H-1B workers are switching jobs in US at record rate: Report

H-1B visa holders are increasingly switching jobs in the United States, with a record number doing so in 2022. H‑1B workers are leaving their initial H‑1B employers more than ever. There are multiple factors, including a policy change and a growing pool of H-1B workers, behind this trend.

A study conducted by David J Bier, Director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, found that H-1B workers changed jobs over 1 million times (1,090,890) between 2005 and 2023. The Cato Institute is a Washington DC-based think tank.

The trend of job-changing is on the rise, with the number of switches growing from about 24,000 in 2005 to a record 130,576 in 2022, a more than fivefold increase.

There was a slight decline in 2023 with 117,153 worker switches.

“H‑1B job shifting is more common than H‑1B workers starting H‑1B employment for the first time. In 2023, about 61% of all H‑1B workers starting with a new employer were existing H‑1B workers hired away from other employers in the United States. This means that US employers are more likely to hire an H‑1B worker already in the United States in H‑1B status as they are to hire a new H‑1B worker not already with H‑1B status,” according to David J Bier.

WHY THE INCREASE IN JOB CHANGES?

Bier attributed the rise in H-1B worker job changes to several factors.

A tighter labour market in general has led to more worker mobility across industries.

Additionally, the number of H-1B workers in the US has grown, creating a larger pool of talent for companies to recruit from.

Since the H-1B visa cap has been reached quickly each year since 2014, employers are more likely to target H-1B workers already authorised to work in the US, known as ‘poaching’ talent from competitors.

A policy change in 2017 that extended a grace period to 60 days for H-1B workers to find a new job after losing their current one is also seen as a contributing factor.

Finally, a surge in green card applications in 2021 may also have played a role.

After filing a green card application, H-1B workers have more freedom to switch jobs without their employer needing to restart the green card process.

However, the number of pending green card applications declined in 2022, suggesting this is just one piece of the puzzle.

Despite the increased mobility, Bier highlights ongoing challenges for H-1B workers.

New employers who hire H-1B workers from other companies face hefty fees, and a backlog in green cards, particularly for Indian workers, can create pressure to stay with the initial sponsoring employer.

Bier suggests that automatically converting H-1B status to green cards after a certain period, rather than requiring renewals, could be a solution.

He also points out that the current 60-day grace period to find a new job after losing employment may not be enough time for some workers to feel comfortable leaving a difficult situation.

Despite these government-imposed obstacles, the fact that many H-1B workers switch jobs shows they’re not like ‘indentured’ servants.

According to Pew Research Center, about 2.1% of college graduates changed jobs monthly in 2022.

With around 580,000 H-1B workers, over 117,000 changing jobs in 2023 suggests a monthly job change rate of 1.7%—lower than college graduates, but far from claims of “indentured servitude”.

WHAT IS H-1B VISA TRANSFER?

An H-1B transfer lets you switch employers while working in the United States. To do this, the new employer needs to file an H-1B visa transfer request with the USCIS. Generally, it takes four to 10 months for the transfer process, but with premium processing, it can be done in just 2 weeks, according to US immigration.

HOW TO TRANSFER AN H-1B VISA STATUS IN 2024

In 2024, transferring an H-1B visa status involves several steps for both new employers and visa holders.

Initially, the employer must submit the Labor Condition Application (LCA) outlining the conditions of the position.

Following LCA approval, they can initiate the transfer process by filing an I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, before the current employment period concludes.

Additionally, H-1B transfer fees must be paid as required. Both the employer and the visa holder must compile and submit specific documents mandated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If the visa holder ceased working for the original employer before the transfer, the employer should file for premium processing.

Although the visa holder can commence working for the new employer upon receipt of the USCIS acknowledgement, it’s advisable to await USCIS approval before making the transition official.

H-1B TRANSFER PROCESS: FEES

When considering an H-1B transfer, understanding the associated fees is crucial.

The fees for an H-1B transfer mirror those of filing a standard H-1B petition.

This includes a basic filing fee for the I-129 form, which amounts to $460 for small employers and nonprofits, and $780 for larger companies.

Additionally, there’s a Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500, though this doesn’t apply to H-1B extensions.

The ACWIA Training Fee varies depending on the employer’s size, with $750 for those with fewer than 25 employees and $1,500 for those with 25 or more.

Another fee, Public Law 114-113, is set at $4,000 and is applicable only if the employer exceeds 50 employees, with over half of them holding H-1B or L-1 status.

An asylum programme fee is also required, amounting to $600 for employers with 26 or more full-time employees, $300 for small employers, and waived for nonprofits.

Moreover, opting for premium processing incurs an additional $2,805. Attorney fees for guiding through the process may vary.

Published By:

Girish Kumar Anshul

Published On:

Apr 22, 2024

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