The H-1B non-immigrant visa program allows employers in Maryland and around the country to hire highly-skilled foreign workers. The program aims to nurture innovation by ensuring that American companies are able to attract workers with credentials and experience in specialty occupations, but only 86,000 H-1B visas are awarded each year. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service began accepting applications for 2018 H-1B visas on April 3, and the agency announced on April 17 that 199,000 H-1B applications were submitted during the ensuing five-day filing period.
Foreign workers who have completed an advanced degree in the United States will be awarded the first 20,000 H-1B visas, and a lottery system will be used to award the remaining 65,000 to individuals who possess a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. Applications that are not selected for the lottery will be rejected and their application fees returned.
Immigration was a hot-button topic during the presidential election campaign, and President Trump has been critical of visa programs that he believes favor immigrants over American workers. Trump signed an executive order on April 18 that promises to review and revise immigration laws including the H-1B visa program. However, the executive order is vague, and immediate changes to the program are not expected. Experts also point out that any major revisions will likely require congressional approval.
The government has several visa programs available to those who wish to live and work legally in the United States, but individuals who wish to take advantage of these opportunities must meet strict requirements and file their applications in a timely manner. Attorneys with experience in this area could review visa applications to ensure that they meet USCIS guidelines and explain what applicants can expect during the review and selection process.