H-1B Visa Holders in the US See Record Job Transitions, Policy Changes and Market Dynamics Drive Mobility Surge

Feature and Cover H 1B Visa Holders in the US See Record Job Transitions Policy Changes and Market Dynamics Drive Mobility Surge

H-1B visa holders in the United States are experiencing a notable surge in job transitions, reaching an unprecedented high in 2022.

David J. Bier, the Director of Immigration Studies at the Cato Institute, referencing a USCIS report in his blog, revealed that between 2005 and 2023, H-1B workers changed jobs over 1 million times (1,090,890).

The frequency of job changes among H-1B visa holders has been steadily rising, escalating from approximately 24,000 in 2005 to a record-breaking 130,576 in 2022, marking a more than fivefold increase. Although there was a slight downturn in 2023, with 117,153 worker switches.

Bier attributed this surge in job transitions among H-1B workers to several factors, including adjustments in policies and an expanding pool of H-1B workers. The tightening labor market across various industries has stimulated greater worker mobility.

Moreover, the growing number of H-1B workers in the US has resulted in a larger talent pool for companies to tap into. Given that the H-1B visa cap has consistently been met each year since 2014, employers are increasingly targeting H-1B workers who are already authorized to work in the US, effectively enticing talent away from competitors.

An important policy alteration in 2017, extending the grace period to 60 days for H-1B workers to secure a new job after losing their current one, has also played a role in this trend.

Furthermore, a surge in green card applications in 2021 might have influenced the pattern. Once H-1B workers initiate a green card application, they gain more flexibility to switch jobs without their employer needing to restart the green card process.

However, the number of pending green card applications decreased in 2022, indicating that this is just one facet of the situation.

Despite the increased mobility, Bier highlights the persistent challenges faced by H-1B workers. New employers hiring H-1B workers from other companies face substantial fees, and a backlog in green card processing, particularly affecting Indian workers, can incentivize them to stick with their initial sponsoring employer.

Bier suggests that automatically transitioning H-1B status to green cards after a certain period, rather than requiring renewals, could provide a solution to the ever-expanding backlog.

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