updated 4:36 PM CEST, Aug 15, 2019

U.S. tweaks H-1B Visa regime to favor immigrants with advanced degrees

Beginning in April, the U.S. will give greater priority to immigrants seeking to work in the States who have advanced degrees from U.S. universities, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced.

The announcement was widely seen as a fulfilment of a pledge made two years ago by President Trump to help Silicon Valley companies by prioritizing  the most skilled applicants for the so-called H-1B visas, and reducing the number of visas that were processed through outsourcing companies. 

In unveiling what it called its "final rule for a more effective and efficient H-1B Visa Program," the USCIS said that effective April 1, it would change the way it chose visa candidates in such a way that it would "likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education."

"Specifically, the change will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education," the immigration agency added.

It said it would begin accepting H-1B cap petitions for FY 2020 on April 1, with the "reverse selection order" being applied to petitions filed for "the FY 2020 H-1B cap season."

Those seeking an H-1B visa may file an application for one no more than six months before their planned employment start date.

Media reports noted that the new rules may be challenged in court by the visa outsourcing industry.

In the past, the U.S. has officially capped the number of visas it intends to allocate, in spite of the fact that demand for such visas from U.S. employers is higher.