Last month, President-elect Donald Trump met with chief executives from several large tech companies to discuss the possibilities for reforming the distribution of H-1B visas. Trump’s transition team has been actively considering ways to revamp the temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs, which is used largely by the tech industry.
Trump senior policy advisor Stephen Miller proposed scrapping the existing lottery system used to award the visas. A possible replacement system would instead favor visa petitions for jobs that pay the highest salaries.
The H-1B visa is granted to foreign nationals who possess a bachelor’s degree or higher and have a professional job offer in the United States. Each year, Congress limits the number of H-1B visas that are issued. Currently, that number is 85,000, with 65,000 issued to those with bachelor’s degrees and 20,000 for those with a master’s degree or higher.
The H-1B visa has been a hot topic in immigration lately as many believe that the visas are used to fill lower-level information technology jobs. Other critics also say the lottery system benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications.
According to USCIS, 65 percent of H-1B petitions approved in the 2014 fiscal year went to tech workers, mostly from India, according to USCIS.
During the meeting, it has been reported that Trump seemed to be searching for middle ground, and members of his transition team raised specific proposals. The Trump team is also said to have discussed a plan to change the lottery system internally.
There were more than a dozen top tech executives from some of the country’s largest tech companies present at the meeting, including Google, Facebook and Apple. Trump seemed open to modifying the H-1B program. Among proposals the group discussed raising the cost of applications from large companies as a way to discourage bulk filing for the visas. Asked by Trump if they would object to that, none of the tech company CEOs said they would.
One source at the meeting was quoted, “In our view, the president-elect is not hostile to H-1B visas.” While Trump could initiate some changes to the visa program with executive action, significant shifts would likely need to go through a lengthy formal rule making process. Major changes of the visa program would likely be subject to court challenges.
If you are interested in applying for an H-1B visa, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!