The Department of Homeland Security is making changes to the H-1B visa program to increase the number of foreign nationals with advanced degrees admitted into the United States every year. The change is expected to give big tech companies an advantage in hiring in the United States, versus outsourcing entry-level software jobs overseas.
Under current rules, 20,000 visas are awarded to advanced-degree holders in an initial lottery before a general lottery is held for an additional 65,000 visas. Under the new system, the order of the lotteries would be reversed. In a statement, DHS said it estimated the change would result in an increase of up to 16% in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution.
“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency,” Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. citizenship and immigration services said 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,” Cissna said. “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.”
In April 2017, President Trump issued an executive order instructing DHS to propose new rules and suggest reforms to “help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”
“Everyone wants to hire the most qualified candidate they can. But if I’m an employer and I have two candidates who are equally qualified for a position, and both require me to sponsor them for a visa, I’m probably going to want to file for the one with the master’s degree because now, mathematically, I have a better chance of getting them picked,” says Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney based in Austin, Texas.
The new rule goes into effect April 1.