The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2018. According to USCIS, it has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap. Being the major group receiving the H-1B visa, the Indian immigrants have higher share of visa fraud as well.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.
The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.
“USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. However, please keep in mind USCIS suspended premium processing April 3 for up to six months for all H-1B petitions, including cap-exempt petitions,” said an announcement by the USCIS.
It said petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the congressionally mandated FY 2018 H-1B cap. USCIS 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.
The H-1B visa program is considered a lifeblood for tech firms, bringing engineers, scientists and other professionals to the U.S., especially the Silicon Valley. But critics of the program say it allows companies to replace U.S. employees with younger, cheaper foreign workers.
Trump had promised to end the lottery system for H1B visas, which gives each applicant an equal chance at 65,000 positions each year. The Trump administration has indicated that it will make changes to the program to minimize the incidence of fraud. But countries, especially India which has benefitted the mosts, are edgy. They fear that changes to the program will impact the inflow of Indian techies to the Silicon valley.
The proposed changes to the H-1B visa program call for more than doubling minimum wages, currently at $60,000 a year. Indian outsourcing companies are often held responsible for hiring Indian workers at minimum wages, far below market salaries.
Specifically, the move to restrict eligibility for jobs in the “computer programmer” job category — the third-largest classification of workers on employers’ H-1B filings — will shake up IT consulting companies’ ability to hire lower-level computer professionals typically used to staff corporate IT departments. But it is mostly good news for Silicon Valley tech giants.