IT Staffing Report: Sept. 6, 2018

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Recent data from USCIS sheds light on H-1B visa trends

US Citizenship and Immigration Services made news last week announcing it will be extending and expanding its suspension of premium processing for FY19 H-1B visa petitions. The freeze will expand to include additional H-1B petitions beginning Sept. 11 and is expected to extend through Feb. 19, 2019.

Premium processing is an option provided by USCIS that guarantees processing within 15 calendar days for an additional fee of $1,225. This compares to the average regular processing time, which has grown in recent years to approximately six months. Some standard processing petitions can take more than 10 months to process. USCIS attributes its decision to combat these rising processing times resulting from a high volume of incoming petitions and premium processing requests.

The development presents challenges for some IT staffing firms looking to leverage access to foreign workers in a supply constrained environment domestically. In addition to the premium processing suspension, the current administration’s "Buy American, Hire American" executive order has resulted in an increasingly challenging environment as it relates to H-1B visas in staffing.

The stricter policies are visible in the declining number of annual H-1B petitions received. More granular data, previously unavailable, was released by the USCIS Ombudsman on a June 27 teleconference discussing the H-1B lottery process. Specifically, the agency provided statistics on petitions filed in both the master’s and regular cap for each fiscal year since 2014, as well as data on petitions that were not selected in each cap category. We have summarized the data below (new data shown below in blue).

Click on chart to enlarge.

There are some interesting takeaways we can glean. For example, we see that despite declines in each of the past two fiscal years in total petitions received, master’s cap petition volume has actually grown 10% and 24% year over year in FY19 and FY18, respectively. The chart below illustrates the mix shift.

H-1B Petitions Received by Fiscal Year (FY)

We also see the rate of petitions not selected decline for both regular and master’s caps. The rate of regular cap petitions not selected has gone from 65% in FY17 to 57% in FY18 to 47% in FY19. Similarly, the rate of master’s cap petitions not selected went from 43% to 42% to 34% from FY17 to FY19, respectively. Higher selection rates are perhaps a silver lining for IT staffing firms in search of consultants on H-1B visas in the face of mounting challenges, including firmer government policy and rising aversion to H-1B workers among many buyers.

For background information on many of the immigration issues facing IT staffing firms, SIA corporate members can access our Immigration and IT Staffing in the US: A Moving Target report.

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