President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” strategy has the H-1B visa in its sights.
The H-1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa category for temporary workers. For such a visa, an employer must offer a job and apply for your H-1B visa petition with the US Immigration Department. This visa is the most popular for U.S. based foreign students who are wrapping up their education and very popular with Indian nationals.
Currently, non-national students have a 1 year grace period from the completion of their studies before they have to leave the country. Alternatively, they can switch visa classes during this time and stay in America if they meet the requirements. The H-1B is the obvious choice for those looking to begin their careers in the U.S. with no extended wait times and low costs. However, every year a total of only 65,000 visas are given for bachelor holders with an additional 20,000 visas given for master degree holders. Between the onshore and offshore applicants, there were 235,000 applications last year. The requirements of finding a company willing to sponsor you and then getting through the lottery mean uncertainty for fresh graduates looking to start a career.
(Shown is the number of H-1B applications filed for the top 12 sponsors during the 16-17 season)
Speculation has suggested that Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” strategy will do everything from cutting the program completely to lowering the available H-1B visas. The reality, and what was recently pointed out by India’s Minister of Commerce, Nirmala Sitharaman, is that the allocation of the visas will likely change.
“No need to get panicky on the visa front. The lottery process is something I suppose they (the US) wanted to do a correction on. The numbers are not something they are changing… the numbers will not come down,” Sitharaman said.
Trump has led the growing sentiment of protectionism across various industries seeking to safeguard jobs for locals and raise the bar for foreign workers. A merit-based H1-B system may offer the best for both America and foreigners. The proposed changes would see that the top candidates only are granted a visa. A change that would see America be able to hold on to top international talent while maintaining U.S. jobs in other areas.
The added uncertainty of the potential changes has led to an increase in wealthy Indians applying for the EB-5 visa. The EB-5 visa grants permanent residency for the applicant and their immediate family. With U.S. permanent residency, students don’t have the uncertainty of a non-resident as they are free to stay in America and apply for any job without added visa requirements. Other benefits include lower tuition when compared to international students and increased university acceptance rates.
Other options for foreigners looking to begin or continue their career in the U.S. include the following:
E-1/2 visa dubbed the ‘treaty visa’ as only nationals for countries with certain work and trade treaties are eligible.
EB-2/3 visa. Another work visa with different requirements from the H-1B. The number of applications is so high, the waiting list is approximately 10-15 years for Indian Nationals.
Family Eligibility visas. Based off a U.S. National sponsoring your visa. Apart from the obvious family requirement, there are different waiting times for immediate vs extended family members.