Ad­min­is­tra­tion un­veils pro­posed H-1B changes

New rules would fa­vor hold­ers of ad­vanced de­grees

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By Leonardo Cas­tañeda lcas­[email protected] ba­yare­anews­

The Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion has un­veiled its pro­posed changes to the H-1B visa lot­tery, which would fa­vor ap­pli­cants with more ad­vanced de­grees and change the ap­pli­ca­tion process for com­pa­nies seek­ing skilled for­eign work­ers.

The rule change, pub­lished this week in the fed- eral reg­is­ter, comes on the heels of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s 2017 “Buy Amer­i­can and Hire Amer­i­can” ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which di­rected the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity — which over­sees visas and im­mi­gra­tion — to “sug­gest re­forms to help en­sure that H— 1B visas are awarded to the most­skilled or high­est-paid pe­ti­tion ben­e­fi­cia­ries.’’

Right now, ap­pli­cants with a mas­ter’s de­gree or higher from a U.S. col­lege or uni­ver­sity first ap­ply for one of 20,000 ad­vanced de­gree H-1B visas. Those who aren’t se­lected then go into the gen­eral ap­pli­cant pool for a chance at one of the re­main­ing 65,000 slots each year.

The pro­posed rule change would re­verse the process: All ap­pli­cants would com­pete for the first 65,000 slots. Af­ter that, any ad­vanced de­gree hold­ers that didn’t get se­lected will com­pete for the re­main­ing 20,000 visas. H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 a year, though pro­po­nents have long pushed for an in­crease.

U. S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices spokesman Michael Bars said in a state­ment to this news or­ga­ni­za­tion that the change is de­signed to boost the num­ber of H-1B re­cip­i­ents with a mas­ter’s de­gree or higher from U.S. in­sti­tu­tions by 16 per­cent.

“These pro­posed reg­u­la­tory changes would help en­sure more of the best and bright­est work­ers from around the world come to Amer­ica un­der the H-1B pro­gram,” he said.

The H-1B has be­come a flash­point in the im­mi­gra­tion de­bate and a tar­get for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, par­tic­u­larly over use of the visa by out­sourcers, which rake in the lion’s share of H-1Bs,

mostly for bach­e­lor’s de­gree hold­ers. Heav­ily re­lied upon by large tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, the visa has been con­demned by crit­ics as a mech­a­nism for sup­plant­ing Amer­i­can work­ers with cheaper for­eign la­bor.

The pro­posed changes, pub­lished Mon­day, also would cre­ate an on­line reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem for H-1B ap­pli­ca­tions. Un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, all ap­pli­cants sub­mit their com­pleted ap­pli­ca­tions to USCIS. The agency then ran­domly se­lects ap­pli­cants to re­view, un­til all avail­able visas have been awarded. Any ap­pli­ca­tions not re­viewed are mailed back to ap­pli­cants, along with their ap­pli­ca­tion fee.

Un­der the new reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem, ap­pli­cants would cre­ate an on­line ac­count. Only those whose ac­counts are se­lected for re- view would then sub­mit a com­plete ap­pli­ca­tion.

The gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates that change would save ap­pli­cants and the com­pa­nies spon­sor­ing them as much as $75.5 mil­lion in the cost of pre­par­ing and mail­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. Dur­ing the fis­cal year 2019 ap­pli­ca­tion pe­riod, be­tween April 2 and April 11, USCIS re­ceived 190,098 H-1B visa ap­pli­ca­tions.

The new sys­tem is ex­pected to cost about $279,000 to set up and will save the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity $1.8 mil­lion over 10 years largely be­cause the de­part­ment ex­pects to re­ceive fewer com­pleted ap­pli­ca­tions.

A sim­i­lar reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment was pro­posed by the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2011. But in a let­ter that year, the Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion crit­i­cized the idea, in part say­ing that reg­is­tra­tion would be so easy, there would be no de­ter­rent to pre­vent com­pa­nies from “ran­domly reg­is­ter­ing any po­si­tion that they be­lieve might qual­ify for an H-1B.” The change, the let­ter said, would cre­ate “a flood of un­nec­es­sary or un­qual­i­fied regis­tra­tions, po­ten­tially num­ber­ing in the thou­sands, that will ul­ti­mately be aban­doned or de­nied.”

If en­acted, the new reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem pro­posed this week would be im­ple­mented in fis­cal year 2020, although USCIS could de­lay its roll­out if there are “tech­ni­cal chal­lenges,” ac­cord­ing to an agency news re­lease.

The com­ment pe­riod for the pro­posed rule changes is open un­til Jan­uary 2.

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