No Change In H-1B Visa Extension Policy: USCIS

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Washington: In a huge relief for Indian techies spooked over reports of the Trump administration considering a proposal to prevent the extension of H-1B visas, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it “is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States”.

Jonathan Withington, Chief of Media Relations at the USCIS, in a statement, said: “The USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing interpretation of section certain language in Section 104 C of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) statute that states that USCIS may grant the extensions.”

This provides for H-1B extensions beyond the six-year limit.“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead,” he added.

The agency, however, is considering “a number of policy and regulatory changes” in order to execute President Donald Trump’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive order. This also includes “a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes”, Withington said.

The policy changes under consideration could include raising the minimum wage for skilled workers on H1-B visas, making it difficult for American companies to hire internationals.

The statement from the USCIS comes a week after US-based news agency McClatchy DC Bureau reported that the agency was looking to block the extension of H-1B visas. This could have led to the voluntary deportation of 7,50,000 Indians.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), a trade association of Indian information technology, had warned that any disruptive move on the visa front would be detrimental for both India and the US.

The USCIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education — masters and above — from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The H-1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers.

Since taking office last January, the Trump administration has been talking about cracking down on the H-1B visa scheme.

During his election campaign, President Trump promised to increase oversight of our H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to prevent its abuse.

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