Effective April 1, there will be new rules governing the H-1B visa, which U.S. tech companies use to hire skilled workers from overseas.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the new rules Wednesday. Starting April 1, USCIS will select H-1B applicants from one pool. In the past, they were separated into the regular application group and applicants with advanced degrees applying for an exception to the cap of visas awarded each year. After regular H-1B visas are awarded via the lottery system, USCIS will select workers for the advanced degree exemption from the applications left over. The goal is to increase the number of overall H-1B visas that go to workers with higher degrees.
USCIS awards 65,000 H-1B visas each year and an additional 20,000 are available for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education.
“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna in a statement. “We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”
USCIS estimates that up to 16 percent of H-1B visas will go to workers with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. education institution under the new policy.
The agency also plans to implement a new electronic registration system for H-1B applicant but that will be deferred for a year.
Companies like Microsoft and Amazon apply for H-1B visas on behalf of thousands of foreign-born workers to fill their tech talent gaps. The changes are part of Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” agenda seeking to implement a more merit-based legal immigration system.