Home Blog The H1B visa changes and its impact on non-immigrants [pdf]

The H1B visa changes and its impact on non-immigrants [pdf]

Posted January 24, 2019 - Yesudas

H-1B, the US gateway can now be an unattainable goal for the America aspirers. The past few years have seen many H1B visa changes and restrictions, making the American dream impossible for the non-immigrants.

The American H-1B visa allows non-immigrants to work for the US-based organizations. This has been one of the most sought-after visas for all the techies aspiring to work in the US. But 2018 has been the year which has made the non-immigrants rethink their decision of applying for the work permit.

H1B visa changes

The Trump’s Administration has clamped down the immigration process with a number of H1B visa changes. These H1B visa changes have resulted in a downfall in the number of H-1B petitions received in one fiscal year. Around 1,99,000 applications have been received by the USCIS in the year 2018. This is a downfall when compared to 2,36,000 applications received in FY 2017. All these H1B visa changes have affected Indians the most, as they receive over three-quarters of the H-1B visas issued.

What are the main H1B visa changes that have affected the applicants?

Tougher qualifying criteria, tedious paperwork and an increase in the processing fee are some of the main changes that affected the non-immigrants.

Contrary to the present situation, there was a time when the US thought it was important to have the long-term non-immigrant visas. This is because of the skill gap in the country, primarily in the specialty occupations.

Did you know?

The share of foreign workers in the total US jobs is less than 1%, while it is 12% in the tech jobs.


Here is a brief analysis of the H1B visa changes since 1990

H1B visa changes in the FY 1990:

This is the year in which George H. Bush has signed the Immigration Act, 1990 with an annual cap of 65,000 on the visas. Though there are pre-existing labor laws, this act has differentiated the high skilled workers from the low skilled workers. This has also increased legal immigration by 40%.

H1B visa changes in the FY 1998:

This year President Bill Clinton has signed the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act(ACWIA) of 1998. After the US Commerce Department has issued a report predicting an upcoming shortage of high-tech workers. This Act has raised the annual cap on the H-1B visas to 115,000 for the years 1999 and 2000.

H1B visa changes in the FY 2000:

Clinton had signed the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act(AC21). According to this Act, the annual cap on H-1B visas is set as 195,000. This cap was set only for the years 2001-2003, after which it was reverted to 65,000.

H1B visa changes in the FY 2003:

The H-1B visas available from this year are reduced from 65,000 to 58,200. The remaining visas are reserved for Singaporeans and Chileans according to the free trade agreements between these countries.

H1B visa changes in the FY 2004:

According to the H-1B Visa Reform Act 2004, students graduated from a US institution with a master’s degree or higher are eligible for a lottery prior to the mandated lottery. This lottery allows 20,000 slots for these students. If these slots are filled, the remaining applicants are added back into the annual lottery. The ACWIA has also increased the visa fees from $1000 to $1500. But the companies with 25 or fewer employees pay $750.

H1B visa changes in the FY 2015:

A company with 50% foreign immigrants & having 50 or more employees in the US should pay an additional fee of $4000 from this year. Many Indian IT majors were worst hit by this new law. But this year also opened doors for the spouses of H-1B workers to apply for their own EAD

H1B visa changes in the FY 2017:

Since the beginning of the Trump Administration, the non-immigrant are the worst affected with the latest H1B visa changes.

Here is a list of various administrative measures undertaken by the US government to incorporate the H1B visa changes.

H1B visa changes in March 2017:

The USCIS has raised the qualifying criteria for the specialty occupations.

H1B visa changes in April 2017:

President Donald Trump signed the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which aims at higher wages and employment rates for the US workers. These proposed changes have an adverse effect on India’s IT sector.

H1B visa changes in June 2017:

During this month, Trump signed an order striking out a part of the 2012 order which was signed by the former president Barack Obama. The previous order was signed to “ensure that 80% of non-immigrants visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application”

H1B visa changes in August 2017:

The visa application is made tougher with the proposed changes to the Labor Condition Application (LCA)

H1B visa changes in December 2017:

The DHS and the USCIS published notices that they are intended on proposing several changes to the H-1B and H-4 visa programmes along with cutting back the STEM OPT programme, which allows foreign students to stay for longer in the US after finishing their studies.

H1B visa changes in February 2018:

A policy memorandum is issued to mandate stricter adjudicatory standards and oversight for H-1Bs that will be placed at third-party client sites. While RFEs get more and more complicated, the administrative burdens and the associated costs are on the rise. The Decision-making timeline on revoking the H-4 EAD is also pushed from February to June.

H1B visa changes in March 2018:

USCIS has made an announcement to temporarily halt the premium processing facility for the H-1B visa applicants.

H1B visa changes in July 2018:

The DHS has once again missed the deadline for making a decision on the H-4 EAD programme.

H1B visa changes in September 2018:

H-4 EAD provision is undergoing a review process and was to be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

H1B visa changes in October 2018:

The Trump administration announced their plans to redefine the ‘specialty occupations’ for H-1B visa eligibility.

H1B visa changes in November 2018:

A new rule was proposed giving preference to master’s students from the US universities, allowing them for the general CAP first, and then adding the remaining in the master’s-and-above ‘20,000’ category. This rule ensures that “more of the best and brightest workers from around the world come to America” under the H-1B process.

H1B visa changes in January 2019:

A new tweet from Mr. Trump states that “H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship, we want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.” Though the tweet is a promising one for the non-immigrants, it is still unclear in the case of ‘path to citizenship’.

With all the changes around H-1B visa program, the most sought after visa can now be just a dream for the non-immigrants.

Being an employer, one may find it difficult to stay up-to-date with all the latest reforms in the H-1B process. This can no longer be an issue with OnBlick. OnBlick assimilates all the latest reforms in regards to H-1B Visa process from DOL sources like USCIS, BLS and O*NET to help understand the criteria of ‘Specialty Occupation’ more clearly. Now it is time to enhance your H-1B Visa approval chances with OnBlick & stay up-to-date with ever-changing immigration laws.

Get the pdf document ‘The analysis of the H1B visa changes from 1990 to 2019’.