NEW DELHI : Already hit hard by high rejection rates, H-1B visa applicants from India might have a tougher time this year as the Donald Trump administration has changed rules for application and processing of the non-immigrant visa. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will close the initial registration for H-1B visa on March 20 while applications will start from April 1. The new rules will not only increase the time taken to process a visa but will also increase the cost.

New York-based immigration law firm Davies & Associates said the new rules will delay visa processing as the process that used to run from early week of March to the second week of April will now extend from early March to at least the end of July.

"The Indian IT sector could face a delay in the grant of work visas. Under the current administration, Indian IT services companies have seen rejection rates of 24% in 2019 and with the changing process, the Indian IT firms will be more careful while filling their applications. The Indian are also concerned that the process might favour US technology companies over them," Mark Davies, Global Chairman, Davies & Associates, LLC, told Livemint.

USCIS data shows how the H-1B visa rejection rate for Indian IT companies like Infosys and Wipro is around 50% while for big American companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, the rate varies between 2-8%. The US government has capped H-1B visa to 85,000 every year, out of which around 70% goes to Indians. The list is dominated by techies.

Under the new H-1B visa application rules, the cost of application for big companies employing at least 50 people in the United States, out of which more than 50% are in H-1B, L-1A or L-1B non-immigrant status, has gone up to $4000. Besides, all employers will have to pay a $10 fee registration fee for each applicant.

Petitioners are now required to electronically register each H-1B visa petition they want to submit. The system also requires employers to register in advance the names of employees who need a work permit. After it is done, USCIS will shortlist the registered candidates who can apply for the visa. This might further amplify the process the registrations and thus the delay.

Davies said there could be changes to how ‘speciality occupation’ is defined in the context of the H-1B visa, which may lead to increased scrutiny of applications.

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