US president Donald Trump. The Indian IT companies, which are among the major beneficiaries of H1B visas, has a significant number of its employees deployed at third-party work sites. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
US president Donald Trump. The Indian IT companies, which are among the major beneficiaries of H1B visas, has a significant number of its employees deployed at third-party work sites. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Donald Trump govt further tightens US H-1B visa norms

Under the new US visa policy, a firm would have to go an extra mile to prove its H-1B employee at a third-party worksite has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in speciality occupation

Washington: The Donald Trump administration has announced a new US visa policy that makes the procedure of issuing H-1B visas to those to be employed at one or more third-party worksites very tough—a move that will hugely impact Indian IT firms and their employees.

Under the new policy, a firm would have to go an extra mile to prove its H-1B employee at a third-party worksite has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in speciality occupation.

Indian IT companies, which are among the major beneficiaries of H-1B visas, has a significant number of its employees deployed at third-party worksites. A significant number of American banking, travel and commercial services depend on on-site IT workers from India to get their job done.

The new move announced on Thursday through a seven-page policy empowers the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to issue H-1B visas to an employee for only the period he/she has work at a third-party worksite.

Currently, H-1B visas are issued for three years at a time.

The latest policy memorandum is a part of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American Executive Order" and the directive to protect the interests of US workers, the USCIS said.

The guidance says that in order for an H-1B petition involving a third-party worksite to be approved, the petitioner must show by a preponderance of evidence the beneficiary will be employed in a speciality occupation and the employer will maintain an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary for the duration of the requested validity period.

When H-1B beneficiaries are placed at third-party worksites, the firms must demonstrate that they have specific and non-speculative qualifying assignments in a speciality occupation for that beneficiary for the entire time requested on the petition.

Extensions of H-1B visas have become even tougher, in particular if the employee has been on a bench for any part of their previous duration.

Sometimes, US firms abruptly end the contract of an employee and as a result, the workers temporarily do not have any work, which in IT parlance is called “on bench". During this period, they maintain their H-1B status but investigations have revealed foreign IT workers on H-1B visas do not get paid, which the USCIS says is illegal and abuse of the system.

“If an H-1B petitioner is applying to extend employment for a beneficiary who was placed at one or more third-party worksites during the course of past employment with the same petitioner, that petitioner should also establish that the H-1B requirements have been met for the entire prior approval period," the USCIS said.

And if these conditions are not met, and the petitioner did not comply with the terms and conditions of the original petition and did not file an amended petition, USCIS may have eligibility concerns about a subsequent petition filed to extend the employment, the policy memorandum said. PTI

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