Major changes in H-1B visa to pique India’s American dreams

indica News Bureau


With the Trump Administration planning a major overhaul in H-1B visa policy, the American dream is set to get tougher for Indians.

The move to “revise” the definition of employment and specialty occupations under the H-1B visas will have a detrimental impact on Indian IT companies and small and medium-sized contractual firms mostly owned by Indian-Americans.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019, which will increasingly focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B visa program.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

The H-1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The Trump administration thinks that the H-1B visa policy is misused by such companies to replace American workers.

Under the move – which is part of the Unified Fall Agenda of the Trump administration – the DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.

Observing that the demand for H-1B visas has often exceeded the numerical limitation, the DHS said it was proposing to establish an electronic registration program for such applications, which will allow USCIS to more efficiently manage the intake and lottery process for these H-1B petitions.

Further, the DHS stated that it was also finalizing its interim regulation governing petitions filed on behalf of alien workers subject to the annual numerical limitations applicable to the H1B non-immigrant classification.

A rule like this, according to DHS, would not only prevent an individual from filing duplicate petitions on behalf of the same alien temporary worker but also makes accommodations for petitioners to create a more efficient filing process for H-1B petitions subject to the annual numerical limitation.

While reports say that President Trump’s “’America first’ and ‘Buy American, Hire American’ policies aimed at ensuring more jobs for American citizens may become an irritant in Indo-US relations, New Delhi has clearly stated that “it was closely engaged with the Trump administration as well as the US Congress on the matter”.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why time and again, at different levels, we have taken up the matter with the US side. Most recently, it was discussed and mentioned during the two-plus-two talks,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issue during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between the two countries last month and asked the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo to adopt a “balanced and sensitive” approach on proposed changes to the H-1B regime, which could impact people-to-people links.

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