How Will the New Executive Order Affect This Year’s H-1B Processing?

President Trump ordered an interdepartmental review on the H-1B visa program, which may affect H-1B adjudication this year.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order aiming to reform the H-1B visa program and end the “theft of American prosperity” by low-wage immigrant workers. President Trump criticizes that employers, especially in the tech industry, abuse the program to avoid hiring American workers, the higher-paid workers. As President Trump vowed to revamp the lottery-based selection process of the H-1B program, the adjudication of H-1B may be delayed this year.

Many complain that the current H-1B program is over-capacitated.

Many consider the lottery-based selection process of the H-1B program is problematic because employers have to go through the whole application process with no certainty on whether their prospective employees will win the lottery. Even the most qualified prospective employees may get unlucky in this process. Despite the flaw, the lottery-based selection process is still crucial to the program, due to the enormous number of applications every year. The H-1B program is congressionally mandated a 65,000 cap for each year, but in the April 3 to April 7, 2017 filing period, USCIS received 199,000 applications.

This reform will likely result in more vigorous requirements for the H-1B program.

As long as applicants meet the basic requirements of the program, they will be able to participate in the lottery-based selection process. This is likely to change soon. The administration will likely only hand out H-1B visa to the “highest-paid jobs and best-educated” workers. This means firms that use the H-1B program to outsource low-skilled workers will have difficulty recruiting foreign workers. In the most recent available data, thirteen top outsourcing firms accounted for a third of all granted visa in 2014. In contrast, with a lower number of applications from the outsourcing firms, tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook will be able to bring over more high-skilled workers.

The reform will steer high-skilled workers to tech giants.

As this executive moves forward, the question of whether we have enough skilled American workers for the booming tech industry needs to be answered. This reform will likely raise the salaries in the tech industry, according to Punit Soni, the chief executive of Learning Motors, a six person start-up in Silicon Valley.  Many smaller tech start-ups cannot afford to pay such high salaries and are already struggling to attract talents in a tight market. While the impact of the executive order reforming the current H-1B visa program could affect many, it is unlikely that this order will affect this year’s H-1B processing. The nature of the process will require months, at least, until the final ruling, when the executive order comes into effect.


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