The H1B visa playbook on Planet Trump, before Suresh Prabhu meets US Commerce Secy Wilbur Ross

As yet another top Indian minister - Suresh Prabhu - engages with counterparts in the Trump administration and pinpoints the merits of India’s high skilled workers in the US, it’s probably a good time for a bulletin on the H1B visa’s tortuous life in just under one Trumpian year.

Of the ~4 million Indians in America, there’s one group that’s perennialy phobic - H1B workers. From the time this visa was born back in 1990 till date, five Presidents have reigned and countless bureaucrats have wielded power over this work visa’s exhaustive paperwork. It’s never been easy and as we speak, in 2017, it’s never been harder. Beaten and bruised, with nips and tucks on all flanks, the embattled H1B visa lives on with a thousand cuts. Here below, in chronological order, is a playbook of all the slings and arrows against the H1B visa after Trump’s ascent to America’s top job ( which includes the so called ‘lame duck’ phase of Obama’s Presidency after Trump’s election victory and before his formal crowning.)

Related link: Backlash against H1B is about how white men feel

Refusals of H1B visas surge
January 2017:. Technically, these are called 221g refusals basis insufficient paperwork. Note that these refusals spike well before Trump officially takes office. Once there's a 221 (g) refusal, it can take many months or years for a final decision.

The H1B visa playbook on Planet Trump, before Suresh Prabhu meets US Commerce Secy Wilbur Ross

Suresh Prabhu is scheduled to meet US Commerce Secy Wilbur Ross in Washington D.C.

H1B premium processing goes into deep freeze, then thaws
This happened April 3, 2017. This provision has historically allowed H1B workers trying to push through extensions at a faster pace for a higher (premium) payout. Premium processing resumed after the Trump-Modi summit in the summer of 2017. Remember, this is a fine money spinner for the Government.

A new email ID to report abuse
Another blow in April. This email ID: reporth1babuse@uscis.dhs.gov - is headlining the US Homeland Security watchdog’s homepage and has already had its desired effect on IT body shops who have spent the last decade poring over the US visa forms for gaps via which the lifespan of the H1B visa can be stretched to the limit.

USCIS warns of targeted site visits
In the next smackdown, USCIS hit H1B workers where it hurts most - computer programmers will not be eligible for H1B visas by default. Targeted site visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B program may be more likely to occur, and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers. USCIS will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide. These site visits are not meant to target nonimmigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system.

White House says Indian companies gaming H1B lottery
Infosys, Tata and Cognizant quoted in a White House background briefing on H1B visas?
That’s right. Exhaustive and sharply focused number crunching has gone into Trump’s latest executive order calling for a sweeping review of the H1B visa. India’s top tech companies have been mentioned in a White House briefing where Administation officials made the American case about India’s top companies gaming the H1B lottery system to corner a lion’s share of visas.

Infosys douses anti-H1B heat with US hiring plan
Infosys’ A team hogged the headlines both in the sleepy US midwest and leading dailies across the country after CEO Vishal Sikka spoke at length in Indianapolis on the company’s decision to hire 10,000 US workers starting with 500 in the first tranche.

H1B applications rain down on US Labor Dept
How fierce is the demand for the H1B visas minus the yearly 65,000 cap?
324,255 applications received by the US Department of Labor in the first three months of 2017 is a number we can start with. A total of 386,173 applications have been “foreign labor certified” in the first two quarters of FY 2017 alone.This means they’re good to go for the next endurance test at Department of Homeland Security and then onto the final handstand - the lottery.

RAISE Act on Planet Trump - a new poison dart
A pet ultra-conservative Senator becomes Trump’s pet for a week this summer for scripting a bill that essentially pushes America back into the pre-1960s style of closed borders. Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy – RAISE is not yet law. It has to pass through the Senate. That’s unlikely, given its flaws and the super majority of 60 needed. If made into law, the RAISE Act will fundamentally and radically change philosophical underpinning of US immigration. For folks with H1B, under the RAISE Act you only have 6 years. If made into law, America will be for folks who are super-fluent in the English language, have PhD degrees and high-wage employment letters, and young. No place here for lower skills, so essential to the US economy, or even the Arts.

Bounce rate of H1B spikes, more ‘requests for evidence’
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has been challenging an ever increasing number of H1B applications in patterns that are becoming clearer as the year winds down. Up until the end of August this year, 85,000 H1B applications have been questioned under the ‘request for evidence’  (RFE) option that the regulators are spewing out with gusto. Although RFE sounds benign, it invariably delays application processing for weeks or months on end.

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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2017 23:55:42 IST

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