The H-1B Visa approvals rate for fiscal 2021 was the highest in 10 years, even as pandemic-related travel restrictions implied that the American immigration agency had to conduct a second visa lottery to meet its quota of 85,000 visas for the year.
As per information issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the approval rate for H-1B visas in fiscal 2021 — from October 2020 to September this year — was 97.3%. The agency got 398,267 petitions for starting and continuing employment, or renewals, during the period. Immigration watchers ascribed this to the high demand for tech talent in the US, as demand for digital transformation swept across sectors.
The high approval rate reflects a shift in the approach of the US government towards immigration under President Joe Biden. “Biden’s fair and liberal approach towards immigration is unlike the Trump government. Which was highly restrictive in granting immigration benefits to immigrants. Under the earlier government, USCIS officials were directed to take very conservative views in approving H-1B applications. There were a few instances previously wherein genuine & bonafide applications were denied in H-1B matters“. Said Naresh Gehi, founder of Gehi & Associates, a US-based immigration law firm.
H-1B Visa Approvals
In FY18 and FY19, H-1B visa approvals rates had dropped to 84.5% under Trump. As the immigration agency implemented policies that made it harder to get visas approved for employees who might be put at third-party worksites. These were eventually overturned through litigation, which resulted in visa approvals increasing in FY2020, towards the end of Trump’s tenure.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the US withdrew a rule that would have changed how the H-1B visa process is administered. The decision by the Department of Homeland Security comes later the US District Court for the Northern District of California cleared the rule in September. In January, the US had proposed to change how the H-1B visa candidates are chosen. Getting away from a lottery-based system to a selection based on ranking and wage levels. A few industry bodies had opposed it, claiming it would affect the ability of American enterprises to attract skilled talent. The US Chamber of Commerce and others had also filed claims against the proposed rule, which resulted in the court decision.
“I firmly believe that the H1B laws are now being applied correctly and fairly, clarifying the spike in approvals. Also, after this global pandemic of Covid-19, it has become challenging to find workers in numerous specialty occupations. To guarantee that the gap is bridged, H-1B workers should be brought into the US leniently. As approving the right applicants is the best possible approach during such crucial occasions,” said Gehi. He said the current demand for high-skilled workers and the skills gap in the US implied that high approval rates would continue, at least under the current administration.
Visa approvals over the last five years: