The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing changes to regulations for how the H-1B petitions are counted. As of now, there is an annual limit of 65,000 petitions awarded by lottery and another 20,000 exemptions to that limit.

This proposal is being presented as making life easier for the applicants and their employers, but analysts believe this restriction would directly target highly skilled workers by proposing many new restrictions as well as increase the number of H-1B application denials.

Flipping the two pools

Rather than fill out the exempt 20,000 applicants first, with those not chosen moving to the larger pool, the larger pool of 65,000 would be done first. Then the exempt applicants would be chosen. It would also favor those with degrees from U.S. schools who may even have been mediocre students versus world-class talent in their field who studied elsewhere.

Pre-registration would begin the process

There is also cause for concern because the new system would require applicants to preregister for H-1B petitions. The USCIS would then conduct the lotteries from these preregistrations as opposed to allowing the employers to fill out and submit the full petitions. If the applicant is selected, the employer then would have 60 days to fill out the full petition.

The argument is that the new approach would save time, but critics believe this actually increases the cost to employers and adds a lot of confusion to an already established process.

Changes being pushed through quickly

The proposed law would be changed in agency regulation, and it would be a direct contradiction of the current law on the matter, which was passed by Congress. The administration is also trying to get this done before the April 2019 lottery, which would include a required period of public comment and then additional adjustments.

A chaotic lottery likely

Considering so many details up in the air, it seems close to impossible for the average applicant to meet their deadlines and application requirements for 2019. An attorney with experience handling visas for workers coming from outside the United States will be a tremendous help in the weeks to come, particularly if companies do not have departments following these changes that will likely keep coming until the very last minute.