Just a few days before its term ends, US President Donald Trump’s administration has once again amended its H-1B visa regime, giving priority to higher wages and skills instead of the prevailing lottery system for selecting candidates willing to work in the country.
The new rules effective for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register on January 8 will most likely cover H-1B applicants. The next H1B visa filing season is slated to start on April 1.
According to the amended rules, H-1B cap visas would be allocated to those earning the highest salaries in their respective field of occupation and geographic areas of employment. The visas would be first awarded to individuals sponsored by US companies in Level 4, which is the highest of the four wage categories and covers very experienced workers.
Followed by those at Level 3 and so on, until the annual quota of 85,000 has been met. Until now, the selection of H-1B work visas was done by a randomized lottery system, which did not consider wage, experience, or any factors for selection.
Indians constitute the largest number of beneficiaries of H-1B visas in the US. The new rule could make hiring international workers more challenging and would significantly impact Indians aspiring to work in the country.
The government of India said that it was engaged in talks with the US for increased predictability in the visa regime, and to minimize inconvenience to Indian nationals in the US.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. US tech companies depend on this visa category to hire millions of employees each year from India and China.
The constant changes in the H-1B visa regime have been opposed by leaders of technology giants such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter. Even though Indian firms have gradually stopped depending on these work permits, many giant tech corporations still look to hire from the pool of H-1B workers.
H-1B visas are generally approved for three years, after which beneficiaries often change employers and continue working for other US-based companies. In 2018-19, Google, Facebook, and Apple hired more than 13,000 highly skilled IT workers with H1B visas, either directly or from existing visa holders looking to change jobs in order to stay on, according to data from the US Department of Labour.