US Immigration Policy
3 Solid Reasons why recent changes to H1B Visa program will help Indian students in America get more Jobs!
Several news articles have been published since 3rd April 2017 discussing the new rule affecting H1B visas.
Here are 3 things Indian students aspiring to study in the US should know.
1. More Visas for Students: This rule primarily affects India’s IT outsourcing industry which is the biggest user of H-1B visas. Of the top 10 companies sponsoring H1B visas, 89% visa applications are from outsourcing IT companies. This causes an acute shortage for H1B visas on a whole, reducing chances for Indian students who are directly employed by US companies , filing for H1B. With stricter regulations in place for Indian IT companies, more opportunities will open for students with advanced degrees. In other words, more visas will be available for students
2. More Jobs for Students: As this rule affects lot of outsourcing employers – these jobs need to be filled in US itself. Due to the lack of high skilled professionals with advanced degrees in US especially in the STEM areas, these jobs will open for students. As Indian students do have F1 visa with OPT – shortage of workers due to visa rules will help Indian students looking for jobs.
3. US Economy is booming and needs skilled knowledge workforce: Today US unemployment rate stands at just 4.7% lowest in 15 years. Stock market is up 15% since November 2016 – More and more investment is being made in businesses – all this means much more demand for skilled knowledge employees – all of which are in short supply today. Students should take advantage of this situation.
So Indian students doing MS in US are in reality, probably going to benefit from rules.
Why does the recently re-introduced H1B visa bill seem to be in favor of the Indian Students in USA?
Are you confused as to what the latest news regarding this “ Bill introduced in the US regarding H1B work visa” is? Keep reading further to understand what all the discussion is really about.
The new bill, titled “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” has been re-introduced in Congress by certain republicans (this bill was already introduced in earlier years, but was never passed). It proposes key changes in the H1-B program that allows skilled workers from foreign countries to fill high-tech jobs in the US.
The bill has proposed two changes – the gist of which is as follows:
– Making it harder to get H1B for low paying jobs
– Removing Masters quota for H1B
Looking deeper into these proposed changes it looks like these will actually likely help Indian students in the USA!
American economy is currently booming and unemployment rate is at its lowest in two decades, which implies increase in job creation.
H1B visa (work visa) is designed to be used for foreign workers with highly specialized skills. Total of 85000 visas are issued every year, which comprise of 65,000 for general quota and 20,000 for US Advanced degree quota for Master’s students. Last year a whopping 233,000 applications were submitted for the limited quota of 85000.
First, a lottery was conducted for the US Master’s degree quota applications to select 20,000 petitions and then the petitions that were not selected in this this first round were added to general quota pool and lottery was conducted on this pool to select the overall 65,000 petitions for general quota. This is pretty standard over the years.
Currently the Indian IT outsourcing companies use up to 70% to 80% of the general 65000 H1B quota. This causes an acute shortage for H1B visas, creating a shortage for Master’s students from India in the USA who are added up to the general quota for H1B lottery.
For details on top H1V visa sponsor companies in 2017 kindly visit the following report from Myvisajobs.com(http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2017-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx). The report shows that of the top 10 companies sponsoring H1B visas, 89% visa applications are from IT companies with average salary under $100,000 per year, and only 11% are from US companies all of which have an average salary above $100,000.
Most of the American companies that employ highly educated students who have completed their Masters studies in the USA- offer a high starting salary. Also Indian students graduating in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) category have a period of up to 3 years on OPT where they can work on student visa before getting their get their H1B work visa. So even if the starting salary is not as high as $100,000 per year, 70% of Indian students (especially those working in computer science related fields) reach that mark within first 3 years depending on their skills and field of work.
Today many talented students with MS decrees are missing out on H1B visas because they are being denied the H1B visas in the lottery system.
Also eliminating Master’s degree quota of 20000 visas for H1B should not affect the Indian students with MS degrees, as the absence of H1B petitions from the IT companies would make room for highly paid foreign employees with advanced education and skills.
