Proposed H-1B Visa Reforms Could Have Big Effect in 2019

What does 2019 hold for the H-1B visa program?

A whole lot of tightening up.

When President Trump took office in 2017, many tech pros expected that he would order sweeping reforms of the H-1B visa system. After all, he had spent his campaign saying that the visas were “very, very bad for workers.”

But after taking office, Trump didn’t rip out the H-1B system by the roots; nor did he leave it alone. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) began to make smaller moves, such as suspending premium processing.

However, all those small moves may add up to something substantial in 2019. For example, the Trump administration wants to fundamentally alter the H-1B applicant pools by having all applicants—including those with advanced degrees—enter the annual “general pool” of 65,000 visas; after that, any remaining applicants with advanced degrees will enter a 20,000-visa “master’s cap” pool. That’s a reversal of the current system, in which applicants with advanced degrees enter the “master’s cap” pool, after which the unaccepted remainder enter the “general pool”; in theory, the new system will increase the chances of applicants with advanced degrees actually landing a visa.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor wants any employers applying for H-1B visas to fill out paperwork that identifies which visa candidates will end up working at a “secondary entity” (i.e., a subcontractor). That could complicate things for staffing firms that have traditionally farmed out H-1B visa holders to other companies; the potential for attention (and bad publicity) could make clients less inclined to use those workers. (No wonder the ITServe Alliance, a nonprofit consortium of IT service organizations, filed a lawsuit against USCIS in October.)

But one huge potential change hasn’t been codified: in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, hinted that the Trump administration could crack down on companies’ use of H-1B workers over their counterparts who are U.S. citizens. From the transcript (PDF):

“While current law only requires it for certain employers, which are few in number and can easily meet the wage and degree exemption, all employers should be required to certify that they have made a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers before filing an H-1B petition, and have offered jobs to qualified and available American applicants. Although current law prohibits some H-1B employers from displacing U.S. workers, there are loopholes that must close. We have to make sure the H-1B program does not harm American workers who may be as qualified and willing to do jobs that foreign workers are imported to fill.”

Whether those regulations come to pass is another matter entirely (especially since the current rumor-mill suggests Nielsen may soon leave the administration, which could slow any initiatives in progress). That aside, the administration’s incremental moves regarding the H-1B visa program could begin to have a material impact in 2019, especially if the new applicant pool structure is put in place.

19 Responses to “Proposed H-1B Visa Reforms Could Have Big Effect in 2019”

  1. larry graham

    Title is a bit misleading. The changes listed are minor when looking at companies that have given most IT jobs to H-1B. There is still no fix and the egregious abuse of the program continues. My last job 90% + of IT was H1-B in Dallas and I don’t see it changing.

  2. Robert Miller

    Title is way off base. This abusive system leads to corruption due to a complete lack of enforcement. The companies that contribute huge lobby efforts to it are renown for paying almost no taxes. The court cases and stories of H-1B replacing US Citizens able and willing to do the same job are ignored by the enforcement. Women must speak very softly to co-workers about the sexual harassment from H-1B co-workers.
    If H-1B was a good thing, then why is it excluded for School Teachers and Congressional Assistants? The H-1B is a Tax Subsidy for the largest companies. The H-1B was a horrible idea created by self-serving lobbyist representing the 1% wealthy.

  3. There is a big black hole in the IT tech market. They post the job requiring applicants to have minimum of Five years to 10 plus years of IT experience. Most of the IT prime vendors are Indian and they run everything from India with US Registraion like Syntel. They have many consultancies which will find Indian candidates and pay very low. Like from the client the prime vendor charge 100 dollars per hours and give only 25 dollars per hour to the consultants. Also, consultancy make fake resume for their consultant in order to show more experience on the resume. H1 visa program should require applicants to have a client letter along with their resume and will reduce the fake person drastically. In banking companies mostly they use informatica and Autosys. These softwares can be mastered with high school diploma in 6 months. I am surprised to see how these tech companies are paying so much for simple Informatixa Deceloper. With four years of college degeee you just get max 30 dollars an hours.
    Opinion: provide more ETL training to the person who has associate degree for six months and offer them the job after successfully completion. By doing these tech companies save lot of money and The problem of h1 visa will solve

    • Last week, an Indian agent called about a job opening in mainframe. Of course, everyone wants “recent” mainframe experience now, which is just another way to filter out US citizens. Same as jobs that want a degree in computer science or engineering, when there can’t be more than a handful of citizens with engineering degrees in mainframe and there can’t be more than a handful of Indian H-1Bs who do not have engineering degrees in mainframe. The agent told me to falsify my resume and say I had recent experience in mainframe. Unbelievable.

