January 26, 2021

US revises H1B visa regime; Higher pay & skills priority; The lottery system was abandoned

Just days before the end of its term, the administration of US President Donald Trump revised his H-1B visa regime, prioritizing higher wages and skills over the existing lottery system for selecting candidates who want to work in the country.

The new rules will apply to H-1B applicants 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register on January 8th. The next H1B visa filing season is set to begin on April 1st.

According to the amended rules, H-1B cap visas will be issued to the highest paid employees in their respective fields of employment and geography. Level 4 visas are first issued to individuals funded by US companies, which include the highest of the four wage categories and the most experienced workers.

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Continue with Level 3 and more until the 85,000 annual allocation is met. Until now, the selection of H-1B work visas was done through a random lottery system that did not take into account any factors such as pay, experience or choice.

The largest number of beneficiaries on H-1B visas in the United States are Indians. The new rule could make hiring international workers more challenging and significantly affect Indians who want to work in the country.

The Government of India has stated that it is in talks with the United States for increased predictability in the visa regime and to reduce the inconvenience to Indians in the United States.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that requires US companies to theoretically or technically specialize in foreign workers in specialized industries. U.S. technology companies that employ millions of employees each year from India and China depend on this visa category.

Read | Trump extends freeze on H-1B and other work visas until March 31; Indian IT professionals need to succeed

Technology giants oppose the move

Leaders of technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have opposed permanent changes to the H-1B visa regime. Although Indian companies have been phased out due to these work permits, many large technology companies are looking to hire H-1B workers from the pool.

H-1B visas are generally valid for three years, after which beneficiaries often change employers and continue to work for other US-based companies. In 2018-19, Google, Facebook and Apple hired more than 13,000 talented IT workers with H1B visas, either directly or from existing visa holders, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.

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