The US grants 65,000 cap-subjected H-1B work visas to foreign workers hired abroad every year and 20,000 to foreigners in US institutions of higher education.
The H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreigners, which has been subjected to prohibitive scrutiny by the Trump administration, has earned the US $4.9 billion in employer-paid fees since 1999, which paid for more than 90,000 college scholarships and training, according to a new study.
These collections are from the $1,500 processing fee that the government charges employers for every new H-1B or a renewal, the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan think tank, says in the report, and adds that the total rises to $7 billion, by adding $500 in anti-fraud fees.
The US grants 65,000 cap-subjected H-1B work visas to foreign workers hired abroad every year and 20,000 to foreigners in US institutions of higher education. More than 70% of these visas have gone to Indians, hired by US companies such as Google and Facebook, and Indian firms such as TCS and Infosys.
The application process for 2020, which comes with changes, started on Monday and will typically end in a few days given the demand. More than 190,000 applications were received by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that runs the programme, in 2018 (for 2019), and 199,000 in 2017.
“Few people realize that fees for each new H-1B visa holder fund scholarships and job training for Americans,” said Stuart Anderson, a former immigration services official and executive director of the think tank that released its report on Monday.
The report argued that the role of employer-paid H-1B fees has received scant or no attention in the policy debate around immigration so far. “People on all sides of the immigration debate agree that it is beneficial to train and educate more Americans in STEM fields, yet policymakers rarely note that every company-sponsored H-1B petition provides money for training and STEM education,” it said.
This side of the H-1B visas has indeed received no attention. The focus has been on American workers displaced by outsourcing. And the Trump administration has initiated a series of measures to check abuse and fraud of the programme in line with its “Buy American, Hire American” policies.
Since 1999, H-1B fees paid by employers have been used to educate and train Americans in technology-related fields. And based on data obtained from the National Science Foundation, the US department of labour and the USCIS, the report said approximately 87,890 college students enrolled in mathematics, engineering and computer science courses were granted scholarships ranging from one to four years and of up $10,000 a year.
Money from the collections also funded training of more than 1.5 million school students and teachers in STEM-related fields, and an estimated $2.5 billion of the total collections was used by the department of labor to train US workers.
“The H-1B fees have benefited American students and encouraged through teaching and financial support many individuals to enter science and engineering fields,” said the report.