Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

By Ha Ta

The H1B is one of the most popular non-immigrant work visas for international students in the U.S. If you are a prospective or are currently an international student, chances are that you will come across people talking about or applying for this visa and you will one day need to get one yourself.

Policies revolving around the visa have been changing rapidly under the current administration and can affect applicants' chances of getting the visa. Visualizations in this page are based on data collected from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Employer Data Hub for the year 2019. The USCIS is the agency responsible for managing the processing of H-1B visas.

Who was the biggest H1B visa sponsor in each state in 2019?

Big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Cognizant and Intel led the field of biggest H1B visa sponsors in 2019 in California, Washington, Texas and Arizona according to data from USCIS’s Employer Data Hub.

According to reports from My Visa Jobs, a site that helps foreign workers identify which employers are most likely to sponsor their work visas, the average salary of H-1B offers by Cognizant is $82,388, $139,472 for Google, $127,734 for Amazon and $120,616 for Intel.

The salary offered, at least by these companies, goes agaisnt critics' claims that H-1B visas are replacing American workers with cheaper foreign labor.

The average yearly income for a full-time wage or salary worker in the U.S. in 2019 was approximately $59,000.

Which States Got Approved the Most H1B Visas in 2019?

Texas, where American multinational corporation Cognizant is headquartered, is the state with the most H1B visas approved, followed by Washington state, where Amazon is located and California where Google is headquartered.

Cognizant last year had nearly 13,500 approved H1B applications and nearly 6,000 denied applications while Amazon had more than 8,700 approvals and 300 denials.

Google had 6,011 applications accepted and only 157 denied.

Which Industry Gives the Most H1B Visas in 2019?

But tech companies are not the only big sponsors of the H1B visas, higher education institutions are among places that hire the most H1B visa workers in each state.

Universities are the biggest employer of H1-B in 12 states and the second biggest employer of H1B in eight states.

This is probably because universities are taking advantage of what’s called an "H1B cap exemption."

H-1B visas have always been capped at 65,000 acceptance a year plus an additional 20,000 for graduate degree holders.

However, through the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act of 2000, universities, nonprofits related or affiliated to an institution of higher education and nonprofit research organizations or government research institutions are exempt from this H-1B cap.

H1B Application Volume and Denial Rate (2009 - 2019)

But the picture for H1B visas is not all rosy. USCIS is denying petitions at historically high rates since 2018, according to the data. The rate of denial has been consistenly under 7.5% between 2010 and 2017 but climbed to nearly 16% in 2018 and 2019.

The dramatic decrease came in the wake of President Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" executive order - signed in April, 2017 and was aimed to enable higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers by enforcing and administering stricter immigration laws.

The order specifically directs the Department of Homeland Security to "ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries."

According to a new National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis, the denial rates of H-1B application for new employees have increased for nearly all leading sponsor companies, particularly those in the information technology field.

The NFAP analysis concluded that the Trump administration, through its memos and policy changes, has aimed to "make it more difficult for well-educated foreign nationals to work in America in science and engineering fields."

Whether we like it or not, employers and employees can expect the process of filing for an H1B visa to be more challenging in the near future.