The number of H-1B visa petitions approved by USCIS has continued to fall in fiscal year 2019, according to data released by the agency Tuesday. So far this fiscal year, only 83.9 percent of the petitions for temporary skilled workers under the H-1B visa program has been initially approved, a drop from 84.5 percent in FY 2018 and 92.6 percent in FY 2017. At the same time, 39.6 percent of H-1B petitions received so-called "requests for evidence" so far this fiscal year, up from 38 percent last fiscal year and 21.4 percent in FY 2017.

Business advocates say the trend is driven at least partly by President Donald Trump's 2017 "Buy American and Hire American" executive order, which said H-1B visas must go only to "the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries." The program is a popular vehicle for tech companies to import foreign talent to the U.S., and grants 65,000 employment visas each year, plus an additional 20,000 for U.S. master's degree holders.

The largest driving force behind the demand to increase H-1B visas is the debated idea that there are more tech and IT jobs available than there are American STEM workers to fill them. Despite the common talking point put forth by big business and the STEM field, an analysis led by Hal Salzman, a professor at Rutgers University, found that the U.S. graduates more STEM workers than the tech industry needs and that STEM wages have stayed depressingly flat. They write:

For every two students that U.S. colleges graduate with STEM degrees, only one is hired into a STEM job. In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations.

Undeniably, the flow of U.S. students into STEM fields has been strong over the past decade, and the number of U.S. graduates with STEM majors appears to be responsive to changes in employment levels and wages; two aspects of the labor market often hit hardest by mass immigration.

Updated: Thu, Aug 1st 2019 @ 1:25pm EDT