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H1B visa reforms 2017: A change in course!

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Introduction to H1B Visa
H1b visa is a visa program that allows a limited number of skilled workers from other countries to be employed by companies in USA. The validity period for the visa is three years, and can be subsequently extended to six years. The H1b is an employer sponsored visa, which means a person entering USA under the visa cannot apply on his own. His employer must apply on his behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The visa was introduced in 1989. Preceding the heydays of global tech innovations of the nineties, to address the shortage of skilled labor in USA, especially in the technology sector. The H1b visa program provides 65,000 visas each year to skilled foreign workers. As the number of applicants are far higher than the number of visas being issued, the immigration authority uses a lottery system to award the visas. The lottery system of issuing visas has led to growing accusations by critics of the program that many deserving and highly skilled workers are being sidelined from the visa program.


Proposed Changes to the H1b program
The H1b was touted as the vehicle for bringing in highly skilled labor into the USA on a temporary basis, for short periods to address the skills shortage, However the H1b program has been mired in controversy, with many opponents accusing that the program is misused by companies that used the H1b for hiring cheap labor. Many advocates of saving jobs for local citizens, spoke up for reforms in the H1b program. The H1b visa reform act of 2017 , or the ‘protect and grow American jobs act’ as it is commonly known was introduced in the senate house on March 3 2017. The bill yet to be passed into a law, proposed the following changes.
1.The period of permissible authorized admission to the visa holder is proposed to be reduced to three years from the original six.
2.The bill also proposes to increase the authority and scope of the Department of labor, to place checks on, audit and penalize any company that violates the H1b standards.
3.The bill seeks to prohibit an employer from hiring an L1 worker for a period exceeding one year. The bill also seeks to make it a mandatory requirement to hold a degree from a US university or an equivalent foreign degree in the subject that the visa holder is claiming specialty knowledge in. In other words, experience in a skill, would no longer be considered enough for meriting special skilled status.
4.A related bill introduced on March 23rd also aims to prevent the transfer of knowledge from workers who are US citizens to foreign workers arriving under a non-immigrant visa. Under the proposed bill, an employer would be prohibited from laying off a US worker 90 days before or after filing of a visa application for an employee who is expected to play the same role. In short this bill is also known as the ‘Protection of Americans Jobs Act’.


Apart from these two bills, the current president of America, Donald Trump, has signed two executive orders that effectively ask for more scrutiny and restrictions to be placed on H1b visa applications, including doubling the minimum wage for H1B workers to 100 k USD and removing certain job categories from the definition of skilled class category. Although these executive orders do not have any immediate effect on H1B visa process, however they have a ratcheted effect on the visa system as the orders could lead to increased scrutiny of H1b applications and a more merit based approach to issuing the visas.


The positive effect of H1B visa reforms
While much has been said about the negative impact on tech workers from India, and the companies that hire them, on account of the proposed H1B reforms, there are also many positive outcomes that need to be taken into consideration. First of all, the H1B visa overhaul, especially abolishing the lottery system, will ensure that the visas are allocated to the persons they were intended for – The high skilled, high paid workers who have the theoretical expertise and practical know-how of highly specialized knowledge. The new reforms would also guard against visa fraud by certain companies by improving vigilance and would make sure that the H1B worker is given a fair deal in terms of wages. As many of the advocates of H1B reform would argue, the fact that the companies hiring the most number of H1B workers, such as Infosys and TCS pay lesser wages than those hiring more local candidates like Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet, clearly demonstrates that the H1B is not going to the worker with the highest skills.


With all the intended changes H1B still remains popular as it is a dual intent visa, meaning a person who enters USA on a H1B visa can file for a green card, without having to leave the country. Although with the changing political landscape and increasing restrictions on immigrants many Indians are looking towards other avenues such as Canada and Australia for their immigration dreams. To know more about the H1B visa reforms whether the H1B is still a viable option and what other options are available in lieu of H1B, get in touch with us at Global Tree the best immigration consultancy service in India.Please fill out Free assessment form one of our consultant will get back to you