The tweak in H-1B visa could lead to the deportation of 750,000 Indians
Washington: The US today said it was not considering any change in H1B visa rules that would force half the Indian workforce in the country to leave. The clarification came in the wake of media reports of a proposed tweak in the laws, which triggered strong opposition from Indians, advocacy groups and a section of US lawmakers. The tweak, the report had said, was meant as part of president Donald Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" initiative, which could lead to the deportation of 7,50,000 Indians, most of whom were working as techies.
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The US Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it was not considering "a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing interpretation of section certain language in Section 104C of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) statute that states that USCIS may grant the extensions".
"Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead," Jonathan Withington, Chief of Media Relations at the USCIS, said in a statement. He also denied the change had been made under any pressure.
The H1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in areas that need theoretical or technical expertise. Thousands of Indian and Chinese workers are employed under it every year.
The H1B visa is issued for three to six years to employers to hire a foreign worker. But visa holders who start the process to obtain green card can often renew their work visas indefinitely.
On New Year, a report by US-based news agency McClatchy's DC Bureau had said the change in rules would stop the abuse and misuse of H-1B visas and end the provision of granting extension for those who have applied for 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 report had triggered widespread opposition by both the industry and several US lawmakers. The NASSCOM or National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade association of Indian information technology, had warned that any disruptive move on the visa front would be detrimental for both India and the US.
In October, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley raised the issue during his talks with US Treasury and Commerce Secretaries and asked them to appreciate the contributions of Indian professionals to the US economy.
More than 1 million H1-B visa holders in the US are waiting for green cards. Many of them are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade, said Leon Fresco, who served as senior official of the US Justice Department in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers.
During his election campaign, President Trump had promised to tighten H-1B and L-1 visa programmes as part of his policy to generate jobs for domestic population. Since he took office in January 2016, the Trump administration has been talking of reforms in the H-1B visa scheme.