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How China ranks among countries with most US work visas

H1-B visa lotteries in the past 20 years

As the country that welcomes the largest population of international students, the U.S. also provides a plethora of working opportunities for them; however, not everyone is lucky enough to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation.

Students who wish to work legally must participate in work visa lot drawings (aka H1-B visas), and only those who are selected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can continue to stay and work for their employers.

According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. immigration services signed off on more than 2,400,000 H1-B visas in the past 20 years. When the Trump administration called for creating more job opportunities for the American people by ousting undocumented immigrants who took the most laborious jobs, people may have wondered who received the most job opportunities in fields that require higher education levels.

It is clear from the motion chart that India and mainland China are the two countries who are exporting the most highly educated employees. While some countries are listed as the top 25 of slot winnings, India and China are much higher on the scale. China, however, was not a strong rival to Britain until 2000; since then, Chinese H1-B holders have increased drastically, reaching 20,000 in 2016, making China a competitive country in winning H1-B visas. The other fierce candidate is India; the number of India H1-B holders already exceeded 30,000 in 1997 and topped the list with 126,000 slots in 2016.

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Double click the buttons on the right to track the countries’ records.
Credits: Visual is created by GYV
’s Liu Jiang. Data is from U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Harsh environment for international employees

H1-B visas are the first step to obtaining green cards for many graduates. Therefore, many people dream of finding a company that is willing to sponsor their H1-B visas. However, as a result of “H1-B fever,” many problems have occurred, including fraud (faking qualifications and misusing H1-B).

To rectify the visa application environment and protect Americans from competing with international employees, President Trump released a president executive order on “buying and hiring Americans” in April, which states that “in order to create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the U.S., and to protect their economic interests, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to rigorously enforce and administer the laws governing entry into the United States of workers from abroad.”

Strictly speaking, the order didn’t illustrate any actions on how to add job opportunities, but it released the administrators’ policy tendency; as a response, the U.S. government tightened the checking procedure of H1-B applications. Reuters reported that USCIS issued 85,000 RFEs (Request for Evidence forms) this year, a 45 percent increase than the previous fiscal year.

By receiving the RFE, “it basically means you’re out of the game,” says Andrea Zheng, a Chinese data engineer working at an art organization in Salt Lake City. Her Chinese boyfriend was selected by USCIS but received a RFE in early October, when the H1-B qualification checking process should have been finished. Later on, the RFE denied the legitimacy of his H1-B visa. Both Zheng and her boyfriend were in disbelief; usually, when people are selected by USCIS, it’s less likely to be kicked out unless there are severe legal issues with their documents or identities. Although Zheng will still participate in next year’s H1-B lottery, she was upset because this accident disrupted her future plans with her boyfriend. “We planned to get married next year in the U.S. and buy a house (when he could officially work), but now he can’t even stay here.”

‘To go or not to gois not really a question

While thousands of new graduates pray to win the lottery, many Chinese students don’t even think about staying in the U.S. Instead, they believe going back to China to further their careers is a wise choice, and studying abroad is just a resume builder.

“There are a few people in my major applying for internship visas after their graduation,” said Ying Huang, a Chinese financial major studying at Tulane University. “I personally believe that the U.S. financial market has been saturated, and they need to develop an international business.” Adding on to her statement, Huang says, “China has such a huge potential in futures and options.” Besides the job, Huang also expressed her concern about being the only child in her family. “Staying in the U.S. is too far away from home, and I usually feel lonely. My family and I miss each other a lot.”

Not only do financial majors think highly of the opportunities in China, law students do as well.  Marcia Ou, a law major at Peking University and exchange scholar at American University, also wanted to go back to China. “I might pursue my PhD degree here, but not staying here permanently. In law field, you could understand international laws better after studying in the U.S., and the international laws study has a promising future in China,” said Ou. She, like Huang, also expressed her concern as the only child at home. “I’m not going to stay here because my parents disagree with that. Also, I myself don’t want to leave my parents alone either.”

For those students, whether or not to stay in the U.S. never seems to be a question because they focus on the job opportunities instead of locations. “The market is really huge in China, and I think I can fulfill my full potential back home. Then, why would I try hard to stay and put up with loneliness and cultural barrier here?” asked Huang.

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Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV