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H-1B visas: US plans to abolish lottery system, says Trump aide

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The Trump administration is working on reforming the H-1B foreign workers visa programme which will be part of a skills- and merit-based legal immigration system, the White House said on Thursday. Larry Kudlow, who is the chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump, in an interaction with reporters agreed that H-1B attracts talented professionals and companies currently are having difficulties in hiring people on H-1B visas.

“The president has laid this out. We need legal immigration. We need skills-based, merit-based immigration. Those are just a few of the issues. That would be terrific. We can’t seem to get it through Congress. But skills-based, and merit-based and not a family chain-based, I think they will be very useful,” Kudlow said.

He said the Trump administration is looking at H-1B visas.

“We’re looking at it. It’s a work in progress,” he said. Changes in H-1B visas, he said, will be part of a larger reform package.

“The thrust of that is merit-, skills-based, which is going to be very significant change. We should’ve done it years ago. The president is absolutely right (on this),” he said.

“H-1Bs and lots of other classifications of visas, we are looking at all of that stuff,” Kudlow said.

The Trump administration, he said, is proposing to get rid of the lottery system for visas.

However, he did not clarify if this is for H-1B visas’ lottery or diversity visas. Trump in the past has called for doing away with the lottery for diversity visas. Of late the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing to make changes in the lottery system for H-1B visas.

Kudlow said the changes in the H-1B visas does not mean an increase in its intake. Currently the US Congress has mandated 65,000 H-1B visas per annum and an additional 20,000 to those who have completed higher education from US in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“No,” he said when asked if he is proposing an increase in H-1B visas. “I’m saying I don’t want to predict. I’m just saying we’re looking at it. It’s a work in progress and if we could start getting a serious conversation on immigration reform with the Congress, then we’ll say,” he said.

“I can’t say up. I can’t say down. It’s part of that overall package. I emphasise the president’s view on legal immigration reform. One of the pillars of that has to be skills-based and merit-based, border security, et cetera. You probably know it all,” he said.

“We would love to have that conversation and get a good immigration reform,” Kudlow said.

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US to ‘revise definition’ of H1B visa, move may hit Indian tech companies

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The Trump administration has said it is coming out with new proposals to not only revise the definition of specialty occupations under H-1B visas, but also the definition of employment under this foreign work visa category which is popular among Indian companies.

Such a move, which is part of the Unified Fall Agenda of the Trump administration will have a detrimental impact on the functioning of Indian IT companies in the US and also small and medium-sized contractual companies in the IT sector, which are mostly owned by Indian Americans.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

It will “propose to revise the definition of specialty occupation” to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, DHS said. In addition, DHS will propose additional requirements designed to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders, the administration said.

The DHS reiterated that it is proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The DHS said it is also finalising its interim regulation governing petitions filed on behalf of alien workers subject to the annual numerical limitations applicable to the H-1B non-immigrant classification.

This rule precludes an individual from filing duplicate petitions on behalf of the same alien temporary worker. This rule also makes accommodations for petitioners to create a more efficient filing process for H-1B petitions subject to the annual numerical limitation.

Observing that the demand for H-1B visas has often exceeded the numerical limitation, DHS said it is proposing to establish an electronic registration programme for such applications. This will allow USCIS to more efficiently manage the intake and lottery process for these H-1B petitions, it said.

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New rule makes it easier for US officials to deny H-1B visas

The Trump administration has given its immigration officials more power to reject H-1B visa applications outright. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicators will have full discretion to deny applications, petitions, and requests without first issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID), when required initial evidence is not submitted or the evidence of record fails to establish eligibility. The change will come into effect from 11 September.

This means USCIS adjudicators can deny visas if applications do not include all the necessary information when submitted.

According to Indian IT trade body Nasscom, the work visa-related changes could mean that the USCIS can initiate removal proceedings if a person’s H-1B visa expires, even while he or she is waiting for an extension request to be adjudicated.

“For too long, our immigration system has been bogged down with frivolous or meritless claims that slow down processing for everyone, including legitimate petitioners. Through this long overdue policy change, the USCIS is restoring full discretion to our immigration officers to deny incomplete and ineligible applications and petitions submitted for immigration benefits,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna in a statement on 13 July. “Doing so will discourage frivolous filings and skeletal applications used to game the system, ensure our resources are not wasted, and ultimately improve our agency’s ability to efficiently and fairly adjudicate requests for immigration benefits in full accordance with our laws.”

Nasscom also said the US move will have “potentially serious adverse consequences” on the American economy as it will make it more difficult for companies to employ skilled foreign nationals to plug critical skills gaps in the US

Besides, a memo issued on June 28 switches the authority to issue notices to appear (NTAs) in most instances from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to the USCIS.

“This policy memorandum, combined with others previously announced, will harm US companies and discourage the best and brightest globally from wanting to work in the US and contribute to the US economy,” Nasscom added.

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US Seeks No Extension of H-1B Visas, Indians May be Hit: Report

The US is considering new regulations to prevent the extension of H-1B visas as part of president Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, a move which could hit tech firms and hundreds of thousands of Indian IT professionals, a media report said.

The move could directly stop hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from keeping their H-1B visas while their green card applications are pending.

The proposal which is being shared between the Department of Homeland Security Department (DHS) heads is part of Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative promised during the 2016 campaign, US-based news agency McClatchy DC Bureau reported.

It aims to impose new restrictions to prevent abuse and misuse of H-1B visas, besides ending the provision of granting extension for those who already have a green card.

“The act currently allows the administration to extend the H-1B visas for thousands of immigrants, predominantly Indian immigrants, beyond the allowed two three-year terms if a green card is pending,” the report said.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” it said, quoting a source briefed by Homeland Security officials.

“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes,” said Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

It is typically issued for three to six years to employers to hire a foreign worker. But H-1B holders who have begun the green card process can often renew their work visas indefinitely.

The technology companies depend on H-1B to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The proposed changes would have a dramatic effect particularly on Indian visa holders considering more than half of all H-1B visas have been awarded to Indian nationals, the report said, quoting the Pew Research Center report.

“This would be a major catastrophic development as many people have been waiting in line for green cards for over a decade, have US citizen children, own a home,” Leon Fresco, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department in the Obama administration who now represent H-1B workers, was quoted as saying in the report.

Fresco estimates more than 1 million H1-B visa holders in the country are waiting for green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Trump had made the alleged abuse and fraud in H-1B visa system a major election issue during his campaign.

After becoming the president, he signed an executive order aimed at tightening the process of issuing the H1B visas.

Trump had said the order was the first step to initiate “long overdue” reforms to end “visa abuses”.

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US Resumes Premium Processing of H-1B Visas

The US has resumed fast processing of H-1B work visas in all categories subject to Congress-mandated limit, five months after it was suspended temporarily to handle the huge rush of applications for the work visas popular among Indian IT professionals.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.

Premium processing of H-1B visa was suspended in April to handle huge rush of new petitions.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing on Monday for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 cap, a media release said.

The FY 2018 cap has been set at 65,000. Premium processing has also been resumed for the annual 20,000 additional petitions that are set aside to hire workers with a US higher educational degree, it said.

When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time.

“If the 15- calendar day processing time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application,” the USCIS said.

It said adding that the service is only available for pending petitions, not new submissions, since USCIS received enough petitions in April to meet the FY 2018 cap.

In addition to resumption of premium processing for H-1B via petitions subject to the FY 2018 cap, USCIS previously resumed premium processing H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver programme, as well as interested government agency waivers and for certain H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap.

“Premium processing remains temporarily suspended for all other H-1B petitions, such as extensions of stay,” the USCIS said, adding that it plans to resume premium processing for all other remaining H-1B petitions not subject to the FY 2018 cap, as agency workloads permit.

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Proposed US immigration reform doesn’t cover H-1B visas

A proposed US immigration reform legislation is narrowly focused on Green Cards and it does not cover temporary non-immigrant visas like the H1-B given to tens of thousands of Indian professionals.

The Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, which was unveiled on Wednesday, “doesn’t deal with guest workers and temporary non-immigrant visas” said Stephen Miller, an adviser to President Donald Trump.

“A Green Card is the golden ticket of US immigration and this round of proposed changes applies only to it,” said Miller, who was involved in conceptualising the bill.

The bill would continue to allow immigrants to bring in their spouses and minor children, according to both Miller and Trump.

So far, there has been no changes in the H-1B system, even though Trump criticised it during the election campaign.

Both Democratic and Republican members of Congress have railed against it and has introduced legislation to restrict the visa.

The changes proposed by RAISE may in fact help Indian professionals who now have an 11-year wait for Green Cards.

The chances of the Congress passing the bill in the present form are slim as Democrats and members of Trump’s own Republican Party have come out strongly against the measure that wants to restrict immigration for unskilled people and only favour those will high skills.

The bill seeks to do away with Green Cards for brothers, sisters, parents and adult children of citizens but those whose applications have already been filed will not be affected.

Those “who have pending family-based sponsorships, they’re actually grandfathered in”, Miller said. “So it’s a new system moving forward.”

“Other relatives can come in,” Miller said, adding “They just have to come in through the points-based system.”

For elderly parents of citizens, who do not qualify for Green Card holders but need to be cared for by their children, the legislation proposes to give them temporary renewable visas. Parents form a significant part of the immigration from India.

The bill incorporates main features of the merit-based Canadian and Australian immigration systems that allocates points for education, knowledge of English, employability and family ties to rank those wanting to settle in those countries.

“We’re also making sure that the great inventors of the world, the great scientists of the world, that people who have the next great piece of technology can come into the the US and compete in a competitive application process — a points-based system that makes sense in the year 2017,” Miller said.

Currently the bulk of the 1 million Green Cards awarded each year goes to the kin of immigrants in what is known as “chain immigration” because of the ability of the relatives to sponsor their relatives and so on.

Neither Miller nor Trump clarified if the national quotas of 20,000 per country per year, an important element of the current Green Card process, would be retained.

Salaries offered to immigration applicants is one of the elements in the proposed points system that would give market forces a determining role.

If a company is “offering three times the median wage, that person will get more points on their application than if they’re being offered two times the median wage or one time the median wage”, Miller added.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

H-1B visas help uplift welfare of Americans: Study

Even as uncertainty continues to mount over H-1B visa regulations promised by US President Donald Trump, a new study has found that foreign computer scientists granted such visas have helped increase welfare of Americans.

The H-1B visa allows US companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialised occupations. The number of these visas granted annually is capped by the federal government.

The researchers found that the high-skilled immigrants had a positive effect on innovation, increased the overall welfare of Americans and boosted profits substantially for firms in the IT sector.

Researchers John Bound and Nicolas Morales of the University of Michigan and Gaurav Khanna of the University of California – San Diego studied the impact that the recruitment of these foreign computer scientists had on the US economy.

They selected the time period of 1994-2001, which marked the rise of e-commerce and a growing need for technology workers.

Immigration lowered prices and raised the output of IT goods by between 1.9 per cent and 2.5 per cent, thus benefiting consumers, the findings showed.

Such immigration also had a big impact on the tech industry’s bottom line.

“Firms in the IT sector also earned substantially higher profits thanks to immigration,” said Morales in a statement released by the University of Michigan.

On the flipside, the influx of immigrants dampened job prospects and wages for US computer scientists, the study said.

US workers switched to other professions, lowering the employment of domestic computer scientists by 6.1 per cent, according to the model developed by the researchers.

Indian techies have been the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visas — obtaining about 70 per cent of such visas — with companies posting thousands of employees to the US.

This visa allows work in the particular area for six years, extendable after that. It is also the route to a US permanent residency or a US Green Card.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on March 31 issued a clarification that computer programmers, to be eligible under the H-1B visa norms, must prove that theirs is a specialty occupation. Merely obtaining a computer degree may not be enough.

Coming just ahead of start of the new season for H-1B visas for skilled workers, it was largely seen as the tightening of norms by the US authorities for hiring computer programmers.

Telugu360 is always open for the best and bright journalists. If you are interested in full-time or freelance, email us at Krishna@telugu360.com.

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