In what could worry thousands of Indian professionals working in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security is considering a proposal that would prevent the extension of H-1B visa, McClatchy’s DC Bureau reported. This could directly impact those working in US from keeping their visas while their green card applications stand pending. The proposal is being seen as an extension of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative.
The proposal, being circulated in internal memos in the DHS department, aims to impose new restrictions to prevent abuse and misuse of H-1B visas. It also intends to end the provision of granting extension for those who already have a green card. The proposal also includes strengthening the definition of visa-dependent companies in terms of minimum salary and movement of talent in order to restrict the number of people coming to the US to work. Earlier, the Trump administration had also announced plans to revoke work eligibility for spouses of H-1B holders.
“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 US source briefed by homeland security officials told McClatchy DC Bureau.
What is the H1-B visa programme?
The proposal is suggested to be an extension to the proposed US bill ‘Protect and Grow American Jobs’. Apart from prescribing higher minimum wages, the Bill places the onus on clients that they will certify that the visa holder is not displacing an existing employee for a tenure of 5-6 years.
Software body Nasscom has flagged its concerns over visa-related issues and has taken it up with Senators, Congressmen and the administration. “That formulation has conditions which are extremely onerous and makes it very difficult for people to not just get the visa but also on how they can be used,” R Chandrashekhar, President, National Association for Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) told PTI.
The H-1B visa an employment-based and non-immigrant visa category for temporary workers that allows the US companies to recruit foreign workers. The H-1B programme is not limited to those in the technology sector. In fact, it is open to a broad range of occupations, including architects, professors and even fashion models. Companies must affirm that the job requires a specialty skill that cannot be filled by a US worker.
But many of these skills happen to be in tech and as per the US Labor Department the top three occupations are computer systems analysts, application software developers and computer programmers — they account for half of the H-1B certifications.
The US allows up to 85,000 new H-1B visas each year with recipients being allowed to stay up to six years. Since demand tends to be higher, the government tops this up with an annual lottery. An estimated 70 per cent of these visas go to Indians – hired mostly by IT companies. The program however, faces criticism from the American workers. Many claim that H-1B visas are increasingly being abused and that locals are often laid off in exchange of foreign workers.
Earlier this year, Trump administration issued stern warning to companies against discriminating US workers by over-hiring H-1B visa holders. “This historic action declares that the policy of our government is to aggressively promote and use American-made goods and to ensure that American labor is hired to do the job. It’s America first, you better believe it,” Trump said in April when announcing the executive order.
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