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Biggest Brain Drains: India Gets Nearly Two-Thirds of U.S. H-1Bs

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Brain Drains: Top 10 Countries Getting H-1Bs
Employees at a food court in Bangalore, India, on Feb. 4, 2013. Photograph by Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

As the fate of the H-1B visa program rests with the U.S. Congress, a lot of Indians -- at least 168,367 of them -- are losing sleep over proposed changes to the guest worker rules.

That's the number of Indians whose H-1B visa petitions were approved in the year ending in September 2012, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While it's no surprise that India gets the lion's share of these visas designed for skilled workers such as engineers, the latest figure represents 64 percent of the total, up from 58 percent the year before.

In other words, the H-1B stakes are only growing for Asia's third-largest economy.

The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill in June that would increase the annual H-1B cap, but also raise the visa cost by thousands of dollars, which could hit India's big outsourcing firms. That's causing many restless nights for foreigners who are banking on employment in the U.S. and the money that's sent back home. Tighter rules could sap up to $8 billion from India's teetering economy , JPMorgan Chase estimated.

Still, what the final law will look like and when it might happen aren't yet clear. House Republicans have delayed consideration of immigration bills until the fall.

Regardless of the outcome, the latest data point to India's ever-growing stake in H-1Bs. Its share of the visas grew in 2012, while the next nine countries topping the list shrank, compared with the average over the previous three years, according to Bloomberg Rankings .

Here's a look at the top 10 countries contributing to the U.S. brain gain. The first set of numbers shows the total number of H-1B approved petitions for 2012 (% of total). The second set shows the annual average of approvals for 2009-2011 (% of total).

1. India: 168,367 (64%); 120,762 (54%)

2. China: 19,850 (7.6%); 20,581 (9.1%)

3. Canada: 7,999 (3%); 8,742 (3.9%)

4. Philippines: 5,304 (2%); 7,479 (3.3%)

5. South Korea: 4,579 (1.7%); 6,427 (2.9%)

6. U.K.: 3,535 (1.3%); 4,219 (1.9%)

7. Mexico: 3,047 (1.2%); 3,150 (1.4%)

8. Japan: 2,542 (1%); 3,293 (1.5%)

9. Taiwan: 2,387 (0.9%); 2,838 (1.3%)

10. France: 2,232 (0.9%); 2,374 (1.1%)

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Wei Lu contributed to this report.

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