H1B visa refusals spiked well before Trump's ascent

H1-B workers are not edgy because of America’s new president - Donald Trump is just one of the new reasons that they are chewing their nails out. Their worries pre-date Trump’s ascent to the White House.

Well before Trump took office, the rate of H1B refusals on the grounds of insufficient paperwork have been rising.

File image of US President Donald Trump. Agencies

H1-Bs - not just Trumped

Of the 3 kinds of outcomes for US visa applicants - approval, rejection and refusal under 221 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), it’s the third variety that keeps the legal wonks at body shopping companies in the US terribly busy.

Once there’s a 221(g) refusal, it can take many months or years for a final decision. For workers in the IT consulting, these kinds of refusals have returned big time and Trump has little to do with it.

That the Trump government is cracking down aggressively on undocumented migrants and immigration is right on top of its daily bucket list adds to legal workers’ worries too.

India's IT sector has become a boom industry in recent years with companies in developed nations, subcontracting work to its firms which juice the country’s skilled English-speaking workforce and outsize number of engineering graduates each year.

The Indian IT industry makes more than $60 billion from the American market alone.

The United States offers 85,000 H-1B visas every year, most of which are snapped up by Indian outsourcers whose employees fill a skill gap in US engineering - now that claim ( of a skill gap) too is coming under fresh scrutiny.

Applications are vastly oversubscribed and are allocated via a lottery system.

Behind the scenes of Trump’s loud chatter on immigration and extreme vetting, fairly meticulous groundwork is being laid out in Congress for the coming backlash.

In January 2017 alone, three bills have been introduced in the US Congress ( links are below) to amend various provisions of the H1B nomenclature that will make it increasingly difficult to commit fraud. These bills draw from detailed information from the Department of Labour and civil society on workers and body shops who try to subvert the system.

The American judiciary will likely play an outsize role in a Trump presidency and keep checking presidential interference in foreign affairs. Immigration will likely dominate most battles. Given that Trump will not back down and there’s a 4-4 split in the US Supreme Court, travel rules will remain fluid for a while. This will add to the worries of India’s H1B workers.

Buried in the pages of these bills below are the fears and apprehensions that inform Trump’s 3 am tweets. Seen from the Americans’ point of view, all these are totally legit concerns. It’s why short sellers dumped IT stocks on Feb 01 - not because of what Trump said or the racist overhang but because they know exactly how margins work for Indian technology companies abroad. This was a long time coming.

Links to recent H1-B focused bills by US lawmakers:

H.R.170 - Protect and Grow American Jobs Act

A Bill to reduce fraud and abuse in visa programs for aliens working temporarily in the United States


Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 14:02 PM

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