For many, an H-1B visa is the American equivalent to Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. It allows holders extreme flexibility in where they can work and provides a means of transitioning to a green card.
The largest group seeking this visa are international students studying in the United States.
As you may or may not know, the amount of H-1Bs awarded every year is capped at 85,000. 65,000 of those are meant for graduates with a bachelor’s degree. The remaining 20,000 are for those with a master’s degree or higher. Applications start April 1st every year, and within a week, the allotment is filled. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses a lottery-like system to choose who gets their golden ticket and who is left waiting for another chance next year.
Given the increasing popularity of this visa, there are several changes applicants should be aware of. The following is a quick summary.
One of the first major changes is the increase in denials. President Trump’s executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security to grant H-1B visas to only the most-skilled foreign workers.
While the cap limits themselves haven’t changed, those with only a bachelor’s degree may find it harder to secure a visa than before. But, those with advanced degrees will see their chances of a successful application increase.
Switching the Order
How does this change work in practice? In years prior, the smaller pool of 20,000 for those with advanced degrees was distributed first. Then the unselected applications entered the 65,000 pool. This will change for the 2020 selection period. In 2020, all those who apply, both with bachelor’s degrees and higher, will enter the general pool of 65,000. Once this number is met, the remaining 20,000 visas are reserved only for advanced degrees.
It may seem like a minor change, but it means those with bachelor’s degrees will compete against a greater number of more educated counterparts.
A spokesperson for USCIS said this change could increase the number of H-1B visa holders with advanced degrees by almost 16 percent.
Winners and Losers
Big changes are coming for companies as well. There will be adjustments in talent pools. The current proposal is likely to benefit tech companies who are constantly looking for highly qualified graduates. However, consulting and subcontracting agencies are likely to take a hit, as they normally target those fresh out of college.
A Simpler Application Process
Lastly, USCIS is changing the way people apply. In the past, employers were required to complete lengthy applications for H-1B visas. This was frustrating when employers knew there was a high chance USCIS would deny the application.
But now, there is a proposed rule that would require employers only to fill out a much simpler, shorter form for each prospective employee. Only once an applicant is accepted will employers fill out the lengthier form.
This approach should streamline the process and reduce costs for employers submitting applications on behalf of prospective employees.