New H-1B visa rules programme will restrict US’ access to skilled talent: Nasscom

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October 7, 2020 3:31 PM

It said the move is aimed at protecting American workers, restoring integrity and to better guarantee that H-1B petitions are approved only for qualified beneficiaries and petitioners.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Industry body Nasscom on Wednesday said the changes announced to the H-1B visa programme will restrict access to skilled talent as well as harm the American economy and jobs. The Trump administration has announced new restrictions on H-1B non-immigrant visa programme, to protect US workers ahead of presidential election.

It said the move is aimed at protecting American workers, restoring integrity and to better guarantee that H-1B petitions are approved only for qualified beneficiaries and petitioners. The move is likely to affect thousands of Indian IT professionals.

“Nasscom believes that the changes announced to the H-1B visa program will restrict access to talent and will harm the American economy, endanger US jobs, put US interests at risk, slowing down R&D into solutions to the COVID crisis. It is important for the US market to be able to access skilled talent for its businesses, especially during the COVID recovery phase,” Nasscom said in a statement.

The new rules notified by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Labor (DoL) for the H-1B visa regime, changes the definitions of specialty occupation, employer and employee-employer relationship, and limits the validity of an H-1B visa to one year for a worker placed at a third-party worksite. It also increases enforcement and investigations for these visas.

The new rules also change the current four-tiered prevailing wage system for jobs that US employers seek to fill with foreign workers. Both rules will be issued as Interim Final Rules (IFRs), without any notice period or right to comment.

“These regulations seem to be based on misinformation about the programme and run counter-productive to their very objective of saving the American economy and jobs. This is particularly relevant at a time when US businesses continue to face a huge deficit of STEM skills, Nasscom said.

It added that the overall US unemployment rate grew from 4.1 per cent in January 2020 to 8.4 per cent in August 2020, while unemployment in computer occupations declined from 3 per cent to 2.5 per cent in this period. In the 30-day period ending September 28, 2020, there were over 652,000 active job vacancy postings advertised online for jobs in computer occupations, up from 625,000 vacancies in the 30-day period ending May 13, 2020, Nasscom noted.

“That is, despite the high degree of overall unemployment in the US, demand for high-tech skills continues to remain robust – clearly endorsing the argument that there are just not enough workers with relevant skills to fill them. The new rules announced will worsen this talent gap by making it more difficult for US employers to hire foreign workers,” Nasscom said.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The development comes less than four weeks ahead of the US presidential election. Trump, a Republican, is seeking another term in the White House. He is being challenged by former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party in the November 3 presidential election.

In June, the Trump administration had suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers.

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