'Donald Trump adminstration's policies on H-1B visas creating uncertainties among small IT firms in US'

Washington: The Donald Trump administration has elevated efforts to undermine H-1B programme, creating  "unexpected level of uncertainties" among small and medium-size IT companies, a large number of which are owned by Indian Americans, an advocacy group for these firms have said.

The policies being implemented by the Trump administration have adversely affected IT businesses, said Gopi Kandukuri, president of the IT Serve Alliance, the largest association of small-medium IT Services organisations in the US.

"It is impacting the people who are in this country on H-1B visas. The denial rate of H-1B (currently) is 40-plus percent. As a result, the entire talent is leaving the US. This is the biggest problem we (IT companies) are facing. There is a reverse brain drain going on right now, Kandukuri told PTI.

Founded in 2010, IT Serve Alliance has more than 1,000 members, a majority of whom are owned by Indian Americans, reflecting the dominance of the community in this sector.

"What we have seen since 2010, there's a consistent and the continuous pattern to basically undermine H-1B programme, especially the consulting companies where we process H-1Bs and get the work done either at our locations or at the client locations. That has essentially got elevated adversely since last year when the current administration came to power, IT Serve Alliance advisor Kishore Khandavalli said.

He alleged that federal agencies especially US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) instead of following and implementing the rules and legislations formed by the Congress are making up their own rules and coming up with new ways of implementing the H-1B programme.

"They have been doing that either through memos or changes on their website, Khandavalli alleged.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

"These rules and adjudication have become so arbitrary that it has been hurting all the companies that have been using H-1B programme, he said. IT Serve Alliance has successfully challenged some of these rules in the US courts. One of them being the rule that foreign students on STEM OPT can no longer work on a third-party location. Early this month, IT Serve Alliance challenged what it described the itinerary rule of the USCIS.

According to the regulation, H-1B visa has to be issued for three years and the Department of Labour is the agency that gives the three-year approval. Under the current regulation, if the Department of Labour gives approval for three years, USCIS has to give H-1B visa for the same duration, he said.

But USCIS, of late, has started cutting it short to sometimes "even few days or one day instead of three years. That's one of the biggest issues that we've been facing now. The current litigation lawsuit is basically challenging that", Khandavalli said.

Observing that there is currently a very strong demand for IT workers, and a substantial number of H-1B IT workers are from India, he said members of the IT Serve Alliance leverage local talent.

As a result of the policies of the Trump administration, the IT companies, in particular H-1B employees, are dealing with uncertainty.

"They don't know how and when their H-1B visa is going to be approved or if it's going to be approved at all", he said.

IT companies spend from $6,000 to $8,000 for payment processing of H-1B applications. Citing some examples, he said for instance, the USCIS approves H-1B on 31 October and tells the employees that his or her H-1B is valid only from 1 October to 21 October.

"So, by the time I received the approval, it has already expired and H-1B employees are out of status. That's completely illogical and it doesn't make any sense. So as business owners, we can't plan anything even based on American regulations. We are following the Congress rules, we are following the regulations and the agency that's implementing them are completely ignoring and making their own rules," Khandavalli alleged.


Updated Date: Oct 30, 2018 07:44 AM

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