Trump Administration May Push Big Changes to H-1B Lottery System
The Trump administration is planning some changes to the H-1B lottery system. Those changes could see more highly educated workers obtaining the visa. According to Politico, which obtained its information from an anonymous official in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the administration plans on placing all H-1B applicants in the same “general pool” of 65,000 visas. Once this cap is hit, any remaining applicants with advanced degrees would end up in a 20,000-visa “master’s cap” pool. If the Politico source is accurate, this would essentially flip the current setup, in which those workers with a master’s degree (or higher) from a U.S. institution are processed through a 20,000-visa pool, with the remaining petitions directed into the 65,000-visa “general pool.” In theory, this would lead to a significant increase in the number of H-1B visa holders with advanced degrees, by giving those workers two robust chances at a successful application. However, the federal government has yet to reveal its plans, aside from suggesting that the reforms would “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” In addition, the regulation could streamline the H-1B administration process “and increase the probability of the total number of petitions selected under the cap filed for H-1B beneficiaries who possess a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.” This could end up benefitting big tech firms such as Google, which have a need for workers with advanced degrees and qualifications. It would also ding staffing and consulting firms: According to the Seattle Times, “outsourcing and staffing companies such as Infosys, Cognizant, Tata, Wipro and Deloitte tend to obtain more visas for bachelor’s degree holders, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration.” It remains to be seen, however, whether changes to the H-1B process will curb the tech industry’s pushback against the Trump administration over visas. In October, ITServe Alliance, a nonprofit group that counts more than 1,000 IT service organizations as its members, filed a lawsuit against the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). That lawsuit argues that USCIS approved visas for too short a period, and wants the court to limit the agency’s ability to set ultra-short validity periods. Apple, Salesforce, and other firms have also argued against the ongoing tweaks to immigration and H-1B policy. “Changes in immigration policy… are causing considerable anxiety for many thousands of our employees while threatening to disrupt company operations,” read an open letter, signed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and other luminaries, that was addressed to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in August. Whatever’s announced with regard to the H-1B lottery system, it likely won’t be the end of the Trump administration’s attempts to tweak the system. Nor will it affect the temporary suspension of premium H-1B processing, which is slated to run through February 2019; that maneuver, ostensibly to allow USCIS time to clear through a backlog of petitions, was already aggravating some tech firms.