The United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services on Friday announced that it had received enough H-1B visa petitions to reach its maximum limit of 65,000 visas for the financial year 2020. The application process was opened on April 1. This is the first year that the visas are being issued under new, tighter rules, PTI reported.
The H-1B visa allows US companies to temporarily employ skilled workers from abroad. More than three lakh Indians are believed to be on this work permit.
The United States Immigration and Nationality Act, 1990, says that the country can only allocate 65,000 H-1B visas in a financial year. Another 20,000 visas can be issued under the master’s cap.
In a statement, USCIS said it would now determine if it has received enough petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap, which is for those who have completed their master’s degree or a higher qualification from the United States. It has not, however, revealed how many applications it had received.
The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected petitions, it said. Applications for categories that are exempt from the cap will continue to be accepted. These are a limited number of applications and are applicable to foreign nationals who have received an offer from an institute of higher education, among a few other criteria.
The USCIS on its website said it will continue to accept and process petitions filed to “Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States; change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers; allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.”
Last year, USCIS received 190,000 cap-subjected H-1B petitions, said PTI. In 2017, it had received 236,000 petitions within five days.
This year, new rules are in place for issuing the sought-after visa. The key change is that preference will be given to those who have completed their post-graduation or a higher degree from a US institute. This is being done by reversing the order in which the applications are processed.
This year onward, USCIS will first select H1-B petitions for all beneficiaries, including those eligible for advanced degree exemption. This means that there will be several candidates among the selected 65,000 who have done their higher education in the US. It will then select the additional 20,000 applicants who are eligible for a visa under the master’s cap. The US estimates that this will result in a 16% increase in the number of H-1B visa recipients who have done their higher education in the country.
USCIS has also introduced an electronic registration requirement for applicants, which will not be implemented this year.
In April, 2017, US President Donald Trump had issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, directing the Department of Homeland Security to come up with new rules and amend the immigration system “to protect the interests of US workers”. With regard to the H-1B programme, the executive order directed the relevant agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries”.