What to Expect as a H1B Applicant in 2018

H1B visa, a work-related visa issued to skilled workers from foreign countries coming to the United States of America to work is the most popular among non-immigrant visas issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. This is also the most widely opted visa program by several academic research, accounting and Indian technology oriented firms. With the many changes proposed to alter the scheme of affairs, the Trump administration is seeking to tighten the loopholes and slow down the overall inflow of legal immigration.

While a lot of changes are proposed and bills passed by initial committees, these are yet to pass muster through the Senate and Congress which will be the final nail in the coffin for H1B aspirants. So, while not written under law yet, H1B applicants, both current and future should brace themselves for more restrictions being implemented.

Let’s look at the some of the proposed changes in the pipeline and how they will affect these H1B visa holders –

  • The current process has been putting H1B petitions through extreme vetting and have sent back more than one in four applications between January and August.
  • Face to face interviews made mandatory for each visa category which was previously given on a case-by-case basis. This adds one additional step to the already lengthy process.
  • Almost 55% increase in RFEs – Since none of the proposals have passed through legislation yet, the tightening of rules is happening through implementation instead. As a result, there has been in increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) that delays the process by focusing on job appropriate salary, job appropriate qualifications and the categorization of the specialty nature of the occupation.
  • A Committee has passed a bill that increases the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders from $60,0000 to $90,000. This would make it harder for foreign employers to pay the salary of potential H1B petitioners and may end up foregoing the option altogether.
  • Since all immigration is going to be executed through the lens of the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Act, H1B renewals will not be automatic as in the past. It will be adjudicated based on current merits and no deference will be given to previous approvals. Going forward, this would make it a lot harder to get H1B visas renewed.

See what you will need for H1B visa extension, should the need arise.

  • If renewals are getting harder to come by, employees will lose status if denied thus, putting employers in dire straits to find alternative visas for affected employees.
  • Another imposition on H1B dependent employers is that the said proposals lengthen the layoff period for them. That is, they cannot layoff American counterparts after a certain lengthy period of hiring H1B workers.
  • Also, no exceptions to the prohibition of replacing American employees with H1B workers.
  • A bill also proposes to eliminate EAD, the provision of H4B visa holders having the right to work. On December 31, 2017, the reviewing committee will decide whether to rescind it completely or modify it severely.
  • Prospective H1B applicants who are looking to move into a new job from a F1 student visa status should be aware of the suggestion to either eliminate or reduce the amount of time for the Optional Practical Training program, which gives foreign graduates from U.S. colleges in science and tech an additional two years of work authorization.

Apart from instilling a lot of uncertainty, H1B aspirants should anticipate a delay in the entire process. Be it delay tactics of additional interviews, additional justifications for the position or occupation, H1B petitioners should prepare well in advance for the fast approaching H1B Visa 2019 lottery deadline.

If you are in line to petition for the H1B 2019 lottery, the H1B visa guide gives a step-by-step guideline of the process.