The United States government on Thursday announced that it will now prioritise salary and skills for granting H-1B visas, instead of following the lottery procedure.
H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows American companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. It is highly sought-after by Indian professionals.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a statement that the decision was taken to safeguard the interests of American workers and ensure that the most highly-skilled foreign workers benefit from the visa program.
The government agency’s Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said that the visa program had been “exploited and abused” by employers wanting to fill entry-level positions. “The current H-1B random selection process makes it difficult for businesses to plan their hiring, fails to leverage the program to compete for the best and brightest international workforce, and has predominantly resulted in the annual influx of foreign labor placed in low-wage positions at the expense of U.S. workers,” he said.
Edlow added that the move will provide an incentive to employers to offer higher salaries and hire for positions requiring better skills, which will in turn ensure that their businesses remain competitive globally.
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The final rule on H-1B visas will be applicable 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. It can, however, be cancelled by the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Earlier in January, outgoing President Donald Trump had extended immigration bans on green cards and visas that allow foreign workers to temporarily work in the country till March 31. The bans were scheduled to end on December 31. Trump said the measures were needed to protect American workers amid the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on January 20, criticised the decision but didn’t say if he would reverse the ban immediately. In November, his campaign had released a policy document chalking out his plans to increase the number of visas for highly-skilled workers, including the H-1B, and eliminate the limit on employment-based visas granted by the US.