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H-1B Visa Lottery Changing to Favor Those With Advanced Degrees

H-1B visa with Statue of Liberty in background, illustration

A subtle change with major implications is coming to the H-1B visa program that could give large tech companies an edge in bringing highly skilled workers to their sprawling campuses, while hurting outsourcing firms that hire entry-level workers to fill software jobs.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a rule change Wednesday (January 30) that will transform the lottery that decides who gets the 85,000 H-1B visas granted to for-profit companies every year.

Previously, an initial lottery granted 20,000 visas only to those holding advanced degrees granted by U.S. institutions — master's degrees or doctorates — and then a general lottery granted 65,000 visas to all qualified applicants.

The Department of Homeland Security switched the order of these lotteries, it said in a notice of the final rule change, which will bolster the odds for highly educated foreign nationals. The rule change is effective this year.

Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney based in Austin, Texas, said now employers will think differently about what candidates they put up for the H-1B visa. "If I'm an employer and I have two candidates who are equally qualified for a position, and both require me to sponsor them for a visa, I'm probably going to want to file for the one with the master's degree because now, mathematically, I have a better chance of getting them picked," he said.

From San Francisco Chronicle
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