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Potential Changes to the USA’s H1-B Visa for High-Skilled Foreign Workers

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President Donald J. Trump’s latest executive order, signed on Tuesday April 18th, has ordered a review of the H1- B visa programme which brings high-skilled foreign workers into the USA.

The H-1B categories apply to aliens entering the USA temporarily to perform services in a specialty occupation. The requirements for the H-1B are a university degree or 12 years of work experience in the same field and the visa is valid for three years, extendable by a further three to a maximum of six years. This particular visa is advantageous in that it allows individuals to work legally in the USA with non-immigrant status.

The latest order in Trump’s first 100 days of presidency acts in line with his “Buy American, Hire American- America First” campaign pledge, and will explore whether a merits-based or point system would be preferential to ensure the hire of only the most skilled foreign workers in shortage occupations.

However, it should be noted that the current Executive Order does not override any current rules regarding the H1-B visa nor does it cancel current applications in any way; it merely serves as a notice to employers that the categories are being reviewed and changes may come into play in the future. The wording of the Order has been described as “vague” by various commentators and so caution is advised in any decision-making until the review has been completed and actions taken.

The fast-track option to expedite H1-B visas was temporarily suspended last month from April 3rd 2017 for 6 months; US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cited a large backlog in applications as the reason for the suspension. However, many saw this as the first step in more permanent changes being made to the USA’s highly-skilled foreign worker visa programme.

Mauve Group will continue to update as the situation progresses; for advice on US immigration practices or the H1-B visa, please get in touch with our experts via the Contact form.