All in all, it seems like Indian students studying in American Universities will benefit from proposed bill.
Again, note that this is just a bill not the final rule – and likely will at least take a minimum of 12-18 months before it gets enacted (if it passes this time).
US relaxes green card rules for talented individuals with advanced degrees
US has relaxed the tests used to grant a National Interest Waiver (NIW) to EB-2 category of green card applicants
The EB2 Green card category
Green card also refers to an immigration process of becoming a permanent resident in the USA. The EB-2 Green Card is a category offered to talented immigrants with advanced degrees or especially rare skills. Most of the Indian students who have completed their Masters education in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)category fall under EB2 green card category
EB2 Green Card Processing
Commonly, a permanent job offer and an approved labor certificate are pre-requisites to file for a green card.
Filing the labor certificate is the first step in green card processing. It is a rigorous process where your employer has to be ready to sponsor your green card by offering you a permanent job and has to undergo a series of steps to prove that no US workers are available to fill the position you are employed in, and hence you deserve green card. This process can take from six months to 3 years in some cases.
An NIW allows individuals in the EB-2 category to skip the cumbersome ‘labor certification’ process.
National Interest Waiver (NIW) Petition
On December 27 2016, the US authorities have eased the tests to get National Interest Waiver (NIW). So, even if a person has no employer, he/she may file an NIW petition on behalf of himself/herself in order to initiate a green card filing process under the EB2 category.
In order to be eligible to file an NIW petition, an applicant must have an “advanced degree” or “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or business and should demonstrate that he/she seeks employment in an area of substantial merit to the U.S
NIW applications have clear advantages over other regular EB2 green card petitions. Since there is no labor certification or permanent job offer requirement, an NIW is an attractive choice for scholars, researchers, post-doctoral research fellows, PhD students, and other advanced degree professionals.
Apart from offering speedier process in the path towards a green card, NIW holders can also avail of an unlimited H-1B extension, and their spouses too can apply for work authorization.
Indian students with advanced degrees will now have a fairer chance of obtaining an NIW, which in turn will speed up the process of obtaining a green card.
Trump as the new US President: The Benefits for Indian Students
Donald Trump has been elected as the new US President. This blog intends to cover what it means for Indian students intending to pursue MS in US.
It is important to note that skilled immigrants with advanced degrees have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these companies- according to a 2016 National Foundation for American Policy study. Most of these entrepreneurs and key personnel at some point obtained H-1B status, often after studying at a U.S. university.
Thus, skilled immigrants have been a powerhouse of talent, proficiencies and entrepreneurship.
A. Republicans support lawful and skilled Immigration
-Republicans largely oppose illegal and unlawful immigration but they have been in favor of skilled immigration for decades. Today in US, there are over 11 million illegal residents (Largely from Mexico and other Latino countries). Compared that to just 85,000 H1B’s (work permit visas) are awarded every year for skilled foreign workers.
– Now the Republican Party controls both – the US senate and house along with the presidency – which could open up a passage for the skilled immigration bills to pass.This opens up the gridlock of the last 10+ years. Allowing more visas for students with STEM degrees.
