- H-1B uncertainty could become even more pronounced, with proposed changes to the process. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering new rules that would, among other things, require that employers pre-register for the process, according to law firm Skoler Abbott.
- The current system allows U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals with specialized knowledge and expertise as long as they hold at least a bachelor's degree. The number of available visas is capped at 65,000 for fiscal year 2019. An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are set aside for foreign workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities and colleges. The U.S. Custom and Immigration Services (USCIS) then uses a lottery system to select petitions for visas that count towards the cap.
- Skoler Abbott reports that under the new proposal, USCIS will start accepting petitions April 1 for fiscal year 2020. Employers would be required to register electronically with USCIS during a specified registration period. DHS would then select at random enough registrations to fill the available number of H-1B petitions subject to the cap. Selected employers would have 60 days to file an H-1B petition before DHS moves on to a waiting list.
Employers have experienced a frustrating H-1B process in recent years. The program receives more requests for foreign workers than it can approve under the current lottery system. In fact, USCIS's visa denials rose by 41% in in the fourth quarter of 2017, and the number of requests for evidence in Q4 was more than the first three quarters of the year combined. And changes to the process had experts recommending that employers rethink how they approach the process.
Employers looking to hire seasonal workers through H-2B visas didn't fare much better; the visa shortage that spiked in 2017 was so severe that some employers anticipated closing their businesses. The shortage continued to threaten business owners into 2018.
In the meantime, it's important to note that the proposed H-1B changes are just that — a proposal. Final rules could be held up by the shutdown or if the necessary technology isn't ready in time, as DHS gave itself the option to suspend pre-registration if needed.