US President Donald Trump has directed his administration to "reform" the H-1B visa system and move in the direction of merit-based immigration, White House officials have said.
"Moving to a merit-based immigration system," the White House said in a statement soon after Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas till the end of the year. The Trump Administration will reform the immigration system to prioritise the highest-skilled workers and protect American jobs, it said.
H-1B, H-2B, H-4, J-1, and L-1 visas will be halted under the order.
This is how each of the visas are defined
H-1B visa: This is the most popular employment visa that is also known as Person in Specialty Occupation visa. To obtain a H-1B, the candidate requires a higher degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.
H-2B visa: The visa given to non-agricultural workers, this visa is limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
H-4 visa: The visa that is given to dependent family members of the person going on an H-1B visa and an H-2B visa, the H-4 visa for a long time did not let the spouse or the accompanying family member from getting a job. However, the rules have changed since 2015.
J visa: The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. Participants are integral to the success of the program. Here you can learn more about obtaining the J-1 Visa and other relevant visas.
L-1 Visa: L-1: Also known as the inter-company transfer visa, the L-1 visa enables the candidate to work at a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the current employer in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. Individual must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years.
Going by this definition, Indians will have to be most worried about the H-1B visa, the H-4 visa, and the L-1 visa.
"The more permanent actions that he is directing us to take include reforming the H-1B system to move in the direction of a more merit-based system. You hear the president talk all the time about getting the best and the brightest, and you also hear him talking about protecting American jobs. So, these reforms will do both," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.
Under these reforms, the H-1B programme is going to prioritise those workers who are offered the highest wages as the best proxy for what they bring to the table to add to the American economy, the official said. Noting that there is a cap on H-1B visas of 85,000 every year, the official said that last year, 2,25,000 applications were received for those visas.
"Up until this year, those visas have been distributed through random lottery... The president has instructed us to get rid of the lottery and replace it with ranking the salaries -- so the top 85,000 salary offers among the 225,000 or so applicants will get visas," the official said.
This will drive both the wage-level and the skill-level of the H-1B applicants up. It will eliminate competition with Americans, it will reduce American competition in these industries at the entry-level, and will do more to get the best and the brightest, the official asserted.
With PTI Inputs