Trump wants merit-based H-1B, IT firms say visas being held up

Indica News Bureau


With the White House stressing that President Donald Trump wants H-1B visas in more highly-skilled roles as opposed to outsourcing ones, a coalition of American employers representing top IT companies have claimed there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of H-1B visas being held up.

The White House on Thursday said the Trump administration wants changes in the existing H-1B provisions for it to play a better role in attracting highly skilled foreign workers as opposed to the what it has now evolved into an “outsourcing” role.

“The president’s overall instinct — and he said this publicly a number of times — he wants to find ways to make sure that people who graduate in a highly skilled area like technology stay in the country. He finds that a very positive part of the overall immigration,” White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Chris Liddell told the audience during the Washington Post’s live discussion on new technology.

“He (Trump) has talked about merit immigration, clearly that (H-1B) fits in merit immigration,” Liddell said.

Liddell, however, acknowledged that legislatively, the issue might get caught up in a border discussion.

Meanwhile, Compete America – a coalition of top IT firms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft – alleged that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is acting outside of its own regulations.

“We have observed three changes in H-1B adjudication practices under the current administration that seem to permeate most of the increased H-1B adjudication inconsistencies experienced by employers,” Compete America said in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Francis Cissna Director, USCIS.

The coalition said the agency’s current approach to H-1B adjudications cannot be anticipated by either the statutory or regulatory text.

“This leaves employers with a disruptive lack of clarity about the agency’s practices, procedures, and policies.

“This lack of certainty and consistency wreaks havoc among the nation’s employers which are hiring high-skilled Americans and foreign-born professionals,” it said in the letter.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in ‘specialty occupations’ that require theoretical or technical expertise.

According to Liddell, the Trump administration would love to find ways to change that as more people are coming out with PhDs in the tech sector.

“The president is 100 percent aligned with that. We’ll try and do it as much as we can by regulatory; if it can be done legislatively as well in some way that would as part of a merit-based system, that would be fantastic,” Liddell told the Washington audience.

In its letter, Compete America mentioned that its members have reported dramatic increases in the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials regarding H-1B petitions for the last 18 months.

More recently they are experiencing a sharp increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIRs) concerning H-1B petitions, the letter said.

According to Compete America, USCIS has been denying H-1B petitions exclusively because an entry-level wage is applicable for the specific position, even though the occupation itself is clearly a specialty occupation.

“Nothing in the statute or regulations contemplates or suggests, much fewer states, that USCIS could ever take the position that it per se excludes or disfavors entry-level jobs in an occupation, or young professionals working in jobs in an occupation, as qualifying for H-1B specialty occupation approval,” it asserted.

Further, employers have reported repeated instances of USCIS denying an H-1B petition on the basis that the degree held by the sponsored foreign professional is not within a single field of acceptable study for an occupation.




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