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Biden govt puts off Trump’s new rule for H-1B visas till Dec 31

The Joe Biden administration has announced that it is delaying the implementation of the new H-1B visa policy of the previous Trump administration for allocating work permits to foreign workers and will continue with the traditional lottery system until December 31, 2021. The new rule was earlier scheduled to come into effect from March 9.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Thursday that the step is being taken to give more time to develop, test and implement the modifications to the registration system.

"During the delay, while USCIS works through the issues associated with implementation, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership will also evaluate the January 8 rule and its associated policies, as is typical of agencies at the beginning of a new administration," said the federal notification to be published on February 8.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India.

On January 7, the USCIS had announced that it was scrapping the traditional lottery system in deciding the successful applicants for the H-1B visas. It had said the new rule would prioritise wages to protect the economic interests of American workers, and better ensure that the most highly skilled foreign workers benefit from the temporary employment programme.

It had said at the time that the current H-1B random selection process makes it difficult for businesses to plan their hiring, fails to leverage the programme to compete for the best and brightest international workforce, and has predominantly resulted in the annual influx of foreign labour placed in low-wage positions at the expense of US workers.

The USCIS can issue a maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas in a year. It can also issue another 20,000 H-1B visas to foreign students who have completed higher studies from a US university in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The official statement said that the DHS wants to ensure the orderly and efficient administration of the H-1B numerical allocations and wants to avoid disruption to the regulated public by affording itself sufficient time to fully modify and thoroughly test the changes to the H-1B registration system, minimise technical risks that result from a compressed testing schedule, and provide the regulated public enough time to become familiar with those changes to facilitate full compliance with the new regulatory requirements.

The DHS said it believes that a longer delay is needed to avoid the confusion and disparate treatment of registrants that would result if a new rule took effect during the initial registration period, or a subsequent registration and selection period, for the FY 2022 numerical allocations, particularly if the USCIS needs to open a subsequent registration period later this year to ensure full utilisation of the FY 2022 numerical allocations.