The denial rate for H-1B visa petitions dropped sharply under the Biden administration to the lowest record level, according to a new analysis — with Amazon winning the most petitions in FY 2021.
According to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy, only 4% of petitions were denied in FY 2021, down from 13% in FY 2020 and down from the high of 24% in FY 2018.
The controversial H-1B visa program is a guest worker program purportedly for high-skilled workers and is predominantly used by the tech industry. It has faced accusations for years that it is used by Big Tech companies to import cheaper foreign workers and displace American workers. Supporters of the program say it allows companies to get high-skilled workers in a tight labor market.
The Trump administration introduced a number of measures to crack down on fraud and abuse in the system, introducing rules at the end of 2020 to change the methodology of how a "prevailing wage" is set and narrowing the definition of a "specialty occupation." But those rules never went into effect.
The analysis found that the denial rates in FY 2021 and FY 2015 were similar, concluding that the Trump years were "an aberration" due to the restrictive policies that were ultimately blocked by the courts.
Meanwhile, the analysis found that Amazon had the most approved H-1B petitions approved in FY 2021, something that was also the case in FY 2020. Among the top petitioners were Google, IBM and Microsoft, along with a number of Indian tech firms. That data was first reported by Axios.
Typically, companies can bring in up to 85,000 workers in a year under the program, and applicants come predominantly from India and China. The H-1B visa program has been a key target of immigration hawks for years, and a push against the abuse of the program has coincided with an increased crackdown by Republicans on Big Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Facebook — which make up some of the top recipients of the program.
Former Vice President Mike Pence in July called for President Biden to ban H-1B visas for Chinese nationals employed by U.S. tech companies amid concerns about the threats to American intellectual property and national security.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., in November introduced a bill to reform the program. That bill would set a wage floor for recipients equal to that being paid to American workers in the same position.
The legislation would also limit the ability of companies to partner with third-party companies to fill H-1B visa spots.