Last year, H1B visa petitions for the annual lottery declined for the first time in several years, with 199,000 petitions filed for only 85,000 available visas. However, for FY 2019, it is expected that the number of petitions will increase again due to several factors in the US economy and the H1B visa program status.
Shortage of Necessary Skills – Financial Services and IT
Despite the claims that foreign workers are taking jobs away from US citizens, there continues to be a shortage of certain skills among the US workforce. Notably, both hi tech and financial services have a hard time finding US workers with the skills or interest in technical positions.
Low Unemployment Rate in the US
Another factor is that overall unemployment remains low in the US, and there are many available positions that could be filled by foreign workers. If businesses cannot find a US worker to fill a slot, they may turn the H1B program as a sponsor, and look for a highly qualified foreign national.
Strong Economy and Hi-Tech Growth
In addition to low unemployment, the US economy is growing, especially in the ‘H1B dependent’ tech sector. No matter what happens to the H1B visa program, the high-tech industry is expected to continue expanding its range of products and services. In order to compete with other countries, tech companies will need to find a way to staff their projects and initiatives with the most highly qualified workers.
No Legislative Changes Expected Prior to April 2018 Lottery
Although there have been numerous administrative changes, no new laws have been passed to alter or restrict the H1B visa program. There may be a surge of relief at this fact, which could spur applicants and sponsors to step up the number of petitions this year.
Last year’s decline was in part due to outsourcing companies reducing the number of petitions, and anticipating the changes were coming under the Trump administration. That has not happened yet, and those companies may step back in to take advantage of the existing program rules.
Surge in Applications Anticipating Future Program Changes
A related factor is the potential for program changes in the future. In other words, FY 2018 may be the last year where the lottery, wage levels and qualifications are all the same as in the past. Future changes are likely to be more restrictive, so H1B applicants that are less qualified my see this year as their ‘last chance’ to obtain an H1B visa without acquiring more skills or education.
This could flood the lottery with marginal applicants, affecting the odds obtaining a visa for some hopeful H1B workers. Nonetheless, the USCIS has already begun weeding out petitions that don’t meet the Trump administration’s ‘best and brightest’ policy for H1B visas.
What Does This Mean for H1B Applicants and Sponsors?
If petitions increase in this year’s lottery, that does decrease the mathematical odds of being selected, but this is really only one factor to being awarded a visa. There has already been a shift in the program under existing rules to favor more qualified and experienced applicants, so this works in favor of those with who meet or exceed the requirements for a specialty occupation.
It is recommended to look for a sponsor right away if you want to participate this year, and assemble all of the documentation of your work experience and educational degrees so you are ready for the April lottery. Please contact us if you need assistance in finding a sponsor to work in the US.
- March 10th, 2018