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Homeland Security Publishes Final Rule on H-1B Visa Process

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a final rule that will change the process for choosing H-1B visa petitions that are subject to the annual “cap” on applications. The immigration rule is set to take effect in April 1, 2019 and will see the DHS changing the order by which it allocates available cap-subject slots

Specifically, the DHS will soon allocate H-1B visa petitions in reverse, first running the random selection process for the 65,000 slots against all cap-subject cases, then allocating the 20,000 slots against the pool of foreign nationals with advanced degrees from American educational institutions. The agency predicts that this will lead to an increased selection of up to 5,340 petitions filed by foreign nationals who possess U.S. postgraduate degrees.

H-1B visas allow U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals qualified in highly specialized fields like biotechnology, computer science, and the like. Being subject to an annual cap, only a limited number of visas are approved every year. This cap is set at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 H-1B slots available to foreign nationals with advanced degrees acquired from U.S. universities and colleges. Before the rule change, the advanced degree slots were allocated first, followed by the rest of the applicants.

The DHS believes that this new order of visa allocation ensures that H-1B slots are prioritized for cases involving only the most skilled foreign nationals and is only one of several efforts toward this goal. Additionally, the procedural change is expected to reduce the costs of the H-1B program and protect the jobs of U.S. workers.

“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better,” explained USCIS Direct L. Francis Cissna. “The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency.”

Changes to the application system will not end in 2019. The DHS announced that it has developed an online portal for employers to electronically fulfill the requirements for their prospective employees, which includes an online questionnaire. The electronic registration for H-1B visas, which is set to roll out in 2020, will require employers to file a separate petition for every migrant they intend to hire, a departure from the current practice of filing several petitions for the same foreign national.

If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program or need assistance applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials

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