Monday, 09 April 2018 10:11

H-1B visa changes: much sound and fury, signifying nothing


Despite numerous indications that there would be many changes in the H-1B visa allocation from this year onwards, the process has been gone through in more or less the same fashion as in 2017.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services indicated on Friday that applications had been accepted from last Monday (2 April) onwards and a sufficient number had been received to meet the annual cap of 85,000.

The USCIS said it had "reached the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa US advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap".

The Wall Street Journal  quoted an USCIS spokesman as saying it backed Trump's executive order that called for a review of the H-1B programme; the order was titled "Buy American, Hire American".

“We have provided policy guidance and are working on regulatory reforms to achieve the goals associated with reform of H-1B visas,” spokesman Jonathan Withington told the WSJ, adding that regulations to improve the programme would be forthcoming.

The WSJ also quoted a spokesman of the lobby group IEEE-USA, which is a professional society for US engineers. Russell Harrison, the director of government regulations for the organisation, said: “IEEE-USA is disappointed that President Trump hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promise on the H-1B lottery.

“We continue to believe that moving to an auction-style system would help ensure that the H-1B visas go to the most worthy companies, and protect American jobs.”

President Donald Trump came to office with promises to reform the H-1B visa process and introduce a number of changes that would skew the system to favour Americans and not foreigners as has been the case all these years.

But few of the changes that have been mentioned in the media since Trump's inauguration have been implemented, apart from some tightening of the rules around the application process.

For example, the USCIS is asking for more evidence for some applications, especially at the lowest pay grade.

In 2017, the number of applicants for H-1B visas fell for the first time in four years with the the US Citizenship and Immigration Services receiving 199,000 applications in April 2017, compared to 236,000 received in 2016.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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