Washington: The Trump Administration on Friday proposed major changes to the H-1B application process, including a new rule requiring companies to electronically register their petitions in advance, aimed at awarding the American work visa to the most skilled and highest paid foreign workers.
The H-1B visa, popular among Indian IT companies and professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on H-1B visas to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries such as India and China.
Under the new proposed merit-based rule, a notice for which was issued on Friday, companies employing foreign workers on the H-1B visa — under the Congressional mandated annual caps — would first have to electronically register with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.
The H1-B visa has a numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.
Under the new rule, the USCIS will reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption. This is likely to increase the number of foreign workers with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number.
The proposed rule will introduce a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement. Public comments will have to be submitted starting December 3, and must be received on or before January 2, it added.
“The proposed rule will 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.
Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions was selected for the H-1B cap, the USCIS would select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption.
“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,” it said.
The proposed process will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education, according to the DHS. “This will help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications,” it added.
President Donald Trump, who insists on the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ strategy, last year instructed the DHS to propose new rules and issue new guidance to supersede or revise previous rules to protect the interests of US workers. He had directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas were awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”