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US: H-1B visa applications drop for the first time in five years

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received 1.99 lakh petitions as against the 2.36 lakh received in 2016.

The number of applications for H-1B work visas has declined in the United States for the first time in five years, reported CNN. This comes at a time when US President Donald Trump has been railing against the visa policy and how it allegedly replaces American workers with foreign labour.

On Tuesday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it had received 1.99 lakh H-1B petitions for 2018 within five days of opening the visa applications on April 3. The last time it fell below 2 lakh was in 2014, though even in that year, the number of applications grew from 2013. In 2016, the USCIS had received 236,000 applications. The number of applications received for the H-1B visas had been increasing since 2013.

“On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption,” the USCIS said in a statement on April 17.

In March, the US had suspended the premium processing option for H-1B visas, which allowed companies to bring in highly skilled workers in a few weeks, rather than several months, if they paid an additional amount. A large number of technology companies, among other industries, relied on premium processing to bring in skilled engineers to the US.

Trump had promised his voters that he would overhaul the H-1B visa system to provide more jobs to Americans, whom he said were losing employment opportunities to “foreigners”. His stance poses particular problems for India, which sends the maximum H-1B workers to the US. The Indian government has been attempting to lobby with the White House to reconsider its efforts to tighten H-1B rules.

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