The H-1B visa is a highly competitive work visa that allows recipients to live and work in the U.S. for up to 3-6 years. The visas are reserved for applicants in specialty occupations, and the program prioritizes those with master’s degrees. Once a person enters the U.S. with an H-1B visa, they may eventually apply for adjustment of status, which results in lawful permanent residence.
Each year, the government only accepts 85,000 H-1B petitions. Because the number of yearly applicants far exceeds this cap, USCIS has utilized a random lottery to select from the pool of qualifying petitions. Now, however, USCIS will be replacing this random lottery system with a wage-based selection process.
This new process, which will theoretically take effect on March 9, 2021, favors applicants whose employers are paying them at the highest wage level (Level IV) in the Department of Labor’s four-level wage system. These applicants will be considered “first preference.”
If the 85,000 cap has not been reached after ranking and selecting all applicants at the Level IV wage level, USCIS will rank and select applicants at the Level III wage level—followed by Level II and, finally, Level I.
According to USCIS, this modification will allegedly incentivize U.S. employers to pay their employees more. It will also (theoretically) ensure only the world’s most specialized workers will be able to obtain H-1B visas.
Is the Rule Final?
Technically, the policy revising the H-1B visa selection system was published as a final rule. Final rules generally take effect 60 days after publication.
However, the following factors may complicate the rule’s implementation:
- USCIS will need to add a data entry field for wage levels in the registration system.
- USCIS will need to test the technical operations of the new system.
- The Biden administration may modify the rule or delay its implementation.
Biden has not specifically addressed this final rule, but his immigration promises indicate that he is in favor of loosening the restrictions that the Trump administration has put into place over the last four years.
Because of the above uncertainties, USCIS has not yet published an official timeline. We will keep you informed as new updates become available.
Are You Applying for an H-1B Visa?
The H-1B visa category has experienced several significant changes in the last few years. To ensure you are up to date on current processes, we urge you to bring your case to our team at Nathan Christensen P.C., where our attorneys provide top-tier services backed by 10+ years of experience. No matter your background, current challenges, or long-term goals, you can depend on us to help you efficiently and effectively navigate the U.S. immigration system.