There is no policy change under consideration that could force the deportation of several Indian tech workers in the US, a senior US government functionary has said. The move is likely to bring relief to thousands of foreign techies in the US, a majority of them being Indians.
“USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6 year limit,” Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security, was quoted as saying in two separate media reports.
“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead,” he added.
The Trump administration has been under immense pressure from the business and technology communities over reports of a change in policy that would force thousands of H1B visa holders out of the United States.
The new policy said to be under consideration proposed denying an extension to H1B visa holders beyond the maximum period of six years. Indian H1B visa holders working in the US waiting for their Green Cards could face deportation if the proposal was accepted and enforced.
An internal memo circulated in the Department of Homeland Security citing the proposal 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 proposed move was part of President Trump’s campaign promise of ‘Buy American Hire American’.
Confirmation of a shift in stance by the US administration also came from Immigration Voice, an advocacy group working for better norms for H1B visa holders. “USCIS has announced to us that it is retracting its policy to deny all H-1B visa through year 6 based on section 104. This is a GREAT development. And we thank USCIS to make the right decision,” the group said in a Facebook post.
The proposed move had come in for severe criticism from several quarters, including from within the US. The US Chamber of Commerce said the move to end extension of H-1B visas would be “bad policy” and is contrary to the goals of a merit-based immigration system.
Trump administration’s reported plan could result in self-deportation of around 700,000 Indians. The H-1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers.