The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require application-based knowledge. H-1B speciality occupations include fields such as science, engineering and information technology. Indian workers typically account for 65-70% of the total H-1B visas granted.
Current H-1B selection process
Based on the quota determined by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), the regular H-1B cap limit allows for 65,000 individuals to be selected in the lottery process. An additional 20,000 speciality workers who possess US Master’s degree or higher are also selected.
On the first business day in April (the date was April 2, 2018 this year), the USCIS opens the window allowing petitioners to submit their I-129 (Form for Non-immigrant Worker in speciality occupations).
Once the cap of 85,000 is reached, the window closes within the next week (April 13th this year).
Then the USCIS computer randomly selects 20,000 petitions for the next year’s (2019’s) Master’s cap. Those petitions for people with Master’s degrees that were not chosen in the first round are re-entered into the regular cap of 65,000.
New proposal for H-1B selection
A proposed rule by USCIS would reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions. The agency would conduct the regular cap lottery (65,000) first. Any advanced-degree filing not selected in the regular lottery would be placed into a second lottery (20,000). The goal is to maximize the number of advanced degree graduates selected against the overall H-1B quota.
According to a report in TOI, the USCIS has stated: ‘The proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 per cent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a Master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education.
The proposal, already approved by the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) unit of the US president’s executive office, is open to public comments now. It was published in entry of December 3, 2018 in the Federal Register. If this proposal goes ahead, it would apply to H-1B visa petitions for the filing season of 2020 fiscal, which kicks off on April 1, 2019.
Update (1st Feb 2019):
USCIS has satisfactorily answered public comments on the new H1-B proposal thus cementing it into the final H1-B visa rule.