Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Darrell Mcdonald

USA govt drops controversial plan on H-1B visas

USA govt drops controversial plan on H-1B visas

Currently, the authorities can extend the H1-B visas beyond the permissible two- or three-year terms even if the green card is pending, but if this so-called "self-deportation" measure is implemented then 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be deported.

The proposal, in the form of an internal memo that had gone around the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees USCIS, had set out to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (Green Card) had been accepted.

The Trump administration is considering several policy revisions to align with the president's "Buy American, Hire American" order.

Currently, there is an annual allocation of 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for students from the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US-based companies to employ foreign workers, typically for three to six years, in various sectors that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Withington also said USCIS was never considering such a policy change and that "any suggestion that USCIS changed its position because of pressure is absolutely false".

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The clarification by USCIS will come as a huge relief for hundreds of thousands of H-1B visa holders, and for those visa holders who are now in an advanced stage of their Green Card petitions.

The concern had prompted Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder to write to President Trump, urging him "not to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing", adding that such an action would also prove to be "harmful to the American economy, credibility, and relations with India and the Indian-American community". The US companies hire Indian tech talent paying $125,000 to $150,000 per year.

According to industry observers, there are about 5 lakh Indians who are working in the U.S. on H-1B visa. "We made it clear that any disruptive move on the visa policy will be detrimental to both a" India and the US.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has been talking about cracking down on the visa scheme. During his election campaign, Trump promised to increase oversight of H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to prevent its abuse. The exemption, as explained in the congressional record, "enables these foreign nationals to remain in H-1B status until they are able to receive an immigrant visa and adjust their status in the United States, thus limiting the disruption to American businesses".

It added: "USCIS has announced to us that it is retracting its policy to deny all H-1B visa through (beyond) year 6 based on section 104".

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