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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

New rule favors US-educated professionals for H-1B visa program

As part of the Trump administration's immigration reforms, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has amended the H-1B visa program, giving priority to foreign workers who have received higher education from American institutions.

“The change to the petition selection process under this final rule could result in greater numbers of highly educated workers with degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education entering the U.S. workforce under the H-1B program,” reads the U.S. Homeland Security’s final rule which is scheduled to be posted on the Federal Register on Jan. 31.

This final rule amends Department of Homeland Security regulations governing petitions filed on behalf of H-1B beneficiaries who may be counted toward the 65,000-visa cap established under the Immigration and Nationality Act or beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education who are eligible for an exemption from the regular cap.

The USCIS said the new rule, which is effective April 1, is in line with President Trump’s 2017 executive order that promotes the Buy American Hire American policy.

The H-1B program allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupation that require the application of “specialized knowledge” and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent of work experience. Professionals who fall in this category include IT specialists, architects, accountants, professors, doctors and lawyers.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates that the amendment will lead to an increase in the number of H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education “selected by 16 percent (or 5,340 workers each year).”

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“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna.

“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process.”

Under the new rule, Cissna added, foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree “will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B cap petitions for FY 2020 on April 1, 2019. The reverse selection order will apply to petitions filed for the

FY 2020 H-1B cap season.

The new rule is part of Trump’s divisive immigration reforms he promised during the campaign.

The Trump administration earlier released the new regulations for the H-2A and H-2B visa, dropping the Philippines, Ethiopia and Dominican Republic from the list of countries eligible for the immigrant workers programs.


  • The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption

  • It introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.

  • The rule go into effect on April 1, though the electronic registration requirement will be suspended for the fiscal year 2020 cap season.

  • Effective April 1, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption.

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