Trump administration’s plans for H1B visa, explained

By Elton Gomes

The Trump administration Wednesday said it is coming out with new changes to revise the definition of specialty occupations under H-1B visas. The administration is also planning to change the definition of employment under this visa category popular among foreign workers, particularly Indians.

What is the DHS planning?

On Wednesday, the Department of Home land Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019. PTI reported that the USCIS could “propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation” in order to increase focus on attracting the best and brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

The USCIS could also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said. In addition, DHS will put forth additional requirements that have been designed to ensure that H-1B visa holders are not underpaid.

The DHS said that it is proposing to remove from its regulations some H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens that will be eligible for employment authorisation. Additionally, the DHS said that has been finalizing its interim regulation governing petitions that were filed on behalf of alien workers.

New rule in H1-B visas makes deportation easier

Earlier, in July, the Trump administration made it easier to reject H-1B visa applications. Live Mint reported that USCIS adjudicators would have full discretion to reject applications, petitions, and requests without issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID).

The USCIS will be authorized to take action when required initial evidence has not been submitted or the evidence of record fails to establish eligibility. The change was reportedly to come into effect from September 11.

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

Under the new rules, USCIS officials would be issuing an NTA (notice to appear) for a wider range of cases, including those where the individual is removable and there is evidence of fraud, criminal activity, or where an applicant is denied an immigration benefit and is living illegally in the United States.

An NTA is a document given to foreign nationals that instructs them to appear before an immigration judge at a certain date. The issuance of an NTA is an indicator that deportation proceedings have begun against foreign citizens.

Trump proposes to end H4 visas

In May, Trump’s administration told a US court that the move to revoke work authorization to certain categories of H-4 visa holders is in its final stages. H-4 visas are issued to the spouses of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled technology professionals from India.

The move could have a devastating impact on over 70,000 H-4 visa holders who have work permits.

The proposed rule is currently in its final clearance, the DHS told a federal court in a status update. The Trump administration told the court that once the DHS clears the proposal, it will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

How will this affect foreign workers in the US?

The most-sought after visa to gain entry to the US, the H1-B is a temporary visa that American employers use to hire foreigners in “speciality occupations” for which sufficient skilled Americans might not be present. Under the H-1B, those employed can legally work in the United States for three years, and could potentially seek extensions.

India constitutes more than 80% of H-1B recipients. Trump’s poll promise to “Buy American, Hire American” has left several Indians with an uncertain future in the US. The Trump administration’s proposal to not extend H-1B visa of those waiting for permanent residency, or green card, is likely to cause grave concern among more than 5 lakh Indians working in the US.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius