From April, the filing season for the H-1B applications, companies hiring foreigners to work in the US through this popular work visa route will have to pre-register electronically for the annual H-1B lottery, and then file ‘full-fledged applications’ (referred to as petitions) for the winners.
Currently, petitions have to be filed upfront, together with all supporting evidence, just for entry into the lottery.
The documentation is exhaustive, especially for employers, such as IT service companies, who place their H-1B employees at client sites.
The change will result in significant savings of administrative costs for the sponsoring companies (those hiring foreign employees).
The move has been approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a unit of the US president’s executive office. A similar line of action had been proposed in 2011, but didn’t fructify.
Nevertheless, given the protectionist regime of Donald Trump’s administration, it is feared that the new rule will give more leeway to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is the immigration arm of the US government, in deciding who can work in America.
Annually, only 65,000 H-1B visas are allotted under the regular cap (also known as general quota).
An additional 20,000 visas are allotted under the master’s cap. Sponsoring employees have to submit the applications in the first week of April and within days the quota is met owing to which a random lottery mechanism is adopted.
For the 2018-19 season, the United States agency received 1.9 lakh applications. Indians typically garner more than 60% of the H-1B visas.
Tech companies such as Cognizant, TCS, Infosys and Wipro are among the top hirers.