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Lottery-based system for H-1B visas remains in place for now

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2021 | H1B |

The U.S. government plans to delay a plan that would have changed how the country distributes H-1B visas, the highly sought-after document that allows skilled foreign workers into the country. On Feb. 4, the Biden Administration declared that it would continue to rely on a lottery-based selection system through the end of the year rather than replace the plan with one that focused on wage-based criteria.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted that the delay provides the federal government with additional time to review potential changes regarding registration and selection for H-1B visas. Many industries, including technology, medicine, science and engineering program, rely on the program to hire knowledgeable and skilled workers that they sorely need.

Visa program under scrutiny since October

The U.S. government has long relied on a lottery system to provide H-1B visas, which, typically, are issued to 85,000 recipients each year. However, the country’s H-1B visa program has been under fire since October by the previous presidential administration.

Last fall, the Trump Administration announced plans to limit the number of foreign workers who could enter the country via the H-1B visa program. That plan focused on a wage-based allocation system, providing higher pay to visa recipients and likely would cut by one-third the number of visas issued.

In addition, the cost burden would be placed on the U.S. companies seeking to hire foreign workers, who would earn exorbitant salaries. For example, one U.S. university reported that under the Trump Administration plan, an H-1B employee who previously received an $80,000 salary would earn $208,000 under the new proposal. A federal judge in December struck down the plan, though.

In early January, during the waning days of the Trump Administration, it announced the final form of the visa rule changes. Those changes were set to go into effect in March.

Many companies throughout the country rely on highly skilled foreign workers to keep their businesses afloat and fresh with new ideas and knowledge. They include tech start-up companies as well as rural medical facilities.

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