The United States announced that it will modify the H-1B visa selection process where wages and skill level will be given priority over the lottery system that has been in place for years.

The officials said that this modification is aimed to protect the US workers’ economic interests. Moreover, it is also aimed to make sure that highly skilled workers from foreign benefit from the temporary employment programme in the USA.

The H1-B visa is a visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers. It is a non-immigrant visa that lets people who have special theoretical or technical expertise, work on US soil. 

The H1-B visa has been a key instrument for Indian IT companies that export their employees as well as tech giants like Apple and Google to import foreign employees into specialty occupations. According to reports, the US government issues 85,000 H1-B visas per year and Indians account for 70% of them.

The USCIS(the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said, “The H-1B temporary visa programme has been exploited and abused by employers primarily seeking to fill entry-level positions and reduce overall business costs.” 

Edlow added, “The current H-1B random selection process makes it difficult for businesses to plan their hiring, fails to leverage the programme 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 US workers.” 

This ruling comes after the Department of Homeland Security’s notice on November 2, 2020, which proposed the rule. According to the USCIS,  before proposing the regulation as a final rule, the Department of Homeland Security also considered the public comments deliberately. 

According to the final rule, the new system will faithfully implement the Immigration and Nationality Act(INA) while considering both the skill and wage level. This will incentivize the H-1B employers to offer higher wages. 

Moreover, it will maximise the H-1B allocations so that only the brightest and best workers attain the visa. It will also be a deterrent for the ongoing abuse of the H1-B visa programme. Under the current system, the H-1B programme is filled with relatively lower-paid and lower-skilled individuals. 

The USCIS said that this effort will only affect H-1B registrations submitted by petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. The rule will be implemented for both H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption. 

The final rule also said, “While administering a random lottery system is reasonable, it is inconsiderate of Congress’s statutory purposes for the H-1B program and its administration”

As per the mandate by the US congress, the USCIS can issue only a maximum of 65,000 H1-B visas annually. Additional 20,000 H1-B visas can be issued to those foreign students who are done with their higher studies from US universities in STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects.