US weekend modifications to H-1B visa rules might hit Indian entry-level programmers

The US government on Monday announced that it had taken measures to "deter and detect" what it said was "fraud and abuse" of H-1B work visas, which might affect Indian IT professionals.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said the new measures would stop abuse.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said the new measures would stop abuse. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

The announcement by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) comes on a day when the federal agency started accepting applications for H-1B visas for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017.

The USCIS announcement indicated that the US government is going to be tough and stringent in approval of H-1B visas this year. The USCIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education - masters and above - from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The USCIS said the H-1B visa programme should help US companies recruit highly skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country, saying that the Trump Administration was following through with its plans of ‘America first’.

"Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programmes is a priority for the USCIS," a statement said.

The USCIS also announced the launch of an email helpline against abuse and fraud of H-1B visas as well as targeted site visits to identify and detect abuses of the system

The USCIS had on March 31 issued a memo removing the special rights of computer programmers to be automatically considered eligible for the H-1B visa. This would hurt over 120,000 people who currently work there under the H-1B visa.

"The memorandum also does not properly explain or distinguish an entry-level position from one that is, for example, more senior, complex, specialised, or unique. This is relevant in that, absent additional evidence to the contrary, the Handbook indicates that an individual with an associate's degree may enter the occupation of computer programmer," the new order said.

The changes come in the wake of assurances made by both the Commerce and Foreign Ministers of India in Parliament that the new US policy would not affect Indians.

Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation.