H-1B visa is one of the most coveted visas by companies, professionals, and students worldwide. It is a non-immigrant visa that allows an American employer to employ an individual for up to six years in specialty occupations.
This is commonly used by companies to employ qualified nonimmigrant professionals.
In this piece, we share the latest H1B visa news.
What is H1B Visa?
As per the USCIS guidelines, there are over a dozen visa categories. An H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations, Department of Defense cooperative research and development projects, or as a fashion model of distinguished ability or merit.
The H-1B visa is typically granted for three years, with the possibility of extension up to six years once the employment permit expires.
Latest Developments Relating to H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is the most sought after employment-based visa among Indian applicants. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released multiple guidelines for FY 2023.
Let’s take a look at the recent developments that you should be aware of before the filing season begins:
Waiver of Interviews
The United States Department of States (DOS) has waived the in-person interview requirement at local consulates for numerous non-immigrant visas. The waiver will continue till 31 December 2022.
The waiver will also apply to the dependents and spouse of the H-1B nonimmigrant. This is done to reduce the visa wait times and in recognition of the contribution made by temporary visa holders to the economy of the US.
Registration Process of H-1B Visa
The registration process for FY 2023 is the same as the previous year. The USCIS will only accept online registration through their portal. Here’s the step-by-step breakdown of the registration process:
Step 1: Create USCIS Account
In order to submit an H-1B registration, the employer, attorney, or representatives of the prospective visa holder need to create a my USCIS account. This can be done through the website or the mobile application.
Step 2: Submit H-1B Registration
In 2020, the USCIS implemented an electronic registration process for H-1B visas. Once the registration window opens, the employer, attorney, or representatives of the applicant will be required to submit an H-1B registration through the my USCIS account. You will be asked to submit the following details regarding the applicant:
- The legal name of the applicant. This includes the first name, middle name, and family name.
- The gender of the applicant.
- If the applicant is requesting the H-1B visa for a master’s degree or higher in the US.
- The date of birth of the applicant.
- The country of birth of the applicant.
- The country of citizenship of the applicant.
- The passport number of the applicant. The applicant can also specify if there is no passport number at the moment.
Step 3: Release of Confirmation Number
Once all the registrations are completed, the USCIS online portal will start releasing the confirmation number for the submitted registrations. This number can be used for tracking the process but does not show the status of individual applications.
Step 4: Release of Lottery Results
In case the number of registrations exceeds the H-1B visa cap, the USCIS will conduct a lottery to select the applicants who will be granted a visa. This is done to ensure that the process of selection remains random and no applicant is given an unfair advantage.
Step 5: File H-1B Petition
Once the lotteries are drawn, the USCIS will notify the selected candidates through the online accounts. Here are the five different kinds of statuses that you can see for registration:
- Submitted: The application is successfully submitted and is eligible for selection for the visa.
- Selected: The application is selected to file a cap petition.
- Not-selected: The application is not selected to file a cap petition.
- Denied: Multiple registrations were submitted for one applicant.
- Invalidated – Failed Payment: The registration was successfully submitted but the payment was declined.
The registration for the financial year 2023 starts on 1 March 2022 at 12 PM Eastern Time (ET). As of now, the deadline for registration is set for 18 March 2022 at 12 PM ET. For this purpose, employers can create new accounts from 21 February 2022 at 12 PM ET.
Once the registrations are completed, the USCIS will release confirmation numbers by 18 March 2022. For FY 2023, the H-1B visa cap only allows for 65,000 visas.
Further, the USCIS also grants an advanced degree exemption in order to attract foreign students. This includes additional 20,000 visas to those obtaining a master’s degree or higher at an institution in the US.
The USCIS will conduct a lottery if the number of applications exceeds the cap. The results of the lottery will be declared on 31 March 2022. As has been the case in the past, the USCIS might conduct multiple lotteries for selected registration.
Those with selected registrations will have to submit a petition starting 1 April 2022. This will remain open for 90 days from the date of the announcement of lottery results.
Visa Approval Rate
As per VisaGuide World, the H-1B visa approval rate in the first three quarters of 2021 stood at 97%. This is a significant increase from 2018 and 2019 when the approval rate stood at 84%.
A big reason for the increase in the visa approval rate is the change of administration. The previous U.S. Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration reportedly asked for extra documents from visa applicants, thereby making it difficult for highly skilled workers to obtain an H-1B visa. For companies, this made it dificult to hire graduate students for specialised occupations. This has changed with the Biden administration.
The improvement in the visa approval rate will increase the number of non-immigrant visa holders. This means more foreign workers and foreign students can work and study in the US.
Background of H-1B Visa Holders
The H-1B visa holders commonly belong to a tech background in specialty occupations. Post the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been a steady decline in H-1B holders of high-tech jobs, with a 9% drop in the fiscal year 2021. Along with this, there has been a 12.6% drop in foreign engineering and mathematics workers.
This ban has been primarily contributed to the travel restrictions imposed during the COVID 19 pandemic. Employers were reluctant to hire workers due to the uncertainty relating to H-1B visas.
The American Tech Workforce Act, 2021 bill proposes to make two major reforms for H-1B visa holders. Firstly, it seeks to eliminate the Optional Training Program (OTP) for foreign students to gain work experience in the US. Secondly, it seeks to set a wage floor whereby the H-1B employee gets a higher salary than what was last paid to the American worker in the position.
The proposed bill makes H-1B even more attractive for a nonimmigrant student or worker. If passed, the Act will likely increase the number of visa registrations in the future.
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