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Recent Changes to the United States H-1B Visa Program

By May 5, 2019June 30th, 2020No Comments
Recent Changes to the United States H-1B Visa Program

Updated May 5, 2019

On January 31, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced final amendments to the H-1B visa program. Its final rule lays out new registration requirements for those who wish to file H-1B petitions on behalf of “Cap-Subject Aliens,” including for those who may meet eligibility requirements for the advanced degree petition.

How Does the H-1B Visa Lottery Work?

The lottery will draw out 65,000 registrants from the combined pool, and then another 20,000 drawn from the balance of applicants who have masters degrees. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna maintains that this system will give employers who are seeking to hire talent from outside of the United States with a U.S. master’s degree or higher a better chance of selection.

H-1B Regular Cap and Advanced Degree Exemption Cap Reached for FY 2020

On April 5, 2019, the USCIS announced that applications for the regular cap for fiscal year 2020 had been reached, meeting the congressionally-mandated 65,000 applicant cap. Five days later, it announced that it had received what was determined to be a “sufficient amount” of petitions to meet the U.S. advanced degree exemption—or master’s cap—at 20,000 applications.

The USCIS received 201,011 petitions during the April 1 filing period, and each unselected petition will be rejected and returned with filing fees, save for prohibited multiple filing petitions. The USCIS states that it will accept and process cap-exempt petitions, including current H-1B workers who were previously counted against the cap and still retain their cap number.

Although the USCIS has reached caps for FY 2020, it will still accept and process petitions filed to:

  • Extend the length of current H-1B workers’ time approved to stay in the U.S.
  • Amend current H-1B workers’ employment terms
  • Allow current H-1B holders to change employers
  • Permit H-1B holders to work concurrently in an additional H-1B position

Request for Evidence (RFE) and Denials of H-1B Visas on the Rise

The likelihood of the USCIS requesting additional evidence has risen significantly in recent years, with many employers reporting that it is becoming increasingly difficult to bring in foreign talent due to the uptick in RFEs and other policies since Donald Trump took office in 2017. The number of denials has risen sharply as well.

Between Q3 and Q4 of FY 2017, H-1B RFEs spiked from 28,711 to 63,184—more than doubling in just three months. In total, the RFE rate rose more than 400% within nine months of the Trump administration supplanting the Obama administration. The number of RFEs began to jump shortly after President Trump’s April 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.

What if Your Registrant is Not Selected for an H-1B Visa? International PEO Can Help.

Learning that your registrant did not receive an H-1B visa may seem like there is no option for working with that individual. However, there are alternatives. Velocity Global’s International PEO (Professional Employer Organization) solution allows you to compliantly hire that individual in their home country—and our Global Immigration services can assist with each step of relocation should the employee move to another region.

While all you can do is wait to receive notification, having a reliable Plan B can make all the difference between continuing forward with your growth plans and stopping in your tracks.

Want to learn more about how International PEO can help? Let’s talk.