Proposed Changes to the H1B Visa Program

Proposed Changes to the H1B Visa Program

Proposed Changes to the H1B Visa Program


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For many years H-1B visa program has been a popular option among U.S. tech companies, allowing them to fill in some key positions with skilled foreign workers. However, recently introduced rulemaking for the H-1B visa program left a lot of U.S. employers and foreign nationals confused about the new requirements. 

The first change USCIS proposes is related to the way the agency selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and advanced degree exemption. Under the proposed rule, USCIS will reverse the selection process in favor of applicants with U.S. master’s degree or higher.

There are 85,000 H-1B visas in total available every fiscal year (FY). 20,000 of these are secured for petitions filed for graduates of U.S. master’s degree programs or higher. Remaining 65,000 H-1B visas are intended for petitions involving all qualified and eligible visa beneficiaries.

First, 20,000 petitions from the pool of applicants with U.S. master’s degree or higher are selected. Then, the remaining 65,000 petitions are selected for all applicants.

The new regulation proposes to reverse this process. First, USCIS would select 65,000 petitions among all applicants. Then, 20,000 master’s cap petitions would be selected.

This change would significantly increase chances of being selected in the H-1B visa lottery for those holding an advance degree from a U.S. university and make it harder for other qualified applicants to secure a visa. Therefore, more H-1B visas will be issued to those with U.S. master’s degrees compared to those with other qualifications.

Another big change is electronic pre-registration requirement for U.S. employers. Petitioning companies will be required first to electronically register with USCIS and submit key information about the beneficiary and the position.  USCIS will then conduct a lottery. Once the employer is notified by the USCIS that an application has been selected in the lottery, the employer can proceed with filing an H-1B petition for a selected visa beneficiary. According to USCIS, this electronic pre-registration would save time and cut costs for U.S. employers, as well as facilitate a quicker adjudication process for the agency.

Please note, that the rule is a proposal and is not in effect yet. USCIS will issue an official statement should the rule become official for FY 2020 H-1B season. If you are planning to apply for H-1B visa, it is strongly recommended to consult with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer. At Root Law Group, we offer a free in-office consultation with our experienced immigration attorneys. Call (323) 456-7600 today to make an appointment. 

In summary:

  • New USCIS regulation will require U.S. employers to electronically pre-register prior to filing an H-1B petition.
  • The new rule would also reverse the order in which USCIS selects H-1B petitions, increasing chances of being selected in a lottery for individuals with a U.S. master’s or higher degree.
  • The proposed rule is not in effect yet.