Despite an increase in bilateral strategic and defense cooperation, the Trump administration’s move to increase restrictions on H-1B visa program has emerged as a major point of concern in the India-US ties, as a majority of America’s guest workers are Indians.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Donald Trump administration has further toughened the rules for renewal of H-1B (non-immigrant) visas holders who want to extend their stay in the US. The new changes were announced even as a comprehensive review of the H-1B program is underway, in congruence with the Trump administration’s Buy American, Hire American policy.
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Under the new rules notified by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigration officials considering a visa extension will apply the same level of scrutiny to an extension request as they had to the initial application. Moreover, this level of scrutiny must be consistent with policies that protect the interests of US workers.
The new rules change the previous policy wherein an H-1B visa extension request was considered pretty much a done deal with minimum official processes involved.
“In adjudicating petitions for immigration benefits, including non-immigrant petition extensions, adjudicators must, in all cases, thoroughly review the petition and supporting evidence to determine eligibility for the benefit sought. The burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner,” the USCIS said in its policy memorandum.
An H-1B category visa worker goes to the USCIS for three types of changes to his status — amendment, transfer, and renewal.
The policy reversal is a blow to companies as well, especially large technology firms in Silicon Valley and India that rely on H-1B visas to bring in highly skilled software engineers and product managers from India and other places.
In March earlier this year, the Trump administration suspended fast-tracking of H-1B visa application process as part of its ‘overall protect-American-workers’ philosophy. Senior Trump administration officials view the H-1B visa process as one extremely vulnerable to abuse by companies to get cheap foreign tech workers at the cost of US tech personnel.
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At present, the H-1B program allows about 85,000 people per annum to enter on the visas. With the expedited application process suspended under the Trump administration’s March order, the process could become painfully slow taking anywhere between two to three months.
H-1B visa holders coming from India make up 70.9 percent of all beneficiaries and the restrictions could affect operations of many companies, both from India and the US, dependent on Indian IT talent.