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Study in US- The Unease caused by H1B Visa for International Students

The United States has always been in the limelight when it comes to visa and immigration reforms after the coming of Donald administration. Be it tightening of overall border controls or proposal for a border wall with Mexico or restrictions on work Visas etc, everything is considered as “security” related.

A major reason for making the changes in work visas as stated officially was that the foreign workers, as well as immigrants, are depleting the US jobs for the native residents. But the new policies have a drastic impact on US companies as the organizations in the US often complain about the unavailability of certain scientific and technical skill sets in the US.   

The tension between immigration policies and the domestic business interests has also emerged as the bone of contention for other countries such as Singapore, Australia etc apart from the US.  

H1B Visa Under Fire

The Trump administration has been working on work visas especially H1B work visa which is given for specialty occupations. The reforms have started affecting US markets as well as MNCs that are hiring foreign nationals.

Every year 85k H1B visas are awarded from amongst approx 0.2M applicants with the help of the lottery system. This has largely favored many Indian outsourcing companies that have been outsourcing Indian talent to the US’s IT sector.

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Impact on Companies in the US

A lot of skilled foreign technocrats are employed with the IT companies in Silicon Valley. With the tightening of controls on the work visa, Valley is deeply impacted. To bring in the staff, a lot of companies have started looking to open satellite offices near the Canada region. In fact, even the current H1B visa holders have to undergo scrutiny if they want to extend their current visa (initial three years) or want to change their company in the US.   

Actions Taken To-Date

Here are a few of the major reforms made by the Trump administration.

1.      No to Entry-level programmers

The entry-level programmers, who comprised of a small but significant crunch of the H1B visa recipients, are now completely excluded from getting the H1B visa as per USICS.

2.      Buy American, Hire American

In order to eliminate abuses and to create equal opportunities, President Trump has instructed the H1B program in charges to decrease the number of visas being awarded to contract workers and to give high priority to top positions (high wage positions).

3.      Spousal Visas Curbed

By curbing the H-4 visas that allowed the spouses of H1B visas holders to accompany their partners to the home country, the trump government has given a big blow to the families of H1B work visa holders.

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4.      Increased Vetting of Petitions

As per the new reforms, H1B applicants have to provide their travel history, social handles, contact information etc while vetting the work visa.

Proposed Actions

All the reforms are proposed to eliminate cheap labor from the US market and create more employment opportunities for US residents.    

1.  Raising the Minimum Salary Level

Bill has been proposed to eliminate the contract workers and increase the salaries of H1B visa holders. Now the contract workers can be hired at $60k annually and the minimum salary of H1B visa holders has to be $100,000.

2.      New Qualification Standards

As per the new rules, visas would be strictly based on experience and skills. The work visa would be awarded only if the recipient has a minimum of 3 years of experience. Also, an applicant with a master’s degree or higher will be given priority over others.

3.      Merit-Based Visa Standards

All the measures and reforms made in H1B visas are designed to limit the work visas only to the best and the brightest ones entirely falling to the discretion of the officers reviewing the petitions and the immigration agencies.

4.  Limiting the Participation of Outsourcing Firms

If a company’s 50% of employees are holding valid H1B visas, the company will not be allowed to participate in the program.  

It is obvious that not all the reforms will come into action but one thing is for sure i.e. obtaining an H1B visa would be a challenging task or the posterity. Undoubtedly, the companies relying on foreign talent would be affected severely and may have to make some tough calls. On the other hand, all this will boost the gig economy and remote working with foreign workers especially the ones who have gained experience in the United States.

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