H-1B changes due to kick in from April 1

The U.S. administration will start accepting H-1B FY 2020 applications on April 1, 2020, United States Citizenship and Information Services (USCIS) announced via a statement on Tuesday. H-1B visas are a way for highly skilled migrants to work in the United States and they provide a path to a green card.

The announcement also confirmed several other changes to the programme — a new data hub, a change in how the lottery is conducted for the general category and advanced degree holders and changes to the mechanism of premium processing.

Data hub

USCIS is launching a new tool — the H1-B Employer Data Hub — which will allow the public to search for H-1B petitioners by company name, fiscal year, an industry code, city, state or zip code. This, according to the USCIS, will provide greater transparency to the programme by providing information on H-1B approval and denial rates and which companies are using the visa.

The FY 2020 process will also reverse the order in which general and advanced degree applicants are selected. The final rule regarding this reversal of the selection process was announced in January – where H-1B petitions will first be selected for all applicants and then, for advanced degree applicants alone, giving advanced degree holders two shots at the selection lottery. This increases the mathematical probability that a petitions are approved for advanced degree holders – the USCIS had estimated that there would be a 16% ( 5,340 workers) increase in selection of those with a U.S. masters or higher degree, under the new process.

“These new efforts underscore the agency’s commitment to supporting President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order designed to protect U.S. workers,” the statement said.

“Our new H-1B data hub will make information more accessible to the public, and the new selection process will help make the system more meritorious and better protect the wages of U.S. workers,” the USCIS said.

Over 70% of H-1B visas went to Indians in fiscal year 2018 but it is unclear whether the overall impact on Indians will be positive or negative because of the aforementioned changes.

“This doesn’t have much impact on the existing H1 visa workforce but provides an advantage to those who come to the U.S. to pursue their higher education, irrespective of their country of origin, “ Karthik (last name withheld on request), an Indian IT professional on an H1B visa told The Hindu.

“As Indians take the vast majority of H1 visas every year, on the one hand this will help many Indian students as they [those with advanced degrees] will receive priority, but on the other hand, there is a steep drop in Indian students’ enrollment in the US universities in recent years given the Green Card backlogs which run to many years and even decades. How these new rules impact is to be watched out for,” Mr. Karthik said.


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