‘Covid, anticipatory registrations led to the third lottery of USCIS’

Debangana Ghosh Mumbai | Updated on November 22, 2021

Those selected will be able to apply for H-1B visas from Nov 22 to Feb 23

Following the first-ever third lottery for H-1B visas held on Friday by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to meet its 85,000 visa cap for FY22, industry experts said that those selected in the previous rounds could not accept the visa either due to Covid restrictions or employers had filed too many anticipated registrations.

A sought-after visa

H-1B visa is the most sought-after non-immigrant visa that lets firms based out of the US hire technical talent from other countries. Over the years, among other countries, including China and Indian IT professionals, have benefitted the most through this visa. Every year, of the total quota 85,000 visas getting allocated annually, Indian techies avail around 70 per cent of the visas, going by the sheer volume of applications.

The employers or the employees have to first go through an e-registration process, which makes them eligible for the lottery stage. If they get chosen in the lottery round, they then get to submit a detailed application for the visa along with required documents.

“From several companies with approved H-1B visas, many employees haven’t been able to travel to the US to begin working in H-1B status due to several Covid-related issues, including the Presidential ban on travel from India and local restrictions imposed by the Indian government impacting consular operations. This has affected employees who could have begun with on October 1 of 2020 and 2021,” Poorvi Chothani, founder and managing partner of global immigration law firm LawQuest, told BusinessLine.

“As a result, anticipated work force requirements, estimated at the time of registration, have gone awry. This could be 100s if not 1,000s of workers who got selected in the H-1B lottery, but for whom petitions were not filed, leaving unused visa numbers, resulting in a third lottery,” she added. Though the additional number of visas required to reach the targeted allocation has not been shared so far by the USCIS, in an earlier conversation, Chothani had pointed out that the “USCIS had received more than 303,000 registrations in March. Petitioners saw a selection rate of about 25 per cent, for the FY22 cap, which is much lower than in past years”.

Another factor that could have let to this shortage is that often there are technical errors due to the manual nature of preparing and processing the petitions, like the flip-flopping of addresses for employment start dates by the USCIS.

This led to several visa applications getting returned as filled erroneously, as a result of which a few more visa numbers would have been unused. Applicants selected in the latest lottery will be able to apply for visas from November 22 till February 23, 2022.

According to Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC, this is the impact of the high attrition rate that has been prevalent globally in the tech and IT industry, which has in a way disrupted the supply of talent.

“This is mainly due to high global attrition. Post-Covid, there has been a major cultural shift. Most employees have realised life is beyond just a job and they want to explore other aspects and facets of life. Many are taking up part-time jobs and doing other things they like on the side. This must have hurt man power supply overall.

“Moreover, with emerging new-age technologies such as AI, ML and robotics, there is an increased need for technically skilled employees. And countries such as India have an abundance of talent.”

Sonam Chandwani, Managing Partner, KS Legal & Associates, told BusinessLine: “Demand for tech talent is ever increasing and most companies are dependent on countries like India to hire employees. Indians are surely looking forward to the third lottery now. Earlier, there was a lot of uncertainty due to the third wave in Europe and other countries. Many had withdrawn applications globally because of it and decided to wait for a year before thinking of moving.”

Published on November 22, 2021

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