The H1-B visa program allows employers in California and around the country to hire foreign workers to fill positions that require specific skills or scientific knowledge when suitably qualified Americans cannot be found. However, the number of H1-B applications received each year far exceeds the 65,000 visa cap established by the Immigration and Nationality Act. To prevent American companies in emerging sectors from falling behind their international competitors, Congress approved a provision that allows a further 20,000 H1-B visas to be offered each year to foreign individuals who have earned a master’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. university.
The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services recently announced that it plans change when these master’s cap visas are awarded from before the general H1-B visa lottery to afterward. This would mean that master’s degree holders would have a better chance of obtaining one of the sought-after employment visas. However, immigrant advocates say the proposed change would put individuals who have earned master’s degrees or doctorates from prestigious foreign universities like Oxford and Cambridge at a disadvantage.
USCIS also wants to reduce paperwork and lower overheads by introducing electronic pre-registration for H1-B visas rather than requiring employers to submit full petitions. If the proposed rule change goes into effect, employers would have 60 days to submit the required paperwork after being notified that one of their applications has been selected in either the general or master’s H1-B lottery.
Attorneys with immigration law experience may help those hoping to work legally in the United States or employers seeking to hire qualified foreign workers to understand and comply with the sometimes confusing bureaucratic rules. Attorneys could also explain the various other employment and family-based visas that may be available to individuals who do not qualify for the H1-B program.