H-1B visa overhaul favors the ‘most-skilled’

indica Washington Bureau –


In a move that will filter out more bachelor’s degree holders from the H-1B program, the Trump administration has proposed a change in the visa application process that will award visa only to the most meritorious and highest paid foreign workers.

Under the new merit-based system, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would review all applications, including those for workers with advanced degrees, during a registration period before the actual petitions are filed.

“This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

The proposed change in the selection process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of H-1B visa holders with advanced US degrees, or about 5,000 workers, according to DHS.

As per the Congress mandate, immigration law caps the number of regular H-1B visas at 65,000 each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 may be awarded to workers with master’s degrees and PhDs.

The proposed rule lays down that companies, which plan to hire foreign workers on H-1B will have be required to first “electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period”.

At the moment, companies file when the annual H-1B season is announced in April.

“Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap.

“The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first,” the DHS said.

The USCIS said it expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for the agency.

“This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications. The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system,” the USCIS said.

The agency would also reverse the order allowing it to select H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption.

The DHS plans to publish the new rule on December 3, which will kick off a 30-day public comment period and, if reports are to be believed, it could be more than a year before the new rule takes effect.

The USCIS is an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees the H-1B visa process.

Ever since the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump has been critical of H-1B visa rule, calling it “a cheap labor program”. The president has slammed the “unfair use” of the H-1B visa, mostly by Indian professionals, who he says are taking away tech jobs from the US citizens.


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