The US administration wants to use H-1B visa to woo workers for highly-skilled, rather than merely for "outsourcing roles", the White House said, even as a coalition of American employers alleged that there has been a "dramatic increase" in the number of applications being held up. President Donald Trump has been backing reforms in the process of H-1B visa, which is highly popular among Indian IT professionals. The administration has also been indicating that it might revoke H-4 visas, which grant work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders.
A top White Official said on Thursday that the administration wants only highly-skilled workers to stay in the US on H-1B visas, reported news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).
""The president's overall instinct -- and he said this publicly a number of times -- he wants to find ways to make sure that people who graduate in a highly skilled area like technology stay in the country. He finds that a very positive part of the overall immigration," said White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Chris Liddell on Thursday.
"He (Donald Trump) has talked about merit immigration; clearly that (H-1B) fits in merit immigration."
However, separately, Compete America, which represents top IT companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, has alleged that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency which administers the immigration system of the country, is acting outside its own regulations.
According to Compete America, USCIS has been denying H-1B petitions exclusively because an entry-level wage is applicable for the specific position, even though the occupation itself is clearly a specialty occupation, another PTI report stated.
Mr Liddell emphasized that there is need to carry on reforms in H-1B to keep more talented graduates in the US.
However, in a letter dated November 1, Compete America said that its members have reported dramatic increases in the issuance of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and denials regarding H-1B visa petitions for the last 18 months. More recently they are experiencing a sharp increase in the issuance of Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) and Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIRs) concerning H-1B petitions, the coalition said.
"These reported shifts in agency action have been perplexing to our coalition's members, especially because the agency's changes in approach were unannounced and unexplained and are not previewed in the regulations governing a qualifying H-1B specialty occupation that have been in effect since 1991," it said.
Further, employers have reported repeated instances of USCIS denying an H-1B petition on the basis that the degree held by the sponsored foreign professional is not within a single field of acceptable study for an occupation, Complete America said.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.