  4. Juliet Oscar

    The changes won’t make a difference unless they are enforced and I doubt current rules are even enforced. Employers have to attempt to fill a position with a US citizen or permanent resident for 9 months before they can even try to get an H1-B visa. When it’s time to renew the visa they must show they still cannot fill that position. I have never heard of any company being asked to prove they advertised the position widely and interviewed hundreds of applicants. That is what I want to see; no age or gender discrimination allowed please and no more stringent requirements than imported labor are asked to meet.

  5. Business lobbyists and immigration attorneys know all the tricks, loopholes and know how to game the system. So, a lot of the credit for abuse goes directly to them.

    It’s not going to stop. The process to try to slow it down will simply drag.

    American technology pros have been abused so much, that many of us have become numb to it.

    For every 10 SAP project consulting engagements, 90% of calls I receive, are from Indians. Some originating in the US and some from India.

    The hourly rates are so low AND all inclusive and hover in the $55 to $80 range. It’s pathetic!!

    American companies should, I think, be ashamed of themselves and should be heavily fined.

  6. Vijay Jayaraman

    H1-B abuse will reduce only if they stop giving H1-B for contracting jobs (as opposed to direct hiring by product companies) and raising H1-B salary requirement to a significantly higher level maybe $130-150K. It is ridiculous to have a $65K salary requirement for a visa that claims to bring in highly skilled workers with advanced degrees.

    • I totally agree with you. Not all indians who come to the usa are super smart. If they are, they go to pioneer institues like IIT, IIM and make a great career in india. Folks who try to get the H1B for 70K are not the brightest.

  7. Cap per country is the obsolete solution! Funny to call themselves “The Alliance is the voice of all prestigious IT companies functioning with similar interests across the United States” this organization ITServe Alliance are Indians represented bias to its own interest LOL

  8. H1B should be used only for the very rare talent, such as, the Albert Einstein to come in and work in the U.S. Instead, it’s been abused by companies as a cheap source of labor. However, recently I’ve noticed a trend of paying the H1B workers more than their American counterpart… odd form of economics.

    Enforcement is nonexistent. Companies can just “certify” that they attempted to find an American. No audits, no fines, just business as usual.

  9. H1B has been abused no end. Though I am an Indian, I know and have experienced all the skull duggery of the so called ‘consulting’ companies who get people here on H1B.

    Its time that H1B was reviewed and changed for the better.

  10. Critical Thinker

    I have developed software for some of America’s most iconic corporations and government agencies for over 20 years. I have always been a top performer. I have lived thru the H-1B debacle since its inception. The H-1B abomination has been corrupt from the start. But the Information Technology/Software Industry has always been rife with corruption. Corrupt and incompetent managers have enjoyed free use of nepotism, cronyism, fraud, bait and switch, and all sorts of behaviors, that in any other field, would be felonies. That said, what I know about the H-1B abomination, and the lack of the American public’s engagement of this issue, saddens me. I’m happy to be retiring soon. The last 3 presidential administrations have overseen the purging of US citizens from software development jobs, replacing them with Indian Nationals on the H-1B visas, This has never made good sense. The US corporate infrastructure is now totally dependent on the H-1B population to operate. This was a deliberate strategy. Now, these people are locked in. Just this week, I had an H-1B Indian, right off the boat, placed in my office. This person knows nothing, has no relevant skills, nor experience, and is placed there to learn. To receive on the job training, if you will. This is quite common in corporate America, and in government IT shops too. US corporations would never absorb the costs of hiring a new US STEM college graduate and giving them 18 months OJT in order to become productive. During that period, all they have to do is develop some value to the interprise. There is no pressure on them to contribute, to perform in a meaningful way. All they have to do is develop relevant software skills, and their job is guaranteed.