A new set of guidelines, issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Friday, requires computer programmers to provide additional evidence that they have specialized skills to qualify for an H-1B visa and work in the U.S.
Effective immediately, employers who want to sponsor H-1B visas “must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation,” according to the USCIS memorandum, first spotted by Bloomberg.
The guidelines are designed to ensure employers aren’t hiring entry-level engineers from other countries and to encourage them to fill those jobs with American workers.
Tech companies, which have largely been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, often point out how expensive and burdensome it is to sponsor an H-1B visa, arguing they would only go through the process for a highly-skilled and coveted worker.
Last month, the Trump administration suspended a program that allowed employers to pay for expedited processing of H-1B petitions.
A draft of an executive order from Trump, leaked to Bloomberg News in January, spelled out an overhaul of the H-1B program that would require companies to attempt to hire American workers first.
Although there still aren’t details about when or if that draft will become law, recent changes to the H-1B program aren’t likely to assuage the fears of tech companies, who use work visas to fill their talent shortages.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft is one of the nation’s top petitioners for H-1B visas.