Is USCIS Considering Nixing Computer Programmers from H1-B Visa?

With the H1-B employment visa so much in the news lately, the first reference that comes to mind is the specialty occupation that it is normally associated with. A memo released by USCIS emphasizes the evaluation criteria before granting an H1B for the many professions that might fall under the specialty occupation. Computer programmers are put under the spotlight and questioned whether their skill-set, wage-level and work-site location qualified as a specialty occupation as defined by USCIS or not. Entry-level computer programmers might not qualify as a specialty occupation and consequently for an H1-B employment visa. Each petition will be evaluated on its own merits.

Tech workers, especially in computer related jobs account for the majority of both – initial applicants in the annual cap lottery as well as the petitioners who get picked in the final round. In order to qualify for the H1-B employment based, non-immigrant visa, the said employee must possess a theoretical and practical knowledge of a specialized industry. This has to be accompanied with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or more. Applicants with a Master’s degree from the USA stand a 16% higher chance of getting selected for H1-B visa as they have two opportunities to go through the H1-B cap lottery.

If you want to start a conversation about qualifying for an H1-B visa

Discuss specialty occupation and beneficiary qualification

With intense scrutiny on how H1-B visas will be distributed, USCIS intends to ensure that all eligibility criteria for H1-B are met before qualifying for the cap lottery. Given that computer programmers might be using basic or generic information technology skills alone may not qualify them for a H1-B visa. To implement proper H1-B vetting procedures, USCIS has adopted certain steps –

  • Starting next year, petitioning employers will have to pre-register for the H1-B visa before qualifying for the cap lottery for FY 2021
  • Targeted site visits increased to evaluate specific employers who had a larger dependency on H1B foreign workers
  • Individual interviews of H1-B employers will increase to ensure they are following the requisite obligations to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers instead of blatantly employing lower-wage workers in the industry under the garb of specialty occupation.
  • USCIS officers will strictly scrutinize every H1-B petition and vet it for meeting requirements to ensure that computer programmers are not given an H1-B visa by default.
  • RFEs will be issued to anyone who may have gotten the H1-B visa but has to provide additional supporting documents to justify the educational qualifications and specialty knowledge of computer programming skills required to meet the needs of the organization.

Here’s a list of jobs that got most H1-B work visas for highly skilled, non-US citizens –

  • software developers (applications),
  • computer systems analysts,
  • computer occupations (all others),
  • software developers,
  • electronics engineers (except computer),
  • operations research analysts,
  • management analysts,
  • mechanical engineers and
  • statisticians (classified in the same order)

Are you are preparing for an H1-B petition for FY 2021?

Here’s everything you should have to meet the requirements