– Today getting H1B visas (work visa) after finishing advanced degrees is hard, and permanent residency even harder. With above changes, it should get easier for Indians with advanced degrees to get more student visas and work visas, as 99% of the Indians fall under “skilled immigration (STEM)” category
B. Economy will create more Jobs – Creating higher demand for skilled workforce that America does not have today
– Trump is proposing lowering of taxes. He is also suggesting more manufacturing to happen in the US and is against outsourcing of American jobs. This implies that the US economy will have to create more skilled jobs within America itself. But today America faces a severe dearth of a skilled workforce with advanced STEM degrees. Indian students in US will be in high demand to fulfill those new jobs that will be created in US. Also fewer jobs will be outsourced – which creates increased demand for jobs within the USA, in turn benefiting Indian students in America
C. Trump thinks India as an allied nation
– This will open doors for the stronger relationship with India, as India is a natural ally in this new order. This will open up lot of opportunities for Indians
OPT Period Extension and H1B Visa
Every year U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts H1B petitions starting from 1st April. As such, petitions for the fiscal year 2017 will be accepted from 1st April 2016. The current quota for H1B VISA is 65,000 under the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption – also known as the Masters quota. Thus, the total quota stands at 85,000. In the previous year, USCIS received a total of nearly 233,000 H1B petitions under both the categories put together from 1st April to 7th April and then they stopped accepting new applications. For the first time, USCIS received more than the limit of 20,000 H1B petitions under the Masters quota (the exact number of applications is not declared by USCIS). Computer generated random selection process (lottery) is conducted for Masters quota petitions which selects 20,000 applicants for the Master’s degree cap completion. The H1B petitions filed under Masters quota cap, but not selected in the first round of lottery are then added to the general quota of petitions. The lottery is then conducted for this pool to select 65,000 petitions towards the general quota cap completion. USCIS rejects and returns the remaining H1B petitions.
Advantages of OPT Extension:
Since H1B VISA petitions are accepted only once a year i.e. 1st April, if the petition is rejected, the applicant has to wait for a further period of one year, i.e., till next April to be able to apply again. In case, a student has an OPT period of only one year, his OPT period lapses before the next April. Hence, he doesn’t get a second chance to apply for H1B visa and has no option but to return to his home country. But students under STEM category will now get an OPT period of 36 Months (Regular 12 months + 24 months extension). In other words, such students will get two more chances for applying for H1B visa if their first petition is rejected. For example, if a student applies for H1B visa on 1st April 2016 but does not get selected in the lottery of 2016, he would still be able to apply for H1B visa again on 1st April 2017 and once again on 1st April 2018.
24-Month STEM OPT Extension
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending it F1 non immigrant visa regulations on Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) from US institutions of higher education.
OPT is a period during which undergraduates (BS/BA) and graduate students (MS/MBA) with F1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than 9 months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work for 12 months on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their education. On April 2nd 2008 DHS announced a 17-month extension to the OPT for students in qualifying STEM fields to be eligible for the 12-month permit. Any degree in any field of studies is valid. For the 17-month OPT extension a student must have received a STEM degree as listed on the USCIS website.
DHS is now amending its rule regarding OPT under STEM category to extend the OPT period to 24 months. This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. In short, a student can now work in America for up to 36 months after completing degree even if he doesn’t qualify for H1B visa during that period. This rule will be effective from May 10th 2016.
The rule also makes F1 students who subsequently enroll in a new academic program and another STEM degree at a higher education level eligible for one additional 24 months STEM OPT extension. In other words, a student can get 36 months OPT after undergraduate education (BS) and also after completing a graduate degree (MS) from STEM category.
The rule also permits an F1 student completing a non-STEM graduate degree to use a prior eligible STEM degree from a US institution of higher education as the basis to apply for a STEM OPT extension. For e.g. if a student has completed MS in STEM category and now completes MBA which is a non-STEM degree is also eligible for the 36 months OPT extension.
To improve the integrity of the STEM OPT extension, the rule limits eligibility only to students with degrees from schools accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education.
Keep yourself updated on our next blog on E-Verify requirements and Cap-Gap extension.
Why the White House Wants You to Stay in America After Your ‘MS in US’
As this video from the White House explains, it all boils down to one thing – if, you have done your ‘MS in US’ and want to stay on in America afterwards, then the President is pretty convinced that you are good for the American economy. Foreign students in the fields of science, technology, engineering or maths, a large number of them Indians, form a highly skilled pool of talent that has the potential to bring multiple benefits to the American economy – provided they are allowed to live and work there. At the moment,however, according to President Obama the US economy is being robbed of those benefits by what he calls America’s “broken immigration system”. Here’s why Obama wants it fixed (to see the full coverage of President Obama’s speech announcing immigration reforms, see our previous blog ‘Obama Announces Executive Action on Immigrant Reform: Good News for Your ‘MS in US’ Plans’).
