What are the latest H-1B visa changes? | TECH(talk)

hey everyone welcome back to Tech Talk
I’m Julia Beauchamp and I’m here with computer world executive editor Ken
Mingis as well as Sharon Florentine is senior writer for CIO comm and we are
going to be talking about some of the changes and proposed changes to the h-1b
visas and how that might affect IT business so stick around back I’m Sharon
thank you so much today so what are some of the changes to the h-1b visa program
could you walk us through this absolutely first of all thank you for
having me this is a really important topic that’s getting a lot of buzz
lately so I appreciate your having me back so this year 2019 there were four
big proposed changes two of those have have been implemented two are still in
the proposal stage they’re not sure if those will take effect going forward but
the two that are most final one actually went into effect as of April 1st 2019 so
as of April 1st 2019 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
which is USCIS they flipped the way that they select from the h-1b visa lottery
in the past they would they would choose 65,000
applications from a general pool and then they would choose from a smaller
20,000 visa pool of people who have held advanced degrees so in an attempt to get
more folks with advanced degrees into the u.s. workforce what they did was
they took all applications general degrees and advanced degrees and put
them into the general pool of 65,000 visas so then they selected those
65,000 and then those who were not selected were put into the running for
the 20,000 advanced degree visas so what that was supposed to do was increase the
chances that a candidate would be selected who held an advanced degree one
of the people that I spoke to about this issue he’s the CEO of envoy global his
name is Richard Burke and he said that the government estimated it would
increase the chances of someone who held a master’s degree being selected for an
h-1b visa by about 16% so that’s that’s pretty good news for us
tech companies who are trying to get more folks into their workforce that
have these advanced degrees so that that’s the first change they they
flipped the the order of selection the second change that will not go into
effect until April 2020 deals with the registration and application process
itself so in the past and including this year companies who wanted to get h-1b
talent had to fill out the entire application and this is an extremely
lengthy and pretty costly application process they had to fill out every minut
detail about their applicants and it just it took a really really long time
companies were preparing for to submit these applications for you know a year
or so in advance so what USCIS did was they they changed that process though
that companies would only fill out a very basic initial application form with
with pretty general simplified information on the candidates
and then if your candy was selected from the lottery only then would the company
have to go back and fill out the rest of that form with all that minutia so that
was another change that was made to streamline and speed up the the
application process for these visas but again that will not go into effect until
the next year next April 2020 shiron I’m curious you know one of the
things about the h-1b visa program that’s made it so controversial for
years or even decades now is this idea that companies could use it to bring in
workers from from other countries basically displacing US workers and I
wonder if the you know the first change that you mentioned that’s already gone
into effect about changing the the level of the degree that you know where they
are in the pool is that designed to basically lift the you know the the I
guess education level of people who are getting these jobs so that lower skilled
workers in the u.s. might not be as displaced as they have been in the past
I just wondered if that was sort of if there’s a connection or a correlation
there that that we know about you know that’s a really great question and it’s
it’s entirely possible one of the things that Richard Burke and I were were
speaking about on this issue was that that very change was was not very well
received by some of the large IT consulting firms like emphasis or Teta
who that’s kind of their their bailiwick they bring in a lot of lower-level
entry-level tech talent from India and China and so that change was not very
well received by some of those larger companies for that reason because
they’re not you know the the talent that’s that’s receiving the visas has
the higher education level and so they’re not able to place as many people
right I understand it does make sense I mean I know that these
companies have said for years that like oh we’re not trying to displace workers
and we just can’t find the skills here and of course that that’s an argument
that’s been met with a lot of skepticism from IT workers in the US who are like
wait a minute we could do this job but you know we’re getting frozen out here
and it’s interesting too the second change the one that’s going into effect
next year it also sounds like it’s a kind of process that might open up the
visa program to companies that may not have the ability to do all the detailed
form filling out ahead of time you know so they can get their get their dibs in
for a visa slot but without having to fill out and do all that work beforehand
until they know that they’ve actually got somebody that or they’ve got a slot
