New H1-B visa rules would have a positive affect on LL.M. students

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed changes to the H-1B visa application.[1] Whenever we see a headline like that, LL.M. students start to become worried. Would the changes affect LL.M. students seeking to work in the U.S? Indeed, they would. But while the proposed changes would negatively affect many thousands of H-1B applicants, they would be a positive change for LL.M. students and graduates.  

Annually, 65,000 H-1B visas are granted, with another 20,000 reserved for people who hold advanced degrees from U.S. educational institutions. Demand for the visa often exceeds the supply which triggers a lottery system. Currently, the government gives out the 20,000 visas for those with U.S. advanced degrees first before allocating the 65,000 to the general pool of applicants.

The proposed rule would reverse this selection process. All registrations, including those from people who are eligible for the advanced degree exemption, would be applied to the regular cap of 65,000 first. After that, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would select from the remaining registrations to fill the advanced degree cap.

While it may seem to be just a change in the order of selection, this reverse selection process would allow more advanced degree holders, such as LL.M. graduates, to gain H-1B visas. According to the proposal, “USCIS could accept up to 5,340 (or 16 percent)more H-1B cap-subject petitions annually for beneficiaries with a master's or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.”[2]

DHS proposes these changes for the filing season for the 2020 fiscal year, which kicks off on April 1, 2019. Now that the visa process might become more accessible for LL.M. holders, it is time to commit to a serious job search strategy!

Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking" (West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired" (West Academic Publishing).