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US plans to relax H-1B visa restrictions

To facilitate the recruitment of foreign workers, the US Economic Innovation Group (EIG) has proposed revisions to the H-1B Visa programme.

Deficiencies in the programme are seen as: The lottery system doesn’t reward particular attributes or allocate visas to those industries most in need.

There is currently a total annual allocation of 65,000 H-1B visas, plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas for people who gained a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution.

Engineering graduates from U.S. universities who miss out on the H-1B allocation have no simple path to stay.

There is a cap of 7% of total H-1B visas for any one nation, which is a disadvantage for countries with large populations, such as China and India where many STEM workers come from.

The lottery system to transition from an H-1B visa to a permanent residency Green Card has long wait times for people from China and India because of the country caps.

There is a window of only 60 days to gain a new position if an H-1B visa holder loses their job, after which they may not remain in the country.

Current H-1B visas need to leave the country to renew their visa, since the domestic renewal program was discontinued in 2004 over security concerns.

Proposals include authorising the issue of 10,000 ‘Chipmakers’ Visas’ per year with an expedited path to a Green Card.

Every quarter, 2,500 visas would be auctioned off to qualifying firms, with visa ownership immediately transferred to the sponsored worker.

The 5-year visa would be renewable one time to give firms certainty they will have sufficient time to scale up their investments in the U.S. and train domestic workers.

It also would dedicate visa auction fees to training American workers and provide domestic scholarships for students and workers up and down the semiconductor supply chain.

The U.S. State Department recently  a step towards alleviating some of the problems with a pilot programme to allow eligible H-1B holders to renew their visas in the U.S. instead of needing to leave the country to do so,

Without an overseas recruitment push, the US will be short of 67,000 employees by 2030, says the SIA.

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