Evolution of the H-1B: Latest Trends in a Program on the Brink of Reform

Sarah Pierce & Julia Gelatt
Date of Publication: 
March, 2018
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

This issue brief examines the main features of the H-1B temporary worker program, including the background of visa holders, the types of companies they work for, and latest trends in the operation of the program. The report notes that the H-1B program has been growing, with much of the growth due to the fact that there is a long wait for employment-based green cards, particularly for Indian nationals. H-1B visa holders may renew their temporary visas until a green card is available. In the past five years, an average of 212,000 visas have been approved beyond those covered by the annual cap of 85,000 (requests for H-1B visas by universities, as well as renewals of existing H-1B visas are not covered by the cap). Initial applications for H-1B visas are now far more numerous than visas available, and winners are selected by lottery. While more than 40,000 firms were approved to sponsor H-1B visas, just 20 companies accounted for one-third of all new and continuing petitions in fiscal year 2017. In the coming months, the Trump administration is expected to make a number of changes to the H-1B program, including taking away the opportunity for certain H-1B spouses to work and other changes that will narrow the definition of who is qualified and which employers may petition for a worker. (Maurice Belanger, Maurice Belanger Associates)

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Pierce, S. & Gelatt, G. (2018). Evolution of the H-1B: Latest Trends in a Program on the Brink of Reform. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/evolution-h-1b-latest-trends-program-brink-reform