U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services quietly over the weekend released new guidance that computer programmers are no longer presumed to be eligible for H-1B visas.

What it means: This aligns with the administration's focus on reserving the temporary visas for very high-skilled (and higher-paid) professionals while encouraging low- and mid-level jobs to go to American workers instead. The new guidance affects applications for the lottery for 2018 fiscal year that opened Monday.

What comes next: Companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions will have to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees. Entry-level wages attached to these visa applications will also get more scrutiny. The change appears to target outsourcing companies, who typically employ lower-paid, lower-level computer workers.

Lawsuits possible: Releasing this policy change at the start of the application filing window is going to rankle companies who used 17-year-old policy guidance to apply for this year's visas. Some companies may challenge the guidance on the grounds that USCIS didn't provide sufficient notice of the change.

UPDATE (6:15 pm Eastern): A USCIS spokeswoman said the guidance is "not a policy change" and is just clarifying existing policy for a Nebraska service center.

  • But an immigration attorney following this process said the memo would increase scrutiny for H1-B applicants for the computer programmer job category. The attorney added that most Silicon Valley companies don't hire entry level programmers, and so the real impact of the change would be felt by offshore companies. "It's not an unsubstantial development," he said.
  • There is some confusion over the impact of the new guidance. Bloomberg says it would "bring more scrutiny to [applications] for computer programmers doing the simplest jobs." Endgadget reports a misinterpretation of the guidance "caused many to panic" but programmers can still qualify for H-1B visas.
  • Separately, USCIS announced new measures today to rein in abuse of the H-1B program.

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