The number of H-1B visas that the US awards every year is capped by Congress, and in every year the applications are oversubscribed, the US government decides who will receive the visas through a notorious lottery. Getting a visa affords a chance to work in the country for three years – a period that can be extended to six years or longer if the person applies for a green card. And the green card is the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the computer-science/engineering rainbow for many an upper middle-class Indian.
There are many non-illegal ways to increase your chances of winning the H-1B lottery. The visa is applied for by the company that is hiring you in the US. So, accepting applications from multiple companies or filing multiple petitions via immigration lawyers are some ways. And between 2005 and 2015, Indians were by far the most numerous applicants for green cards (and 91% of them held H-1B visas), clocking 279,176 applications.
That’s 40% of the total received in the period – and that’s six-times higher than the second-ranked Chinese applicants, who comprised 6.7%.
The data is from jobsintech.io, a job-seeker website that tracks applications to tech jobs in the US, where the applicants come from and how they fare to identify the best places to work.
Some immigration experts allege that “of particular concern are Indian outsourcing companies that provide workers through U.S.-based subsidiaries for entry-level positions in the U.S., such as tech support at retailers and banks”, according to the Wall Street Journal. NASSCOM however has denied that allegation.
In fact, among the top six companies that petition for overseas talent, four are Indian – and these four together have submitted 212,942 petitions. Assuming each petition was for a distinct individual and all of them were for Indians, it’s not very surprising that Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Satyam are often eyed as ideal employers by middle-class computer scientists in India.
Either way, once they make it in, they do like to stay; so what are they like?
Half of them have a Master’s degree, and most of the other half has a bachelor’s. Given their job profiles, most of them are likely to be in the computer sciences. No more that 10% of all applicants are industrial/mechanical engineers, pharmacists, accountants, physicians/surgeons, financial analysts, managers, etc.
Their median incomes show that they’re doing pretty well for themselves, too. Since 2005, the number has been swinging on either side of $80,000/year, which is likely an average annual income in places like New York and California, and quite good in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, etc. The income dipped in 2009 – likely as a response to the recession, during which the ‘Indian demand’ for H-1B visas fell as well – but rebounded strongly in 2011 to about $110,000/year.
There’s at least one Indian applying for a green card in every US state – Alaska had the fewest in 2015 (yet) with two applicants. California on the other hand had the most, with over 23,000 applicants.