The Trump administration on Monday announced multiple measures to “deter and detect” what it described as “fraud and abuse” of H-1B work visas, the most sought after by Indian IT firms and professionals. Many in the US say that the measures fall short of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to overhaul the program. Trump had promised to end the lottery system for H1B visas, which gives each applicant an equal chance at 65,000 positions each year. Top Indian IT companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro are among the major beneficiaries of H-1B visas. H-1B visa programme allows companies in the US to temporarily employ foreign workers in speciality occupations such as science and information technology. Here are 5 things Indian techies must know.
1. US government to be tough in H1B visa approval
The USCIS announcement indicated that the US government is going to be tough and stringent in approval of H-1B visas this year. In keeping with the practice of former President Barack Obama’s administration, employers and foreign workers will enter a lottery system where 65,000 workers are permitted to enter the United States to work. An extra 20,000 H1B visas are reserved for workers with advanced degrees. Last year, the lottery remained open less than a week before the program reached its cap. Tech companies rely on the program to bring in workers with special skills and have lobbied for an expansion of the number of H1B visas awarded. Proponents of limiting legal immigration, including Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller, have argued the program gives jobs that Americans could fill to foreign workers at a less expensive cost.
2. US workers should not be placed in a disfavored status
“U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims,” Tom Wheeler, acting head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. The Obama administration sued companies for violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provisions, including businesses that favored foreigners over U.S. workers. But Monday’s warning in a news release at the start of the visa process appeared to be a first-of-its kind signal to employers not to put American workers at a disadvantage. US Citizenship and Immigration Services also announced that it would step up its reviews of employers that use H-1B visas, saying “too many American workers who are qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged.”
3. Targeted site visits
Targeted site visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B programme may be more likely to occur, and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit US workers, a media release said. Noting that it will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide, USCIS said these site visits are not meant to target non-immigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system.
4. Email helpline
The USCIS also announced the launch of a email helpline against abuse and fraud of H-1B visas. The USCIS will now onwards take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the work sites of H-1B employees. “To further deter and detect abuse, USCIS has established an email address which will allow individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse,” it said.
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5. Help for being targeted
The Department of Justice said applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral, should contact Civil Right Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).
Critics called the announcement and increased enforcement a step toward reform. The H-1B program 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 U.S. worker, but critics say safeguards are weak. They argue the program routinely lets in foreign workers with minimal skills, even though these visas are supposed to be reserved for highly specialised jobs that are difficult to fill with U.S. workers.
(With inputs from Agencies)