Trump Administration To Reform H-1B Visa Program

U.S. President Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Argentina
Amilcar Orfali / Getty Images

On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security released a proposal that would see a number of changes to the H-1B Visa in the United States.

As reported by CNN Business, the changes would see an increase in the number of recipients who have masters or other higher level degrees, and would also move the entire registration process to an online platform.

Trump has been harping on about “America first” since his 2016 presidential campaign, and wants to crack down on the H-1B visa in an attempt to promote his “Buy American, Hire American” strategy.

At present, the visa, which is valid for three years and renewable for another three, is used by many businesses to fill in the ranks at their companies. The industry that makes the most use of these is the tech industry, and many of these companies argue that they need the program to continue as they can’t find the talent they need at home.

As it stands now, 65,000 H-1B visas are granted annually, with another 20,000 being reserved for people with higher degrees specifically from U.S. higher education institutions. Because of the great demand for these visas, many people are selected for it simply through a “lottery system.”

The proposed rule change put forth by the Trump administration now would see everyone hoping for an H-1B visa, including those with higher degrees, thrown into the original pool for the first 65,000 visas on offer. Following those visas all being allocated, the remainder who have higher qualifications will be put into the pool for the last 20,000 visas.

The agency believes that this will increase the number of people holding high-level degrees who are granted H-1B visas by up to 16 percent. This will ensure that “more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America” under the program, USCIS spokesman Michael Bars in a statement to CNN Business.

In another move to bring the entire process into the 21st century, the proposed plan will also migrate the application process online. It is estimated that the move will cost the government almost $280,000 to develop in the first year, with a further $200,000 in fees for every year after that.

“The cost signals that the new system will be complex and comprehensive,” said immigration attorney Tahmina Watson of Watson Immigration Law.

Watson is concerned that the government may be pushing to release this system before it would be properly ready for use. The public will be able to weigh in on the proposed changes from December 3 through to January 2.