Looking at the Number of Nonimmigrant Visas Issued 2008-2012

We take a look at the number of nonimmigrant visas issued during a four-year time period, share some observations, and suggestions for the future.

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The U.S. Department of  State released the following information regarding the number of nonimmigrant visas issued between 2008-2012. More details regarding issuance and refusal data, waivers, and nationality can be found here.

I’m looking at the overall numbers. Take a look:

nonimmigrant visas



















What Caught My Attention

1. F visas (student) steadily increased, after dropping slightly in 2009.

2. J visas (exchange visitor) stayed about the same over the years. It dropped in 2009 and stayed around 350,000-somethings.

3. B-1 visas (temporary visitor for business) decreased overall by about 12,500.

4. B-1/B-2 (temporary visitor for business AND pleasure) dropped in 2009, but overall increased more than 1.8 million.

5. C visas (transit) have steadily decreased over the years. Overall decrease is about 21,600.

6. H visas (temporary works, example is the H-1B visa) dropped in 2009 and steadily crawled back up to the 300,000-somethings. The cap for H-1Bs is 65,000 for the fiscal year 2014. Read more about the H-1B cap here.

7. S visas (informant possessing information on criminal activity or terrorism) had a total of FOUR within the time period. Two issued in 2011 and the additional two in 2012.

8. U visas (victim of criminal activity) made a HUGE jump in 2010 and another HUGE jump in 2011.

  • In 2008, there were zero visas issued.
  • In 2009, a total of 13.
  • In 2010, it jumped to 663.
  • In 2011, another jump to 1,368.
  • In 2012, a total 1,595.

international student voice magazine U visas chart

Why the Drop in 2009?

In 2009, there was an overall decrease of eight percent of nonimmigrant visas issued, 39.4 million to 36.2 million, according to the Department of State. Nonimmigrant visas decreased post September 11, 2001 and steadily increased back to normal numbers in 2006. By 2008, there was a new record of how many nonimmigrant visas  issued. When a record is set, sometimes it’s hard to maintain the following year.

In 2009 however, there was a decrease in the top leading countries of citizenship of nonimmigrants. Mexico had a decrease of H-2B visas (non-agricultural workers) and H-2A visas (agricultural workers). There was also a 14 percent decrease of H-1B visas from India. Why the decrease from these countries is unknown. But obviously the numbers bounced back up since then.

Why the Increase of U Visas?

U visas are issued for victims of criminal activity (learn more here). This visa grants someone and their family members temporary legal status to live in the United States and also a work permit for four years. Then they can apply for a green card. In return, they testify against their attackers. Most cases are related to human trafficking and sexual abuse.

The United States started issuing U visas in 2008 as part of the provision under the Violence Against Women Act. There is a limit of 10,000 U visas issued each year and for fiscal year 2013, the United States has already hit the limit. There was a total of 24,000 applications for U visas this year.

There is a huge backlog for these visas now, most applicants having to wait 15 months for a response. Most are allowed in the U.S., but being allowed to work is different story. People on U visas are supposed to be allowed to work, but actually have the work permit granted doesn’t usually happen. Attorneys said it’s because of the backlog.


Seeing an overall increase of nonimmigrant visas over this five-year period makes sense, especially with student visas because of the push of recruiting international students to study in the United States. See the growing trends and the economic impact of international students here. 

Also the push for new businesses to start in the United States is the center of a political debate. Previously, it’s been hard for nonimmigrants to come to the U.S. to start businesses, but in hopes of improving the economy and creating more U.S. jobs, the U.S. government sees the benefit of allowing foreign entrepreneurs in the country. Read this article by Forbes Magazine: Coming to America: the 5 Best Visa Options for Startup Entrepreneurs.

Under some of these nonimmigrant visas, one is not allowed to have the intent to immigrate, such as the J visa (exchange visa). But certain visas one would be allowed to have the intent to immigrate, such as the H-1B visa. This is a nonimmigrant visa with a “dual intent”. This person is allowed to work up to six years in the United States and then has to leave the country at least one year to be able to re-enter and work another six years.

Take for example, someone who came to the U.S. as an international student, earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and worked on a H-1B visa for the time allowed. You have someone who invested minimally 12 years into the country. Invested not only career wise, but in terms of paying into Social Security and taxes. In terms of immigration reform, these people should be encouraged to stay and shouldn’t be shunned away.

With the increase of nonimmigrant visas in the United States, the government needs to also adjust with the increase of qualified people wanting to immigrant to the country. Right now the focus is on undocumented immigrants, but we can’t ignore those who are educated in this country and want to make the United States home.


international student voice magazine webCarrie2Article written by Carrie Circosta

Editor in Chief





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