The Donald Trump administration Monday announced its intention to prevent the abuse of the H1B work visa system and said the system should help US companies in hiring highly skilled foreign workers when there is a shortage of skilled employees in the country. H1B work visas are most sought after by Indian firms and professionals, mostly in the Information Technology sector.
“Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority for the USCIS,” a statement said.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has started taking in applications for H1B visas – 65,000 in the general category and 20,000 for those applicants having higher education from US universities.
Apart from setting up an email helpline against the abuse of H1B visas, the USCIS will undertake a more targeted approach while conducting site visits so as to prevent the abuse of the system by employers.
“Employers who abuse the H-1B visa programme negatively affect US workers, decreasing wages and job opportunities as they import more foreign workers…To further deter and detect abuse, USCIS has established an email address which will allow individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse,” the USCIS said.
The steps seem to allay the fears of the Indian government as trump had earlier indicated a complete overhaul of the system which could have resulted in loss of thousands of jobs for prospective Indian employees. Over 1.5 lakh Indian nationals were issued employment-based visas, including 1.26 lakh H1B job permits, by the then Obama administration in 2016. The total number of non-resident Indians with green cards in the US was estimated to be 5.4 lakhs in 2012.
Earlier in March, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the Lok Sabha that the US has conveyed to India about not making any major changes in the H1B programme.
“So, the fear that all of us were seeing through the media here about the H1B visa has, at least for the year 2018, not proven correct,”she had said. The priority of the US government at the moment was to deal with illegal immigration, she added. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had met top officials of the Trump administration last month.
“There was a sense that there is a recognition of the contribution of the Indian tech sector. Certainly this is not very much…not a priority of the government. They are concerned with the immigration issue…most of the issues are quite different,” visiting Commerce Secretary Rita Teotia had told reporters.