Woes pile up for Indian IT workers: H-1B visa norms may soon be tightened

The US Department of Homeland Security may revive a rule that was proposed in 2011.
Woes pile up for Indian IT workers: H-1B visa norms may soon be tightened
Woes pile up for Indian IT workers: H-1B visa norms may soon be tightened
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The situation continues to look bleak for the Indian IT sector, which relies heavily on H-1B visas to send its employees to the US. According to law firm Fragomen, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering imposing new regulations, which, if they come into effect, would significantly affect how visas are procured.

However, these regulations would not take effect until they are finalised, which may be in late October next year, noted Fragomen.

In the update, Fragomen mentions that 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.’

The update adds that in line with US President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” order, DHS 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. The DHS also wants to “increase focus on obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals.”

Indian IT firms are the largest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas. However, after Trump came to power and uncertainty began to creep in, more Indians sought jobs back home.

According to the Times of India, Scott J Fitzgerald, a partner at Fragomen said that these changes are not scheduled to be announced until February next year. These changes usually take several months to process, and that these changes won’t go into effect in time for the upcoming cap, which is in April 2018.

“This would be a real disaster for many companies as they either may not need to file cases already prepared (if there is a new "pre-registration" system) or they may not want to file many such cases, as many would be very unlikely to be selected under the new selection system," Scott told TOI.

The Fragomen update also included one key development that has left many people hanging – proposed modifications to the regulations of the H-4 visa holders, due to which H-4 spouses may not be able to apply for employment. The H-4 visa, a dependent visa used by spouses of H-1B visa holders, were not allowed to work till 2015, till the Barack Obama administration changed it. Over 41,000 H-4 visa holders were issued work authorization in 2016. According to Quartz, one in four applications were sent back for between January and August via “requests for further evidence.”

In further deterrents to Indian IT companies to send their employees abroad including an increase in wage limit, doubling of visa fees and more.

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