H-1B visas on decline as Trump pushes companies to “hire American”

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NEW YORK – According to data from the job site Indeed, searches by job seekers for H-1B visas have declined year-after-year for the first time in three years.

“There is a seasonal trend of searches peaking in February and bottoming out in April but this year searches have continued to decline [since April] showing us that job seekers are less inclined to search for H-1B opportunities than they have [been] in the past,” Valerie Rodden, an economic research analyst at the employment website, told Fortune.

Since the Trump Administration is pushing companies to “hire American,” in the first half of the year, more H-1B visa job seekers were looking for jobs in other countries with 44% directed towards Canada, 10% to Australia, 5% to the United Kingdom and 5% to China.

However, tech companies are finding it more difficult to “hire American” as not many workers are qualified in the United States to fill in the open positions as in 2015; there were nearly 10 times more computer science jobs than students graduating with computer science degrees.

Also, job seekers requiring sponsorship showed five times more interest in tech positions compared to the average U.S. job seeker.

On Indeed, the focus on software engineering positions was about 16 times more from H-1B job seekers with more concentration on jobs like Java developer, which was 14 times more than usual and data scientist, which was 13 times more than usual.

As such, most H-1B visas go to workers in the tech sector and are primarily from India.

According to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 70% of all H-1B visas in the last 10 years went to Indian applicants working mainly in computer science or IT positions.

However, just like every other U.S. immigration policy, the H-1B visa program is complex as it not only involves the Department of Labor, but the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department as well and each of these agencies track a different part of the H-1B process.

The annual cap for new approvals of the H-1B visa program is 85,000 but the annual totals almost always surpass that because H-1B holders are allowed to renew their visa for three years once they are approved, meaning that what looks like growth in the number of employees working on H-1B visas, is actually accounting for foreign workers already in the U.S. who are renewing their visas as well as employees at organizations that are exempt from the mandated cap.

But even that is starting to change as analysis from Deloitte India shows that during the first half of the year, more Indians have started looking for jobs back home.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Pvt. Ltd. told Fortune that in December of last year, around 600 U.S. based Indians were looking for jobs in India and by the end of March that number had gone up to approximately 7,000.

The H-1B job search data from Indeed shows a steeper decline when focused on job seekers in India and that searches have been down every month this year since January compared to last year.

In July, H-1B searches from Indian job seekers were down by 31% year-after-year, compared to a 14% decline from all job seekers searching for H-1B on the site.

“There’s seasonal variation so searches usually bottom out in April and then start quickly rising again, but this year searches have remained relatively flat since April,” Rodden told Fortune.

New data from the USCIS show that the number of H-1B visa petitions for Indian candidates in 2017 declined for the first time in seven years and the number of computer-related petitions decreased for the first time in four years.

However, these jobs may not be victim to President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order he gave in April as according to an Associated Press report, workers hired in the field of computer science who have H-1B visas make less than those who are American.

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