The count of immigrants holding high-tech jobs under the H-1B visa program has dropped by 9 percent in the US, the highest in a decade.
According to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from the US Department of Labor, foreign engineering and mathematics workers on H-1B visas dropped by 12.6 percent in the fiscal year ending September 2021 as compared to the previous year.
The total number of immigrants presently working under the H-1B visa program has been estimated at 4,97,000, a 17 percent decline from 2019. The fiscal ending September 2021 marks the second consecutive annual decline for H-1B visa holders -- a workforce segment that has historically seen consistent job growth.
According to immigration lawyers and experts, the drop in H-1B visa holders is an outcome of COVID-19 travel bans and former US President Donald Trump banning the entry of certain visa holders, including H-1B visas, to protect American jobs for local workers in the early days of the pandemic. Incumbent US President Joe Biden, earlier this year, allowed the Trump-era ban on H-1B visas to expire.
The closure of the US embassy in the wake of the pandemic led to a temporary halt and slowed down the visa processing.
However, many H-1B visa holders received permanent residence status over the past year.
Under the H-1B visa program, US employers are allowed to hire high-skilled foreign workers in STEM i.e science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Currently, engineering and mathematics jobs make up for the vast majority of issued H-1B visas. As part of the program, up to 85,000 new H-1B visas can be issued annually.
(Edited by : Anshul)