H1-B visas

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    26th Dec, 2019

Context

United States government has said that it is planning to curb the distribution of H-1B visa to Indians. While the final decision is yet to be taken, Government of India has expressed concerns to the US over the proposal.

About

  • The US government had recently said that it is planning to curb the distribution of H-1B visa to Indians. Hence, at the 2+2 dialogue with the US, India pitched its stand for H-1B visa holders.
  • Objective: The reason H-1B visas may see changes is to better protect US workers and wages, and save them from competition from workers arriving from outside countries like India and China.
  • H-1B visa: The H-1B is a United States visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It has roots in the earlier issued H-1 visa which was later split between H-1A (for nurses) and H-1B. H-1B is one of the most popular visas for foreigners visiting the US for business or trade purpose.
    • It is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
    • Speciality occupations include specialized fields like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. which usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
    • US employers wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment prefer H1B visa because its application is quicker than applying for a US Green Card.
    • H-1B visa has its roots in the H1 visa of the Immigration and Nationality Act; which split between H-1A (for nurses) and H-1B in 1990.
  • Who will be worst hit: Worst hit by the new H1B bill will be Indian companies such as Infosys, TCS, and Wipro, as well as US tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google, who use the H1B visa to fill positions that cannot be filled by American workers.

How is H-1B visa important to India?

  • Majority H-1B visa holder: India has been the only country that takes 70 per cent of the 85,000 H-1B visas applied annually. The H-1B visa is crucial for the IT sector in India.
  • IT professionals: The technology companies of US depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. Hence, a cancellation of H-1B visas will most adversely affect Indian IT professionals.
  • Talent flow: The US should not obstruct the flow of talent from India as it is an important part of the economic cooperation and almost acts as a strategic bridge between the two countries, and is important for the bilateral ties.

Problems that Indians face with current H-1B rules

  • Recent changes in H-1B visa rules: Recently, US proposed revision of “specialty occupations” definition for the H1B visa. H1B visas will be issued to only the most-skilled foreigners or highest-paid beneficiaries.
    • USCIS can reject H1B applications that do not provide the necessary required information when submitted.
    • New rules require H-1B petitioners to first electronically register with USCIS.
    • US can initiate deportation of expired H1-B holders.
    • US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is also considering ban on work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders.
  • Problem in job switch: H-1B visa holders in the US face problems in switching jobs even if the new job requires the exact same skill set as before. The US citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has denied several applications by new employers citing that the new position does not constitute a 'specialty occupation’.
    • If the H-1B holder starts working elsewhere and the transfer is denied, the person could be 'out of status' with a bar on entry into the US, unless the old employer is willing to take him/her back.
  • Removing country-cap on green cards: Recently, US also removed 7% country-cap on issue of Green Cards. This too will agonise the wait of many skilled professionals from India who had sought permanent residency in USA.
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