The H-1B visa was created so that U.S. employers could address gaps in their workforce by hiring skilled foreign professionals when qualified U.S. workers are unavailable. However, this system has seen much abuse over the last several decades. With a new executive order by President Trump on the horizon, we may be able to expect big changes for the H-1B visa in 2018.
How the H-1B Affects the U.S. Economy
Each year, several hundred thousand petitions are filed for H-1B status. However, only 85,000 are selected through a random lottery system. Regardless, 85,000 workers entering the U.S. each year is no small number. While many companies benefit greatly by this influx, some choose to exploit the system.
As previously stated, the H-1B is designed to fill gaps in the U.S. workforce. However, there are many instances of large staffing and consulting companies taking advantage of the system by flooding the system with petitions. This decreases the likelihood that companies that truly need access to skilled foreign workers will be able to bring that skill into the U.S.
This has also given rise to the idea that the H-1B is simply a method for employers to hire underpaid foreign workers and displace qualified U.S. labor. While, just like any area of law, there are exceptions and abuses, the H-1B program provides invaluable and legitimate benefits to areas of the country that have limited access to U.S. workers.
Regardless, it seems clear on both sides of the political spectrum that the H-1B system needs to see some changes for the 2018 season. President Trump is already calling for the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a plan that cracks down on this abuse of the system.
Trump’s Executive Order Draft
Back in March of 2016, the President has released a glance at what his administrative stance was on the H-1B program. He stated that he is “committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse” and that he will “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa program.” This gives us an insightful view into the H-1B 2018 predictions.
Now, a leaked view of an executive order on the horizon instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to “make the process of H-1B allocation more efficient and ensure the beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest.” It also calls for an “investigation of the extent of injury to U.S. workers caused by employment in the United Stats of foreign workers admitted under the non-immigrant visa programs.”
This makes it clear that President Trump is not interested in completely eliminating the H-1B program for 2018. However, it does seem to call for an increase in the vetting process and a decrease in the amount of H-1Bs that are issued each year.
H-1B 2018 Predictions – What Are Some of the Proposed Changes?
With the date for filing H-1B petitions for the lottery quickly approaching, President Trump’s proposed plan may affect the 2018 season. There have been plenty of speculative ideas concerning what the Secretary of Homeland Security’s plan will entail.
If implemented, these changes would be designed with the purpose of removing the fraudulent exploitation of the H-1B visa. However, it is important to understand that these are all speculations and are not official changes made to the H-1B program.
Eliminate Lottery System
As radical as it may seem, the lottery system is a fairly recent addition to the program. Currently, 85,000 petitions are randomly selected from the pool. Last year, over 236,000 petitions were filed. This means that most people have an average of a 36% chance of being selected, which are relatively low odds.
This also means that the more that large outsourcing companies flood the system with petitions (sometimes multiple petitions for the same worker for different positions within the company), the less likely it will be for legitimate petitions to be selected. Because of this, there have been some ideas floating around that may involve eliminating the lottery altogether.
One of the main H-1B 2018 predictions that the media is considering is a switch from the random lottery to a more systematic approach of giving preference to higher salaries. This uses the presumption that workers who earn higher salaries are more likely to possess a higher quality of skill, which would accomplish the goal of only allowing the “best and brightest” workers into the U.S.
This will mean that large outsourcing firms will be competing directly with the wealthy U.S. companies that hire H-1B employees such as Google or Apple. These entities tend to pay their H-1B workers much more than outsourcing firms, and so will gain first priority if the lottery were replaced with a salary preference.
However, many H-1B applicants are actually students who have been educated in the U.S. and are on their way to applying for a green card. A preference for higher salaries will effectively exclude students from being selected due to the fact that the salaries of people just out of school can hardly compete with those of people who work for large tech companies like Amazon or Facebook.
This would leave students without a clear-cut and feasible way to work in the U.S. under an official visa. On the other hand, there is a bipartisan bill that is working its way through congress that would give priority to students who were educated in the U.S. This bill, which has been called the H-1B and L-1 visa Reform Act, would also give preference to applicants with advanced degrees, high salaries, and other measurable skills of certain value.
This will involve a dramatic increase in scrutiny for both H-1B employers and applicants. This bill would give the Department of Labor more authority to perform audits to thoroughly investigate each employer to better detect outsourcing and fraud. This, however, may or may not be feasible given the human resources requirements of the DOL.
2018 H-1B Visa Under Trump – Conclusion
We would like to reiterate that these changes are not official and have not been announced by any legal entity. We only aim to present a realistic view of how these possible changes from the Trump administration may affect the H-1B in 2018.
Making immigration decisions based on these speculations would not be a wise course of action. Speak with your immigration attorney to get a better idea of how the political climate will affect your individual case.