President Trump vowed in a tweet on Friday to make changes to the H-1B visa program in the U.S., including offering a potential path to citizenship for visa holders.
“H1-B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship,” he wrote. “We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the U.S.”
The H-1B is non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to hire graduate-level workers in specialty occupations, like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, science and medicine. Any job that requires workers to have at least a bachelor’s degree falls under the H-1B for specialty occupations.
Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allots about 85,000 of the H-1B visas -- 65,000 for applicants with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, and 20,000 for those with a master’s degree or higher.
According to a report from Financial Express, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel and Google were among the top 10 employers for approved H-1B visas in 2017.
But under an executive order signed by Trump in April 2017 -- “Buy American and Hire American” -- it’s become more difficult for U.S. companies to hire people via H-1B. It directs the Department of Homeland Security to only grant the visas to the “most-skilled or highest-paid beneficiaries.”
And in November 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor began requiring employers of H-1B recipients use a new labor condition application form. According to Forbes, critics of the form say it’s designed to “elicit internal information from employers” while exerting additional, outside pressure on those companies.
The USCIS begins accepting applications on the first business day of April each year; the visa allocation is usually expired within a week.