New H-1B visa rules will benefit applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions

February 10, 2019

Applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education who are seeking H-1B visas will be the beneficiaries of a new rule announced by the Department of Homeland Security last week. The rule change reverses the order by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption.  

The rule change is intended to increase the number of H-1B visas awarded to individuals with a master’s degree or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education. Specifically, DHS estimates up to a 16 percent increase (5,340 workers) in the number of H-1B visas awarded to individuals with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

There are 85,000 H-1B visas awarded each year by UCSIS via a lottery process with 20,000 of those reserved for individuals with advanced degrees. Effective April 1, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. 

In the second round of the lottery, USCIS will then award 20,000 H-1B visas to individuals eligible for an advanced degree exemption that did not receive one during the first lottery. Previously, applicants with advanced degrees would compete via a lottery process for the 20,000 H-1B visas earmarked for individuals with advanced degrees. For those that failed to receive a visa through that advanced degree exemption lottery, they would be added to the general pool of applicants vying for the remaining 65,000