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Prominent U.S. tech companies obtained more H-1B visas in 2017 than in 2016, according to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy using fresh data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. At the same time, several of the largest India-based companies saw a decrease in approved petitions for the second year in a row.

The big picture: Total petitions for H-1B visas for the 2019 fiscal year fell by about 9,000, mostly due to a decreasing numbers of H-1B petitions from India-based firms. However, the study shows there is still a strong demand for H-1Bs in the U.S.

Behind the numbers:
  • Foreign students: International students account for 81% of the full-time graduate students at U.S. universities in electrical engineering and 79% in computer science, per the report. That could be a contributing factor to the high number of H-1Bs used by U.S. tech companies, hoping to retain high-skilled workers trained in the U.S.
  • The other side: Shivendra Singh, Vice President of NASSCOM, which represents India's IT industry, told Axios that India-based companies are using fewer H-1Bs due to changes in needed skills, more local hiring by U.S. companies, and the use of new technologies that require "more non-STEM, managerial-type talent that is more readily available in the U.S."
  • Yes, but: Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for lower legal immigration levels, tells Axios that "these trends reflect an effort to eliminate large-scale abuses of the program... Not surprisingly, higher approval standards would produce an approval bias in favor of U.S.-based corporations."
  • What to watch: NFAP's study highlights that Tesla, Uber and General Motors were all approved more than 100 H-1B petitions last year. Visa demand by these companies is likely to increase with the rise of new autonomous vehicle technologies.
The top companies

Here are the number of initially approved visas:

  1. Cognizant 3,194
  2. Amazon 2,515
  3. TCS 2,312
  4. Tech Mahindra 2,233
  5. Microsoft 1, 479
  6. IBM 1,231
  7. Intel 1,230
  8. Infosys 1,218
  9. Google 1,213
  10. Wipro 1,210
  11. Deloitte 961
  12. Accenture 954
  13. HCL America 866
  14. Facebook 720
  15. Apple 673

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly robotics, AI and labor newsletter, Future of Work. 

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