at VisaGuide.World assess that in 2019 there will be an increase in the number of applications somewhere between 2% to 8%.

“Taking into account the latest changes, as the requirement of firstly applying electronically, for which we still do not know if it will be available for FY 2019, there will surely be an increase of 2% to 8% in the number of applications,” Ukëhajdaraj explains.

Indians will still account the highest number of applicants; however, the number of women applicants is expected to increase due to the risks of H-4 holders being scrapped off of the right to work. A number of potential H-4 visa holders may turn to the H-1B visa program, as a way to join their spouses working in the US.