An outreach worker works on an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

U.S. Proposes Changes To H-1B Visa Regime To Prioritise Most Skilled, Highest Paid Foreign Workers

The Trump administration on Friday proposed major changes to the H-1B application process with the aim of awarding the visa to the most skilled and highest paid foreign workers.

Under a new proposed merit-based rule, companies employing foreign workers on the H-1B visa under the Congressional mandated annual caps -- would have to electronically register with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during a designated registration period.

The H1-B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 each fiscal year as mandated by the U.S. Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the cap.

The USCIS would also reverse the order allowing it to select 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 U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number.

Also read: U.S. IT Firms Claim ‘Dramatic Increase’ In Number Of H-1B Visas Being Held Up

As such, the proposed rule will introduce a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The DHS said public comments on the proposed rule can be submitted from Dec. 3 to Jan. 2.

The proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education, the DHS added.

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.

The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process, it said.

This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications.

Also read: Three-Fourths Of H-1B Visa Holders In 2018 Are Indians: U.S. Report