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For the 2018-19 season, which would permit successful visa applicants to work in the US from October 1, 2018, the US agency received 1.90 lakh applications as against nearly two lakh applications in the previous season.
This fall of 8,902 applications — or 4.5% as compared to 2017-18 — is minuscule, given the protectionist rhetoric of the Trump administration. While large Indian tech companies have over the past few months ramped up hiring of locals in the US, the interest in H-1B visas has not waned.
Each year, since 2013-14, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had to resort to a lottery mechanism as the number of applications far exceeded annual quotas. The number had hit a peak in 2016-17 with nearly 2.4 lakh applications. If current year’s figures are compared with this peak statistic, it is a decline of nearly 20%.
Fragomen, a global firm specialising in immigration laws, states, “This year, general cap filings had roughly a 38% chance of selection in the lottery. The odds for the advanced degree cases were higher because these filings get a second chance for selection if they are not chosen in the initial lottery. The overall chance of selection this season was approximately 45%.”
Selection in the lottery process does not mean an automatic grant of the H-1B visa. The USCIS last year had increased the number of inquiries during processing of visa applications, referred to as requests for evidence (RFEs).