Changed H-1B visa norms: Computer programmers to feel the heat

Immigration attorneys said that in theory, the announcements themselves don't present significant material changes to the H-1B visa program. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year. The Trump administration has promised more investigations and prosecutions against companies that abuse the system.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the right-wing Center for Immigration Studies, said that Trump had "missed an opportunity" to implement serious reform - like eliminating the H-1B lottery altogether. "It is aimed at screening out less-qualified workers, whereas our members tend to provide well-credentialed workers to help USA companies fill their skills gaps and compete globally", it added.

IT industry body Nasscom meanwhile said the US' latest memo on H-1B visas would have "little impact" on Indian IT firms as they have already started applying for visas for higher-level specialised professionals this year.

Why does the United States have these programmes? But they worry the new measures may have a chilling effect on the nation's technology industry - which pads out its technical ranks with visa holders - and discourage firms from expanding their presence within the U.S.

This visa allows work in the particular area for six years, extendable after that. Over 1.5 lakh Indian nationals were issued employment-based visas, including 1.26 lakh H1B job permits, by the then Obama administration in 2016. Those numbers included some unskilled and low-skilled workers, plus accompanying family members.

The H-1B visas keep going for a long time and can be restored once. There have been allegations of abuse and at least one big settlement: In 2013, a Bangalore-based outsourcing company, Infosys Ltd., agreed to pay a record fine of $34 million to settle USA allegations that it sent employees to the U.S. with B-1 visitor visas to sidestep the caps on H-1Bs.

Associate professor Ron Hira, who has researched the H-1B work visa program, previously pointed out that the changes will directly affect companies hiring for cheap labor, while companies hiring for legally skilled workers will have less of an issue with the policy shift. That move could have hamstrung companies that want to use foreign workers to undercut Americans' wages.

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The memorandum did not properly distinguish an entry-level position from one that is more senior or complex. The clients or the firms applying for the H-1B visa have all the reasons to be vexed as the new decree came on the last day of March, a day before the opening of the new 2018 petitions.

Further, Jain says that companies with operations in multiple geographies would end up outsourcing/ offshoring more work to India.

"USCIS is rescinding it to prevent inconsistencies in H-1B and H-1B1 adjudications between the three service centres that now adjudicate H-1B petitions", it said.

Can Trump act on his own? In fact, he hasn't even limited the cap on the number of visas that will be issued. So he could order that priority be given to higher-paid workers.

Instead, they bring more scrutiny to those computer programmers doing the simplest jobs.

What does it cost to get an H-1B visa?

Business groups say that while they rely on H-1B workers, the system is outdated and doesn't serve Americans, foreigners or the needs of the economy. "You'll see more companies opening up centers and offices outside the U.S. It will have the complete opposite effect of what they meant to have".


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