The proposal is part of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ initiative.

Change in H-1B visa regulations Over 5 lakh Indians in the US may be forced to returnMegan Eaves/Flickr
news Visa Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - 17:05

Visa issues continue to pile up for workers in the US on an H-1B visa, as a new proposal may force upwards of 5,00,000 Indians to return home.

As per regulations that are currently being considered by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), workers will not be able to get extensions on their H-1B visas, which is typically issued for a period of three to six years. Many apply for a Green Card – which grants permanent residency – based on which their work visas are indefinitely extended till their applications are in process.

If this proposal comes into force, that won’t be the case anymore. There are thousands who have been waiting for years for their Green Card application to be processed.

Quoting two US sources, McClatchy reported that the proposal is part of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ initiative.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self-deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” a source told McClatchy.

However, quoting an official of an immigration firm, News18 reports that the number of people affected may be closer to 1.5 million, including children and spouses.

Over 50% of H-1B visa holders are Indian.

Deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers, Leon Fresco, told McClatchy, “This would be a major catastrophic development as many people have been waiting in line for Green Cards for over a decade, have U.S. citizen children, own a home.”

According to TOI, because of the number of Green Card applicants, processing may sometimes take 10-12 years. Under the current regulation, foreign workers are allowed one three-year extension of the H-1B visa of three-year validity. At the end of those six years if the worker has a pending Green Card application, then there is an almost indefinite extension of the H-1B visa till their Green Card processing is completed.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has already flagged the proposed US Bill called ‘Protect and Grow American Jobs’. NASSCOM has said it is riddled with “onerous conditions,” according to PTI.

It has flagged these issues and will be taking the matter further, the report added.

Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, told PTI, “The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes.”

The situation already looks bleak for Indian IT workers – the DHS may revive a rule that was proposed in 2011 which ‘would require H-1B petitioners to pre-register for the H-1B cap lottery and to submit cap petitions only after they have won cap numbers.’ It plans to propose a priority system for allocation of H-1B cap numbers, which would give priority to the most highly paid and highly skilled.

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