Posted on December 4, 2021

The Number of Immigrant Workers With H1-B Visas Drops the Most in a Decade

Linly Lin, Bloomberg, November 30, 2021

The number of immigrants under the H1-B visa program holding high-tech jobs dropped the most in at least a decade this year in the U.S. amid travel and visa restrictions, even as job openings in the industry reached record highs.

Foreign engineering and mathematics workers on H-1B visas fell 12.6% in the fiscal year ending September 2021 compared to the previous year, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

It was the second consecutive annual decline for a segment of the workforce that has historically seen consistent job growth.

The drop was largely due to a significant slowdown in visa processing during lock downs and tightened immigration policies stemming from the pandemic, according to immigration lawyers and experts.

Compared with pre-Covid levels in 2019, this year’s number of H-1B employment cases was down 19% for the engineering and mathematics job category.

“Since March 2020, the processing of any new visas has been dramatically slowed and almost halted by travel restrictions,” said Giovanni Peri, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis. Some jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, may be lost in the visa crunch for good as remote work could offshore them outside of the U.S., according to Peri.

Many U.S. visa processing locations have resumed at a slowed pace after an abrupt suspension across all embassies and consulates in 2020. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden allowed a Trump-era ban on H-1B visas to expire.