H1B Visa Under Trump – Should I consider MS/PhD now?
Donald J Trump, the 45th president of the United States, has held office for about 2 weeks now and already the World can’t seem to ignore his presence.
What is his impact on you, the MS/PhD aspirant?
GREedge seeks to put unnecessary conjecture and speculation to rest and provide an unbiased viewpoint on some of the major issues concerning you, including university admission chances, GRE scores required, H1B visas, job opportunities after graduation, OPT period and the whole GRE + MS + US deal!
After the new H1B bill, how difficult will it be to get a H1B visa?
It is expected that if the new H1B bill (introduced by Democrat & US Representative for Silicon Valley, Zoe Lofgren) is passed, it will become easier for MS/PhD graduates to get a H1B visa. Simultaneously, it will be more difficult, if not impossible, for employees of IT companies that outsource jobs such as TCS, Cognizant, Wipro, Accenture etc to gain a H1B visa.
Before we actually discuss the salient features of the new H1B bill, it is important to quickly understand why the H1B visa program was introduced in the first place.
History & Significance of H1B
The H1B visa program was originally intended to help companies acquire people with highly specialized knowledge temporarily for specialty occupations such as those in the fields of chemistry, biotechnology, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences etc.
To this end, the current H1B Visa Program states that:
- All employees on a H1B visa must be paid a minimum salary of $60,000 per annum.
- All companies looking to hire employees on a H1B visa have to submit a legal application citing that they could not find an American worker for the same position.
- All companies can contest for a maximum of 65,000 H1B visas along with a special allocation of 20,000 visas for foreigners with a Master’s degree.
- H1B visas are allocated randomly using a computer based lottery system, wherein the applicants with a Master’s degree from US universities are prioritized first. Once the quota is filled up, the remaining members go back into the pool along with the other applicants to compete for the remaining 65,000 visas.
However, over the years, many IT companies have started using the H1B visa to bring in people from India, China, Taiwan and Korea to do regular jobs, which do not require very high levels of skill or knowledge. In fact, according to the official website of the U.S Citizenship & Immigration (USCIS), the percentage of H1B visa holders from these IT companies with a bachelor’s degree is as high as 47.3%. This means that people with a basic degree are being taken into the US using a powerful visa program such as the H1B, which also allows applicants with the intent of obtaining a US citizenship, should they wish to.
Initially, in the 90s, when Information Technology was just starting to become important, providing IT support was difficult, complex and required people with advanced knowledge to rectify errors, if any.
In countries like India & China, education is the cornerstone of development and among all fields of education, engineering is treated with great respect, thereby producing lakhs of skilled, educated engineers every year. Naturally, since demand was high and supply was in plenty in these countries, large amount of immigration took place using the H1B visa in the 90s. It was also aided by the fact that the current H1B VISA program as we know it was put in place by George.W.Bush in 1990.
H1B Visa: Current Scenario in 2017
However, 27 years later, in this day and age, the reasons for which engineers are picked up from India & China are entirely different. They are taken up as low-end software developers, computer programmers, analysts etc and paid to do the job at just the minimum wage described, thereby making it cheaper for top IT companies to hire & fire.
A quick survey indicates that out of the Top 5 H1B sponsors for 2016, namely, Infosys, TCS, IBM, Wipro and Accenture, the median salary paid is approximately $75,000 per annum. In stark comparison, top product companies such as Oracle, Google, Microsoft etc pay their employees much higher salaries i.e. upwards of $90,000 per annum.
Another irritant is that the many of these IT companies flood the system with an overwhelming number of applications. Since the H1B is granted randomly to applicants using a computer-based lottery, the chances of getting a H1B visa for its employees is higher owing to the sheer number of applications in the system.
For example, in 2016, Infosys filed approximately 33,000 applications! That is half the number of H1B visas available for an entire year!
As a businessman himself, Trump has admitted to using these loopholes to cut down hiring costs. Therefore, his aim is simple – to reinstate the original purpose of the H1B visa and provide it to those who are worthy of it – i.e. those who have highly specialized knowledge in particular fields.
Impact on you as a MS/PhD Aspirant?
As an MS aspirant, this is good news for those looking at future career opportunities because with stringent hiring rules for outsourcing companies, which currently gobbles up approximately 20-30% of the allocated quota, more number of H1B visas will be available to students pursuing a higher education in the US. Especially since there is no talk of cutting down on the existing number of H1B visas available to students.
Coming to the actual points specified in the new H1B bill, the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 raises the following points:
- All H1B dependent employers (companies who have more than 50 employees and whose workforce in the US is made up of over 15% of H1B visa holders) are liable to pay a minimum of $130,000 per annum to all of its employees on a H1B visa. Out of the top H1B Visa sponsors, from our research, only 2 companies are eligible to be listed as a H1B dependent employer i.e. TCS & CTS.
- Eliminates H1B dependent employers from accessing the additional 20,000 H1B visas available to those with a Master’s degree from US universities. This means that other companies can still contest for the 20,000 H1B visas for students with advanced degrees. This is actually good news for students pursuing MS/PhD because better companies like Oracle, Google, Facebook, Qualcomm can now access top talent for relevant jobs.
- Eliminates any ‘country-based’ allocation of H1B visas as available previously to Chile & Singapore.
- Makes provisions for a smooth transition between F1 visa & H1B visa to establish “dual intent” i.e F1 visas will not be denied solely on the basis of students’ intentions to immigrate to the US. (The current regulations requires students to firmly establish their intention to return to the home country)
From the data published so far, our analysis indicates that this move will be extremely profitable to students who are passionate about their fields, aim at becoming specialists and have a dream towards making a successful career with that knowledge!
Move steadfast in your mission towards a better score, buddy! And, we at GREedge, stand by you!
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