While the U.S. has put fast-track H1B visas on hold in an effort to detect fraud and abuse, it has not affected the existing quota that Singapore is eligible for.
As part of a free trade agreement between the two countries, 5,400 visas annually are available for Singaporean professionals. This comes under H-1B1 programme.
These visas for Singaporeans are not affected by the new development on H1B visas, as highlighted in a report in The Straits Times today.
But then Singaporeans only took up 551 of the 5400 H-1B1 visas in 2015. The low intake may indicate that Singaporeans do not clamour for life in the U.S. This was in addition to the 331 H1B visas that were given to Singaporeans the same year. That’s a strong intake for a tiny country like Singapore.
Living standards in Singapore are as good as those in the U.S. Therefore, H1B and H-1B1 visas may not hold the same kind of allure for Singaporeans as they do for Indians.
It can also mean that there are not enough Singaporeans with programming skills to draw them to the U.S. That may very well be the case as Singapore universities are seen to be trying hard to keep locals away from prime courses.
Whatever that may be, it is indeed a privilege for Singapore that the H-1B1 visas for its people are not being subjected to scrutiny at this stage.
G Joslin Vethakumar