How H-1B changes will impact U.S. IT

Many IT employers rely on foreign national talent with H-1B visas to fill thousands of technical roles. New and proposed changes have many tech companies worried about the consequences.

For many companies, the H-1B visa program has been a valuable source for IT talent. The program, which awards 85,000 visas to foreign workers each spring based on a lottery system, has also been met with controversy, not just as a perceived means for replacing American workers but also for the administrative burden of its process, which has had a limiting effect on which companies apply.

As of April 1, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has enacted changes to the H-1B visa program aimed at streamlining the application process and tilting the selection process in favor of applicants with U.S. master’s degrees. Other proposed policy changes could do more harm than good, by limiting the job prospects for international students, barring spouses of H-1B visa holders from receiving work authorization in the U.S., and driving tech talent out of the U.S. to Canada.

Emphasizing advanced degrees, streamlining the process

Rather than splitting H-1B applications into two pools, with applicants with undergraduate degrees vying for 65,000 visas and those with advanced degrees vying for the 20,000 remaining, applicants will be combined into a single pool, from which 65,000 visas will be drawn by lottery, with the USCIS selecting 20,000 workers for the advanced degree exemption from the applications left over.

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