How the H-1B Petition System Has Changed & Could Change Again

An H-1B visa allows someone to enter the United States from a foreign country in order to complete temporary and specialized employment. While this concept seems pretty simple upfront, the H-1B visa program and system has been under criticism for years and for numerous reasons. Recently approved orders and bills currently being drafted may effectively turn how the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) handles H-1B visas upside-down.

Temporary Priority Suspension

The USCIS announced recently that premium processing for H-1B visa petitions will be halted on April 3rd, 2017 for six months at most. When a company wants to bring a foreign worker into the country to fill a specialist position, it can pay $1,225 more than normal to have the petition gain “premium processing,” which guarantees the USCIS will handle the petition within 15 business days. On the other hand, petitions without premium processing are known to take around 4 or 5 months to complete on average.

Critics of the H-1B visa program say that companies with larger profits and finances abuse the expedited system to take all H-1B visas before smaller businesses can get to them. There is an 85,000 annual H-1B visa cap with 20,000 of that amount reserved solely for individuals who hold an advanced or master’s degree. The temporary halt on premium processing is meant to act as a test period to see how the system runs without that option; it could feasibly become permanent if approval of the H-1B visa program goes up during the halt.

New Bills Could Make Further Changes

The temporary halt on premium H-1B visa petitions is just a start for some Congress members. There is legislation currently in the works that proposes a completely new way the system hands out H-1B visas. As it is now, the majority of H-1B visas are given out through a lottery ticket system, leaving a company’s future up to chance.

One bill wants to largely remove the lottery system and instead give visa ticket priority to companies willing to pay professionals higher wages. A fear among critics of H-1B visas is that companies get away with paying lower salaries to foreign workers. Another bit of legislation wants to add extra power to federal agencies to investigate the hiring processes of companies with H-1B visas. The goal in particular would be ensuring an “honest effort” was made to hire an American before hiring a foreign worker for a position. It is not clear at this time what final bills will be brought before the Trump Administration.

For assistance handling an immigration case or figuring out how to file for an H-1B visa, contact K. Dean Kantaras, P.A. and our Clearwater immigration attorneys today.

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