Fixing the broken immigration system will:
- make it easy for entrepreneurs to start new businesses, creating new jobs for American workers
- grow the economy and create jobs and cut the deficit
- boost GDP by 5% or 1.4 trillion dollars by 2033
The explanation of how that will happen goes like this:
- In 2010 70% of the foreign graduate (bachelor’s) students in American colleges and universities were studying science, technology, engineering or maths. The idea is that if they can stay and work in America where they were educated, they will contribute to developing the innovative technologies and processes that make the US economy more competitive and productive. This will also make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up businesses in the States.
- Having a highly skilled workforce and a consequently more productive economy will increase the rate of return for companies and businesses who invest in the United States and that will lead to more investment in the future.
- Ultimately, more entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers, higher economic productivity, plus increased investments in US would increase America’s real GDP by 1.4 trillion dollars by 2033
But there are other great benefits for Americans in fixing the broken immigration system:
- immigration reform will boost demand for goods and services, create more demand for labor and thus more jobs for American workers
- employers currently paying their employees under the table will have to pay the same taxes as everyone else – the increased inflow in taxes will reduce the US deficit by 850 billion dollars.
So, if you intend to do your ‘MS in US’ and plan to stay on in the States afterwards, it looks like the American President and the White House are all set to give you a warm welcome. Make the most of it!
Obama Announces Executive Action on Immigrant Reform: Good News for Your ‘MS in US’ Plans
This is the full coverage of President Obama’s televised speech announcing his immigrant reforms. It covers a lot of ground, but, if you are a prospective ‘MS in US’ student, there is some really good news in it for you. The important part for you comes about three and a half minutes into the video where the US President summarizes the key immigration reforms and measures he intends to undertake. In an indication of the importance he gives it, his announcement that he intends to make it easier for high-skilled graduates and others to live and work in America in the US economy is the second point that he makes. The specifics are not given here, but the intention is very definite: America is going to be made a more welcoming place for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs – we’ll give you an update on what exactly Obama plans as soon as details become available.
In the mean time, if you are wondering why President Obama and the White House are so eager to have you stay in their country after your studies there, our next post (Why the White House Wants You to Stay in America After Your ‘MS in US’) will tell you why. You will be surprised to find that the American government thinks that it’s a really good idea – for American workers, for the American GDP, and for America’s position as the world’s leading economic power.
So, after years of debate, of pleas from American business and obstruction by the Republican politicians, it seems that, in his last two years in office, President Obama is determined to fulfill his election promises on immigration.This means that if you are thinking that you would like to stay on in the United States after your ‘MS in US’, it won’t be such a hard-to-achieve dream: opportunities in America are opening up to you.
Refer to our blog Why the White House Wants You to Stay in America After Your ‘MS in US’ for further information
Obama to Announce Immigration Reform: Will it Affect Students Who have Done an ‘MS in US’?
Tomorrow morning (Indian Standard Time, and 8.00 p.m., Thursday evening Eastern Time) President Obama will announce executive action on immigration reform. Though this announcement is mostly going to affect illegal immigrants in the United States, there may also be implications for Indian students who have graduated with a master’s (MS) or doctoral (PhD) degree from American universities. They belong to the pool of highly skilled labor that American businesses need, so there is some anticipation of a positive fall out for them from this announcement. More specifically, the Indian student community in America will be waiting to hear whether the measures Obama announces will help make getting green cards and work permits easier and whether there will be an opening up on the H-1B visa quota front. Will they? Won’t they? It could mean dreams come true or anti-climaxes. Keep watching this space we’ll let you know.
Update check out these two posts: