rooting for the H1B visa's new normal?
A silent cheering has begun on the western side of the Atlantic; the H1B community already working in the US is beginning to breathe easy now that the matter is settling down on the outline of the recoil - the idea that what they'll get is more than what will be taken away is beginning to sink in.
The United States is the largest market for Indian software service companies. Donald Trump, the US President has directed an overhaul of the H1B visa program for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country, putting technology firms and the outsourcing companies that serve them on notice.
The H1B pack is now divided into two clusters, the workers who’ve already crossed over and those on the other side of the river.
Sai Kumar, an Atlanta based H1B worker says, “Whatever is going on will sort out the supply and demand equation. This will make the entry obstacles rigid so there won’t be plethora of workers who’re younger than us and who can put in crazy hours at work and pressure us into doing the same”.
Whenever the H1B norms are made superior, it is likely going to get tougher to grab the chance while those already in the US on an H1B may end up with higher base salaries.
Another H1B worker about the mood within his team at Accenture. Stated “If he goes on like this, Donald Trump will do a second term”.
He answered to our why? That the effects of the H1B reform moves are already being seen at work every day.
He added. “When I need workers, I now have to go through not one but various levels of US worker probabilities. First I look for a full time hire, then a contractor and then at the very end of the line, the H1B option is considered. It wasn’t like this, Even some time before. People in office are being more conscious now.”
Meanwhile, the anti-H1B effort continue to give new bumps from time to time. All of this gives the happy H1B campers reason to welcome every incremental twist.
The new one is the US Labor Department — the overall monitoring authority for H1B visas — is seeking a legislative change to take stronger action against firms who uses H1B to employee foreign workers and replace Americans.
The highest ranking official in DoL, has explained in a detailed letter that how complicated the H1B salary scale is and why it becomes so difficult to identify fraud and abuse.
This is in reponse to a strong letter sent to the Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly signed by three members of congress and four Senators including Chuck Grassley, Senator from Iowa.
In the letter, operative portions of which are reproduced below, Grassley asks important questions of the DoL and tells why “unconscionable abuses” of the program must be urgently investigated.
Here is a summary:
“This bill changes the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise employer and government requirements regarding visas for nonimmigrant foreigners rated H-1B (specialty occupation) and L-1 (intracompany transfer to the United States from abroad).
H-1B employer application requirements are revised.
The bill defines an H-1B visa allocation system, with first priority reserved for foreigners who possessed an advanced degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from a U.S. institution of higher education.
The bill requires completion of a U.S. degree or a foreign degree equivalent to it as a requirement for "specialty occupation" eligibility, eliminating experience in a specialty as an equivalent to the completion of such a degree.
The bill prescribes an H-1B labor condition application fee.
The Department of Labor may issue subpoenas and seek appropriate injunctive relief and specific performance of contractual obligations to ensure H-1B employer compliance.
The period of authorized admission for an H-1B nonimmigrant is reduced from six to three years, with a three-year extension available for aliens with extraordinary ability or with advanced degrees or professors.
According to the bill an H-1B visa will not be issued to any foreigner normally categorical as an H-1 nonimmigrant who seeks U.S. admission to join services in a specialty occupation.
Labor may investigate applications for fraud and conduct H-1B compliance audits.
Labor shall conduct annual audits of companies with more than 100 employees who work in the United States if more than 15% of those employees are H-1B nonimmigrants.
The bill increases certain employer penalties, including the penalty for displacing a U.S. worker.
An employer that will not follow any of the H-1B qualifications shall be liable to the harmed employee for lost wages and benefits.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shall give Labor any information in materials submitted by H-1B employers as part of the petition adjudication process that indicates employer noncompliance with H-1B visa program requirements.
To administer H-1B programs, 200 additional employees may be hired by Labor.
The bill prohibits an employer, unless it receives a waiver from Labor, from hiring for more than one year an L-1 nonimmigrant who will: (1) serve in a capability having specialized skill, and (2) being posted primarily at the worksite of an employer other than the petitioning employer.
No employer may replace a U.S. worker with an L-1 worker.
The bill prescribes L-1 requirements regarding:
(1) employer petitions for employment at a new office,
(2) wage rates and working conditions, and
(3) employer penalties.
Labor may initiate an L-1 employer investigation.
Meanwhile, the H1B minders at the Department of Labor continue to leaf through thousands of H1B applications and related documents just the way they used to, not much has changed at the workplace except for lots of vacancies and more politics chatter around the water cooler. "The political masters have not yet actively stepped in. All the due process is still bureaucratic but yes, the denials have spiked," says a DoL staffer on the H1B case.