The H-1B visa is popular among skilled foreign workers who are seeking employment in the United States. In order to qualify for an H-1B visa, the foreign worker must have an offer of employment for work in a speciality occupation. A speciality occupation requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, and demands the worker performs duties in a complex or specialized manner related to such a degree.
As it has grown in popularity, the H-1B visa has been experiencing an increase in processing times. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the current processing time for an H-1B visa application submitted outside the US ranges from 5 to 10 months. This can make it challenging for some foreigners who wish to find work in the US, as American employers are often unwilling to wait so long for an employee to gain work authorization.
In an effort to reduce the H-1B visa application backlog and speed up processing times, USCIS mandated in September 2018 that they would be suspending premium processing of H1-B visas. Premium processing allowed an American employer to pay an additional fee, approximately $1400 USD, to expedite the processing time for H-1B applications.
While the suspension of premium processing may allow USCIS to catch up on their backlog, this poses even greater trouble for foreign workers hoping to secure an H-1B for themselves. With the elimination of the faster processing option, it becomes even less likely for an American employer to hire outside the country and put up with the long processing times for an H-1B application.
In October 2018, USCIS added yet another hurdle to the H-1B process. H-1B visa applications may now be denied without the department first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). Previously, USCIS would notify applicants that they lacked evidence and that the department was planning to refuse their application, thereby giving applicants the chance to address the problem and submit additional documents. USCIS is now authorized to deny applications outright.
This provision applies not only to new H-1B applicants, but also to holders of H-1B visas who are seeking extensions of stay, or to change their status in the US.
Notably, under the Trump administration, there has been a 45% increase in RFEs for H-1B visa applications, so the new USCIS ability to deny applications without RFE issuance could pose serious problems to foreign workers.
President Trump’s administration has recently announced that they intend to redefine the term “specialty occupation,” in order to improve the United States’ ability to attract the best and brightest foreign workers. It is unclear exactly what this new definition will look like, although judging from the impact the Trump administration has already had on foreign workers, it is likely to result in further restrictions.
While the United States is taking an increasingly hard stance against immigration, the Canadian government provides an optimistic alternative. On November 1st, 2018, Canada announced a historic three-year plan for immigration, intending to welcome more than 1 million new immigrants between the years 2019 and 2021. Of these immigrants, nearly 60% will be skilled workers and their families.
Unlike USCIS, Canadian immigration has been making remarkable progress in reducing processing times for skilled worker applicants. Canada’s Express Entry system, used to process the vast majority of skilled worker immigration applications, processes 80% of applications under its most popular programs in 4 months or less.
As well, applicants coming through the Express Entry system will not simply receive temporary work visas, like H-1B visas in the US. Instead, approved Express Entry applicants receive permanent resident status for themselves and their family members. Canadian permanent resident status is equivalent to the US Green Card, giving holders the right to live and work anywhere in Canada, without any expiration date. As well, permanent residents gain access to Canada’s free universal healthcare and social services.
Express Entry uses a points-based system to assess eligibility and competitiveness. However, it’s easy to find out if you’re eligible! Simply complete our free assessment and a member of the Canadim Team will determine your eligibility and contact you to discuss your immigration options!
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