A statement from the Department of Homeland Security said: "The change will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5340 workers) in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education.”
This is one half of the changes and will come into effect by 1 April this year, the cutoff date for applying for H-1B visas for 2020.
A second change is that any firm applying for an H-1B must first register with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services; only companies which are selected can then apply for the visa.
Silicon Valley firms have long argued for an increase in the annual quota of H-1B visas, saying otherwise they cannot attract the best foreign talent.
Since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the US has been clamping down on H-1B visas.
In October 2017, the government issued new guidelines making it tougher for existing H-1B holders to renew their visas, specifying that they would have to go through the same process for renewal as they did to first obtain the visa.
The number of applicants for H-1B visas fell in 2017 for the first time in four years. In April 2017, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services received 199,000 applications, compared to 236,000 received in 2016.