that they can fill right exactly I’m one of the other people that I spoke to when
I was writing about this penny Bradshaw who is an immigration attorney and has
been doing this work for something like thirty five years she made that exact
point that it’s it’s a whole lot of work and often companies will hire
immigration attorneys and legal firms like hers to to complete those
applications and and help them through the process and it’s it’s very expensive
for each application it’s it’s thousands of dollars on top of the fees that you
pay to the government so yeah it’s definitely gonna help that’s interesting
it seems like even if there’s some perhaps some pushback about the varying
about the different preference reference for advanced degrees there’s still
plenty of reasons that businesses can benefit from this new law it kind of
make things a lot easier for them yeah and so one thing I did want to point out
that the the 65,000 general pool and the 20,000 masters pool that’s been an that
number that eighty thousand eighty five thousand number for h-1b visas has
really only been in effect since I believe the last 10 years or so
back in the late 90s and early 2000s the kapil is much much higher it was almost
two hundred thousand visas were awarded each year and so that cap has absolutely
been lowered over the last decade or two again in an attempt to leave these
positions open for American workers so it’s interesting that there’s still that
that pressure and I again I would I would add that I’m not gonna add
anything because I just lost it I actually have a question related to that
because you know we’ve talked about the cap and I know that there have been
times that it has artificially gone up and then it’s been brought back down and
now it’s at the eighty-five thousand level usually year in and year out
you know the visa process starts I guess April first and then very quickly the
visa slots are all claimed because it’s like this gold rush mentality by
companies do you have any any updates on how things have gone this year is that
has that been the case this year in terms of the slots being filled as far
as we know absolutely has for the last five years since 2014 all of the general
cap slots have filled within five days and this year is no exception they
filled all 65,000 by April 5th and they’re now saying they’re they believe
they’ve got enough master’s degree holders to fill the 20,000 slot masters
cap as well okay so if you were looking for an h-1b visa slot this year you’re
out a lot yeah now sure and you’ve talked about some of the changes that
have either already gone into effect or will go into effect next year but
there’s also some proposed changes regarding the h-1b visa process and the
program so could you please touch on those as well absolutely so these are a
lot more controversial and they seem to be very much at odds with the first two
proposed changes which were supposed to make it easier and faster for IT
companies the first one involves removing the ability for h-1b visa
applicants and and those who receive the visas to bring their spouses and
families here to the US and you know if you’re someone who is working
internationally you’ve got a wife and maybe kids and you’re trying to make a
better life for your family you receive this visa to come here and work but you
can’t bring your family here then what’s you know you’ve got a very very
difficult decision to make and I would guess that a lot of folks would would
choose their family for for very good reasons you don’t want to be that far
away from your wife your kids your husband your partner it doesn’t it
doesn’t doesn’t fit so that’s the first one the second proposed change is under
the second Bush and then the Obama administration there was a rule put in
place that h-1b visa holders could extend their stay here for an additional
12 24 or 36 months and there’s a proposal currently out there that would
eliminate that ability to extend the visa and again that’s kind of at odds
with you know helping US businesses bring talent here and keep them if you
can’t extend that visa past 12 months then
you know your talent is gonna be here and then it’s gonna be gone and you’re
gonna be left in the same position with you know vacant roles and an inability
to to grow and to innovate so those are the two biggest ones you know it’s
interesting and I wonder you know we were talking about this earlier when we
were sort of like scouting out this this topic whether or not those changes
because as you say they do run counter to this idea of making the visa program
you know easier or more open for some companies whether that is running into
the current debate we’re having in the US about immigration because this sounds
like the kinds of things that if these proposed changes were to go into effect
would certainly hamper companies abilities to get qualified workers
because of course as you said they don’t wanna leave their their family behind
and if they get them here then they can no longer extend their stay here and do
we have any any sense if there’s like a little bit of politics going on around
this I mean it’s h-1b visa so it’s always a political issue in some ways
because it touches on workers but I just wonder you know given the current
climate here in the US whether there’s any sense that that’s sort of behind
these these at least proposed changes i 100% believe that there is and some
folks that i’ve spoken to on background for this also absolutely believe that
