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The US government is toughening the process for renewing the popular foreign work visas H-1B and L1, both of which are popular with Indian companies based in the US.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services advised its officers to "apply the same level of scrutiny" to extension requests for the H-1B visa, among other sought-after visas.
So in essence, officers must review requests for renewal as thoroughly as they would for initial visa applications. And, requests to extend visas will be checked for eligibility again, even if all details in the application are unchanged from the original one.
What this means for Indians looking to extend their visa:
Under the previous policy, if a person was once found to be eligible for a work visa initially, they would usually be considered for extension of their visa.Now during every extension, they need to prove to the federal authorities that they are still eligible for the visa they apply for.
US wants its visa officers to improve site visits to prevent fraud:
The federal US agency that approves applications for H-1B visas needs to improve upon its current site visit verification program so as to prevent fraud in the visa system, according to a report by the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the report, USCIS can approve more than 3,30,000 H-1B petitions each year and, as of April 2017, reported more than 6,80,000 approved and valid H-1B petitions.
"USCIS conducts a limited number of visits and does not always ensure the officers are thorough and comprehensive in their approach," the report said adding that further limiting the site visits' effectiveness, USCIS does not always take proper action when immigration officers identify potential fraud or noncompliance.It also uses targeted site visits to respond to indicators of fraud; however, the agency does not completely track the costs and analyze the results of these visits, the report said.
USCIS has also been recommended to develop comprehensive policies across Directorates to ensure adjudicative action is prioritised on fraudulent or noncompliant immigration benefits identified by the H-1B ASVVP (Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program) and targeted site visits.Among other things, USCIS has also been asked to enhance the random sampling procedures to also include a more risk based approach that prioritises the recurring violators within the universe of H-1B holders and a random stratified selection of small.
New directive comes despite Swaraj taking up H1B issue with Tillerson
The new directive came even as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in Delhi that she had raised the issue of H-1B visas with visiting US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and had asked the US to do nothing that would adversely affect India's interests.
What USCIS states
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner. USCIS said the previous memorandum of April 23, 2004 appeared to place this burden on this federal agency. "This memorandum makes it clear that the burden of proof remains on the petitioner, even where an extension of non-immigrant status is sought," USCIS said in a memorandum issued on October 23.
Indian IT largely uses the H-1Bprogramme to send Indian techies to US
The US grants 85,000 visas under H-1B programme that allows US and US-based companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers for positions employers are unable to fill locally. Even though the number of such visas have not changed, the Trump administration has changed rules and regulations to make hirings difficult.
Rules in line with Buy American, Hite American policy
The new rules are in line with the Donald Trump administration’s Buy American, Hire American policy, USCIS said.
The policy is also in line with the Trump administration's goal to protect American workers from discrimination and replacement by foreign labour, NumbersUSA website said and will make sure that only qualified H-1B workers will be allowed to stay in the US and will help crackdown on visa fraud and abuse, it added.
You can read the full memo here
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