For the fifth consecutive year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached the mandated 85,000 H1B visa cap for fiscal year 2018 within five days of the pipeline opening - this time on Monday April 3.
The 20,000 cap for those with U.S master’s degrees has also been met. For each of the applications to be selected, the petitions go through a USCIS lottery system.
This rite of passage comes even as the H1B visa is in the eye of a storm in the United States, reviled by anti-immigrant groups railing about how temporary workers are gaming the system via lower base salaries and denying Americans jobs that should be rightfully theirs.
Between 2012 and 2015, the three big Indian outsourcing firms — TCS, Wipro and Infosys — submitted over 150,000 visa applications for jobs that paid a median salary of $69,500. Take a look at the corresponding numbers for America’s five tech giants: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft - they submitted 31,000 applications and claimed they would pay a median salary of $117,000.
Employment of computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations in the US, according to the US Department of Labor.
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, the H1B has come under intense attack - almost the only Trump campaign rhetoric that is really biting even as the rest of Trump’s ambitious agendas have either bombed in Congress or stopped by the courts.
Here are the top issues that have dominated the H1B visa debate in the last 90 days, including during the weeks immediately prior to Trump’s ascension:
H1B refusals spike
Well before Trump took office, the rate of H1B refusals on the grounds of insufficient paperwork have been rising. What has changed now is that the Justice Department, the USCIS and Department of Homeland Security ( the parent body that oversees USCIS) have joined hands for an all out assault on checking what they call H1B fraud.
60 day grace period for H1B workers
H1B workers now have a 60 day grace period after a job loss unlike in the earlier rule where they fell 'out of status' immediately and officially had about 2 weeks to clear out of the country.
Bills in Congress turn on the heat
Multiple bills are introduced in the US Congress in January 2017: The raging questions inside these bills are simple and lethal, they cut to the heart of the current debate: How many years have you studied? Have you studied exactly that subject in which you claim you are highly skilled? How many years can an H1B worker legally remain in the US? How many ways are H1B shops circumventing the rules?
Sean Spicer’s H1B visa remarks set the stage
This is what started it all - Trump press secretary Sean Spicer’s pointed remarks during a White House briefing: “With respect to H1Bs and other visas, it’s part of a larger immigration reform effort that the President will continue to talk about through executive order and through working with Congress.”
Employment authorisation for H4 on thin ice
For H4 visa holders who can neither write code, nor are fashion models (that’s how Melania Trump came to the US on an H1B), being the spouse of an H1B worker just got a lot more complicated - all this less than 2 years after the Barack Obama government let them pursue paid work in the US in 2015.
Anti immigrant group Save Jobs USA wants the government to dial back the H4 work authorisation. They have been against this visa’s increasing heft ever since the benefit was conferred on certain category of H4 workers in 2015. On February 1, 2017 the Department of Justice filed a petition in the court titled ‘Consent motion to hold proceedings in abeyance for 60 days.’
Premium processing ends, 6 month freeze likely
H1B premium processing went into deep freeze starting April 3, 2017 and the suspension may last likely at least 6 months which means almost the entire remaining months in 2017 are practically ruled out for H1B workers trying to push through extensions at a faster pace for a higher (premium) payout.
Easier for whistleblowers
There’s a A new email ID - firstname.lastname@example.org that is headlining the US Homeland Security watchdog’s homepage for whistleblowers to report on H1B fraud. As the noose tightens around H1B bodyshops that are playing on their ability to circumvent rules, the USCIS is tightening the screws to the limit and has now announced that it will conduct random site inspections to “identify employers who are abusing the system.”
Updated Date: Apr 08, 2017 04:12 AM