Apr 3, 2017

Computer programmers may no longer be eligible for H-1B visas

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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U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 62,300 U.S. health care workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and at least 291 have died from the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday. COVID-19 had infected about 9,300 health professionals when the CDC gave its last update on April 17.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 5,589,626 — Total deaths: 350,453 — Total recoveries — 2,286,956Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11:00 p.m. ET: 1,680,913 — Total deaths: 98,913 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases after days of zero new infections. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).