The current presidential administration has recently shown signs of making significant changes to the way H-1B visas are awarded, potentially impacting the hiring practices of tech companies large and small.
The H-1B visa program is designated to provide work visas to highly skilled workers from abroad, and is primarily used to bring in scientists, engineers, computer specialists, and other specialized professionals to work at U.S. companies. Critics of the program say it is used by companies to justify lower salaries, and has been abused by outsourcing companies that flood the system with lower-skilled workers.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his plans to sign an executive order that would focus on curbing immigration fraud and visa abuse. Called “Buy American, Hire American,” the order would place the onus on the Labor, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments to propose ways to change the current system.
Thus far, the United States Citizen and Immigration Services office announced that entry-level computer programming jobs won’t be considered “specialty occupations” eligible for H-1B visas, and the Justice Department says it will be paying special attention to companies that show a preference for hiring on the H-1B visa.
However, an executive order alone cannot change the limit of the number of visas awarded each year—it would take legislation to adjust the number. Every year, approximately 85,000 H-1B visas are awarded by lottery. This year, the number of H-1B visa applications dipped below 200,000 for the first time since 2014.
By Prasana William