Changes to H-1B lottery will favor advanced degree holders

The USCIS has proposed changing the H-1B lottery to put advanced degree holders at an advantage.

As Bloomberg recently reported, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed changes to the H-1B visa lottery that will likely increase the chances that applicants holding advanced degrees will get visas - while putting applicants who only have a Bachelor's degree at a disadvantage. The proposal is only the latest in a number of recent changes USCIS has made to the H-1B visa application process, which, along with other immigration-related issues, has become a particularly controversial issue during the current Trump administration.

Changing the H-1B lottery

Congress sets a cap of 85,000 H-1B visas that can be issued each year and because applications far exceed that cap the USCIS has resorted to a lottery for determining who actually gets these sought after visas. Currently, the USCIS first runs a lottery for 20,000 visas that are only for applicants with advanced degrees. Advanced degree holders who don't get a visa during this first lottery are then put into the second lottery for the remaining 65,000 visas. This second lottery, however, is also open to applicants who don't hold advanced degrees.

What the USCIS is proposing is switching the order of the lotteries. So the lottery for 65,000 H-1B visas would be held first and would be open to all qualifying candidates who hold a Bachelor's degree or higher. Then the second lottery exclusively for advanced degree holders would be held. That would increase the chances of an applicant with an advanced degree getting a visa from 45 percent to 50.4 percent.

Latest change to the H-1B visa

The H-1B visa, which is for immigrants who possess highly valued skills and a minimum of a Bachelor's degree, has become especially popular in the tech industry. It has also been a matter of controversy since Donald Trump took office. Proponents of the visa say the H-1B visas are necessary to fill jobs that there simply aren't enough qualified American candidates to fill. Critics, meanwhile, contend that the visas are being used to replace American workers with cheaper foreign labor.

As a result, a crackdown of sorts is currently underway against the H-1B visa program. As the Seattle Times reports, large tech companies have complained of an increase in delays and denied applications while the USCIS recently announced that it would no longer grant work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders in the U.S. While the latest changes to the H-1B lottery are relatively modest in comparison, they are expected to make it harder overall for applicants to get an H-1B visa.

Immigration law help

Immigration law in the U.S. is in a particular state of flux right now, with new policies and regulations being announced on a regular basis. That is why anybody who has an immigration issue needs to get in touch with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Even a tiny mistake could now have major consequences and could compromise one's immigration status. An experienced attorney can help clients understand what their rights are and how to protect their status.