that’s the case it it’s really it’s really telling that you know on one side
the administration is is very pro-business and is relaxing regulations
and doing whatever it can to make sure that businesses and corporations can
succeed but then on the other hand like you said it’s running right into the the
immigration debate and you know who should be able to come here and why and
yeah I definitely believe there’s there’s a lot of of political infighting
going on around around this issue now I’m just curious how you since this
these are changes from previous administrations I’m curious how you
think in the future this will play out or maybe how and how businesses are
going to respond to those proposed changes well we’ve already seen in some
cases that talent is is going to more friendly more immigration friendly
countries like Canada where they’re much more welcoming and open to foreign
national talent coming and and working there there are there are other kinds of
visas that they can use for instance if they hire talent in another country and
then they can transfer that person to a location in the US after they’ve been
employed with the company for a certain amount of time so perhaps they’d hire
someone in a European country have them work in that location for a year and
then transfer them to San Jose or New York City or another location so that’s
a way that companies are getting around this issue and still getting the talent
in the door another way that they’re trying to get people here and to stay
here is a lot of companies as soon as they received the h-1b visa and that
person comes to work for them they start the process of applying for and getting
green cards so they can be permanent residents and you know they’ll help with
immigration issues they’ll reimburse or pay for legal fees that may be involved
in that process so there are ways that companies are addressing this you know
either to tackle it head-on or to to use other means to kind of go around it yeah
absolutely and I mean it would make sense for certainly
some businesses in order to retain that talent past the twelve months would be
to absolutely to assist in their workers in some sort of path to permanent
residency I’ll just weigh in real quick with a comment which I just wanted to
say it’s interesting about this as you laying as you’re laying out the changes
that have taken place already and the changes that are being proposed that you
know we’ve we’ve written about this at various IDG pubs for years and this
program seems to be like a political football every several every few years
you know caps are raised caps or change caps are lowered and it depends on the
political heat and I do you know I wonder how companies year-to-year you
know can adjust quickly to these changes especially some of them you know could
be pretty dramatic in terms of how it would affect the you know the group of
people who can come to the come to the US and work and it just surprises me in
some ways that there’s not enough consider there’s not consistency through
the years across administration’s because this is obviously a you know one
place for companies to get you know it’s a pool of talent that they that they say
they need and you know it’s just interesting that it gets sort of tweaked
almost every year you know and these are some pretty big tweaks as you as you as
you’ve laid out yeah absolutely and you know to follow on from that it’s
it’s interesting that companies are still fighting over over these these
issues when there are also other steps they could take within the u.s. to to
also bring in more talent from us-born and us-based talent and you know I I’ve
logged about this a number of times you can you know start partnerships with
universities to kind of funnel talent right from computer science programs you
can look at boot camps where people are either job changing or women are
returning from maternity leave and getting new
skills you can maybe work with different universities or programs then you have
worked with in the past not everyone at your company has to graduate from
Stanford or MIT you know that kind of thing so there are huge pools of
untapped talent in the US that companies could also be going after that that
they’re also not chasing yeah that’s a good point that’s a good point
thank you so much Sharon for calling it’s a really interesting topic it’s
obviously a huge hot topic and it’ll be also interesting to just see how this
continues to play out if these if the two proposed changes what happens with
them and as you already said all of the h-1b visas the changes that went into
effect April 1 all of those are already gone so yeah yeah thank you so much
thank you so much for having me that’s great thanks Sharon for the update I
should mention real quick too that there will be a if you want to weigh in on
this com on this this topic that we’re doing a Twitter chat on May 16th at noon
Eastern Time hashtag IDG Tech Talk so if you want to
weigh in be sure to to pop on the Twitter and give us your thoughts I will
be moderating that as well awesome great thank you all for watching this episode
of tech talk if you like this video be sure to give it a thumbs up and
subscribe to our Channel and let us know in the comments your thoughts about
these changes and how you think that these this might affect business and
again be sure to chime in on that Twitter talk as well on May 16th thank
you so much and we’ll see you next time

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