Monday, March 13, 2017

An interesting factlet about H1b visa holders and chemistry

Also in this week's C&EN, an article by Linda Wang* about immigrant postdocs and their concerns with the future immigration policy of the Trump Administration. An interesting statistic about the relatively small number of chemistry-related H1b visa holders:
The number of H-1B visas awarded to researchers in the chemical sciences is already extremely low. In 2015, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, initial H-1B petitions approved in occupations in mathematics and physical and life sciences accounted for approximately 4% of the total approved H-1B petitions. In comparison, 62% of the approved H-1B petitions went to computer-related occupations.
I can't quite tell the accuracy of "", but I presume their database is based on Department of Homeland Security data.  In the 2015 database, the number of Labor Condition Applications for chemists was 2,180, with an average salary of $63,669. By comparison, the number of chemists in the US workforce is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is around 91,100.

*Full disclosure: my editor.


  1. This is not surprising although 15-25 years ago there was probably a higher proportion such Visas for S types vs T people as pretty much all the foreign Chem & Bio grad students and post-docs I interacted with sought companies that would sponsor them for a green card for permanent residency. Certainly much has been driven by differential growth (or decline) in the core industry balance that would prompt changes however I am not sure if H1B was and still is a stepping stone or if majority of companies recruit foreigners

  2. Interesting numbers. So we have a system that allows 5,504 physicians into the country at a salary of $160k but 72,321 computer programmers in at $67k. Considering the 328,000 computer programming jobs (job:visa = 4.5:1) and 708,000 physician/surgeon jobs (130:1), I can see why some people without licensing boards to protect their professions might object to the present system. (Chemists' ratio is 42:1. That's certainly closer to physicians than programmers but with salaries actually less than the latter's.)

  3. The average salary of $64 K seems low, compared to the average chemist salary (~$97 K per

    From my experience (early 00s), I was told by an immigration lawyer that one couldn't go from a J or TN visa to a green card, so needed the H1B.

    1. Remember: median ACS member is in their late 40s. Not so for H1b holders, who tend to be newer grads (the tech ones, anyway.) Also, ACS population skews more Ph.D., larger company, etc., etc.

    2. I knew a lot of Canadians on TNs. That's correct: You can't technically transition to permanent residency because the TN is a *temporary* work permit...not even a real visa. Of course, a few of those Canucks have been on TNs for almost 20 years, so "temporary" is laughable. And it's pretty common that, after a number of years, they settle down and find Americans to marry, so they got their green cards that way. So I don't think employers give a fig about TN versus H1-B...