Changes to the H-1B Visa Program
On January 30th, the Trump Administration made two major changes to the H-1B visa program.
The first change involves a pre-cap registration period whereby employers would have to register candidates online for an H-1B cap petition a full two weeks before the traditional application deadline of April 1st. Note that the implementation of this part of the new rule is being delayed until April 2020.
The second change involves reversing the order of the 65,000 regular cap and the additional 20,000 U.S. Masters’ cap. This change comes into effect this H-1B season – starting April 1, 2019.
The prior rule required the USCIS to draw the 20,000 Masters’ cap first from all cases received under that cap. Afterwards, any unselected cases for U.S. Master degree holders would then go into the regular cap.
The new rule reverses the order of the lottery by having USCIS conduct the regular lottery first and the Masters’ lottery second. Any Masters’ cap petitions that were not selected in the regular cap will go into the “Masters’ cap” lottery, from where 20,000 petitions will be selected.
This will essentially give further preference to those with US Master’s (or higher) degrees by increasing their chances of getting an H-1B cap number. At this time, USCIS estimates that up to 16% more Masters’ cap petitions will be selected this H-1B season.
It’s unclear if this new rule will be challenged in court but please stay tuned for further updates and be sure to follow our Managing Attorney, Fiona, @USVisaLawyer on Twitter for real time updates! We’ve also launched a series of mini videos on the H-1B visa so take a look at those for some quick info on this process.
To learn more about the H-1B program, check out our H-1B portal on our website.