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US switches to new H-1B system that favours foreigners in American colleges

The US announced that starting April 1, it will switch to a new system for processing H-1B petitions that will give priority to foreign workers with advanced degrees from an American institution of higher education, over those hired abroad, in India, China and other countries.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2019 23:54 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
United States,H-1B,India
The new system will also introduce electronic registration of petitions, which, however, will be suspended for the upcoming H-1B 2020 season that will typically kick off from April 1.(AFP/Getty Images)

The United States on Wednesday announced that starting April 1, it will switch to a new system for processing H-1B petitions that will give priority to foreign workers with advanced degrees from an American institution of higher education, over those hired abroad, in India, China and other countries.

The new system will also introduce electronic registration of petitions, which, however, will be suspended for the upcoming H-1B 2020 season that will typically kick off from April 1.

The switch in the selection process is expected to increase the number of beneficiaries with advanced degrees from US institutions by an estimated 16% (or 5,340 workers). It is in line with President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions in support of merit-based immigration.

Francis Cissna, director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the H-1B visa programme, gave a nod to Trump in a statement announcing the new rule and said, “US employers seeking to employ foreign workers with an American masters 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.”

Trump had himself signalled the new rule in a tweet earlier this month in which he had said “changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship”. And, he had added, “We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US.”

The US grants 65,000 visas to foreigner workers hired abroad for speciality professions sponsored by American employers every year under a congressionally mandated cap. Another 20,000 visas are granted to foreigners with advanced degree from US colleges and universities.

More than 70% of the total visas go to Indian beneficiaries hired by both US companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, and US arms of Indian outsourcing giants such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro.

Starting April 1, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption, who would earlier have been set aside for the advanced degree category only.

The immigration agency would then select from the remaining eligible petitions to fill the category for advanced degree exemption. This is expected to push up the number of advanced degrees beneficiaries by 16%. “The reverse selection order will apply to petitions filed for the financial year 2020 H-1B cap season,” USCIS said.

First Published: Jan 30, 2019 22:40 IST