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New rules, new challenges

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The Trump Administration’s new rules on H-1B, which will make the visa approval process even harder, will hurt America and India both. It will be in the interest of the US if it invests in STEM education

The Trump Administration has just made it more difficult for companies and individuals to get H-1B work visa. Indian techies and IT companies will feel the impact the most because they are the biggest users of this visa.

In a memo on H-1B’s, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on February 22 said that its officers will start seeking more documentation and more evidence from companies to establish whether they have specific assignments or not. It will also look into job duties if it qualifies as a specialty occupation or not.

Since 2001, immigrants from India have held a majority of H-1B visas each year. In some years, they have made up over 70 per cent of the total H1-B visa holders. Due to the latest restrictions, even if one gets a visa this year, it may not be for a full period of three years, as is the practice now.  Shorter durations may even make the transition from H-1B to a green card almost next to impossible.

It is a fact that Indian H-1B workers help fill an unfortunate shortage of American workers for science and engineering jobs.

According to the New American Economy, an organisation of business and Government leaders, in 2016, colleges and universities in the US produced only 5,68,000 graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Whereas, there were about three million more science, technology, engineering and math jobs open than workers with the skills to fill.

At a time when the United States needs to invest more in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and training and attract high-skilled talent from around the world, it is making laws which will deter people from applying as the right match. It will be hard to find and it will be so difficult to find an entire three-year commitment upfront without testing the candidate’s skills.

Indian-American population has emerged as one of the most successful subgroups in the United States. Therefore, USCIS is basically trying to curb that trend.  However, it could have a huge backlash and may end up having a disastrous effect on the US economy. Over the past year, the Trump Administration has made the process of H-1B extension more difficult — compelling Indian IT companies to tell employees on H-1Bs that they may have to return earlier than anticipated.

Due to these unwarranted restrictions, the US is preparing the applications more carefully than in the earlier years with detailed reviews of the Labor Condition Applications as well as job duties, categories and skill levels of the speciality occupations.

In the Silicon Valley, I think the US is hurting the very task force that made America the tech giant of the world. New rules will hurt America and India both as it will be very hard for America to stay competitive in the global economy for long. America can benefit by re-evaluating its policies as the US has a shortage of STEM workers and measures on H-1B can end up hurting American firms that are today being served by Indian IT companies.

(The author is Attorney at Law, Supreme Court of the United States of America)




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