Rule on H-1B visa delayed by Biden administration

Proposed plan to switch H-1B visa application selection from lottery to wage-based delayed until end of the year.


Leila Figueroa

A downtown perspective of commercial buildings, including Salesforce in San Francisco, Calif. (Lelia Figueroa / Golden Gate Xpress)

The policy of the H-1B visa program, a non-immigrant visa allowing foreign workers to be employed by U.S. companies, is being delayed by the Biden administration until Dec. 31, 2021. This delay gives more time for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to test and develop plans for the program moving forward.

USCIS receives more applications for the H-1B visas than can be accepted. World Education Services reported over 200,000 applications were received by the U.S. government in 2020. As a result, the applications run through an electronic registration process as a lottery system to randomly select applicants.

The U.S. issues around 85,000 H-1B visas each year, which includes 20,000 for applicants that have earned a masters’ degree. According to The Economic Times, a large number of these applicants went to Big Tech, which includes Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

“I think it should be increased,” said Alka Madan, immigration consultant of Bay Area Immigration Services regarding the cap on H-1B visas accepted each year. “The applicants are up to 250,000 so you can see how many more people apply for the jobs.”

Toward the end of the Trump administration, Trump officials issued regulations to restrict and deny H-1B visas. They wanted to switch the H-1B visa selections from a lottery system to a system based on wages, as reported by the National Immigration Forum.

More recently, the Biden administration announced they are going to allow the standard lottery distribution for this year while considering if they should instead hand it out to companies paying the most in the future. 

“We need to know which specific positions we are talking about here in companies. Which companies and which specific positions are these companies looking to hire?” said Michael Koehn, member of the leadership team at Brownie Mary Democratic Club.

SGM Law Group stated that employees under the H-1B visa program are employed under specialized or heavily sought-after skills, which typically land in the tech industry. The workers are given a three-year period, which is followed by the option to apply for an extension for three additional years.

H-1B workers are able to bring their children under 21-years-old, their spouses and other dependents to the U.S. They’re also able to transfer to different employers by submitting an H-1B transfer petition, according to SGM Law Group.

The San Francisco Bay Area remains as an epicenter for the tech industry. According to My Visa Jobs, the H-1B visa program provides foreign talent for America’s tech giants, such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, Intel and Facebook, by giving them more skilled workers who were previously not eligible to work in the U.S.

“I hire H-1B visa people for my business,” said Madan. “It is a good program in the sense that there is a skill shortage in the U.S. There is no doubt about that. This visa helps us get good people skill-wise, also they work hard to keep their visas and keep everybody happy. It’s a good program.”

However, members of the Brownie Mary Democratic Club’s leadership team, like David Goldman, feel that jobs for U.S. citizens should be a priority before hiring non-citizens to work in their industry.

“I think it’s an excuse to pay lower wages to people from other countries,” Goldman said.

“Until these companies can prove to me that they cannot find enough Americans, then I do not believe that there should be any H-1B visas issued to anyone. All Americans who are qualified for the jobs should get their jobs first.”

Enrollment for H-1B visas for 2022 will begin on March 9, followed by the lottery results issued by March 31.