The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced it will replace the H-1B visa lottery, in which foreign citizens with college degrees compete for limited slots. According to the Department’s announcement, “Prioritization and selection based on wage levels better balances the interests of petitioners, H-1B workers, and U.S. workers. The changes proposed would maintain the effective and efficient administration of the H-1B cap selection process while providing some prospective petitioners the ability to potentially improve their chance of selection by agreeing to pay H-1B beneficiaries higher wages that equal or exceed higher prevailing wage levels.”
According to the Department, modifying the H-1B cap selection process in this way will incentivize employers to offer higher wages or petition for positions requiring higher skills and higher-skilled workers instead of using the program to fill relatively lower-paid vacancies.
The ruling would apply to applicants only when the next round of H1-B application registrations is accepted in March. The Department will open a public comment period once the proposed regulation is published in the Federal Register. Interested parties will have 30 days to submit comments relevant to the proposed rule and 60 days to submit objections relevant to the proposed information collection.

The US has so far been using a lottery system to randomly select the 85,000 people who would get the visas because of the high number of applicants – more than 200,000 this year. Of those visa slots, 65,000 are open to all while 20,000 are for those with advanced US degrees.

However, according to the new rule proposed, after the USCIS receives registrations before the start of a fiscal year, if this number exceeds the H-1B limit allowed, the following applicants will be awarded petitions not based on a lottery system but on the basis of their salaries, from high to low.

“USCIS will rank and select the petitions received on the basis of the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wage level that the proffered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code in the area of intended employment, beginning with OES wage level IV and proceeding in descending order with OES wage levels III, II, and I.”, reads the proposal.

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