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DHS Releases Proposed Changes to H-1B Visa Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would change procedures for the H-1B visa program. This program allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers on a temporary basis in certain specialty occupations. These occupations require the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge and qualifying individuals must have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty area.

Congress issues an annual cap on H-1B visa program. When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives more petitions than the cap allows, it uses a computer-generated random selection process, called a lottery, in order to choose the petitions that are approved.

Under the proposed rule, USCIS would reverse the order in which it selects H-1B petitions according to the annual cap and the advanced degree exemption. The point of this change would be to increase the number of beneficiaries with master’s degrees or higher degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education. USCIS believes that this would result in the selection of petitions based on merit rather than on a random selection. Emphasis would be placed on the most-skilled and highest-paid workers.

DHS Releases Proposed Changes to H-1B Visa Program

Currently, USCIS selects petitions for the advanced degree exemption prior to the H-1B cap. Under the new rule, USCIS would select the number of petitions needed to satisfy the cap first, and then select the petitions to be used for the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS also would implement an electronic pre-registration program for the process. In the event of technical challenges with the electronic registration process, USCIS would have the authority to temporarily suspend the registration requirement. The theory behind this change would be to make a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B visa administration process.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

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