The H-1B visa filing season for the 2019 fiscal beginning October 1 kicked off yesterday, but a dramatic drop can reportedly already be seen in the number of applications filed by Indian tech firms. "Indian consulting firms, which have been accused of flooding the system with applications, have dramatically reduced their filings. Foreign nationals are exhibiting new reluctance to make the jump to a US company," the San Francisco Chronicle reported, adding that applicants for the H-1B visa programme are anticipating the hardest process in many years, which has "affected both the applicants and the companies that employ them".
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. American technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees from countries like India and China - the H1-B programme reportedly has a statutory cap of 65,000 visas per fiscal. But last month, the US had announced a new policy under which a company now has to "show by a preponderance of evidence that the beneficiary will be employed in a speciality occupation". This basically translates into a lot more paperwork for applicants.
The policy memorandum is part of President Donald Trump's 'Buy American and Hire American Executive Order' and the directive to protect the interests of US workers. Under the new rules, petitioners would also have to go an extra mile to prove that its H-1B employee at a third-party worksite has specific and non-qualifying speculative assignments in speciality occupation. This move significantly impacted Indian IT companies, which have a significant number of its employees deployed at third-party worksites. Moreover, according to the official statement, while an H-1B petition may be approved for up to three years, the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would henceforth, at its discretion, generally limit the approval period only for the period for which the applicant has work at a third-party worksite.
The Silicon Valley newspaper claimed that the Trump administration's hard-line anti-immigration stance is already taking its toll. Here's proof: Envoy Global, a technology-oriented immigration services provider, reported that 26 per cent of the employers it surveyed have had to delay projects, and 22 per cent of them have relocated work overseas as a result of the current uncertainties in the US immigration system. "When companies are allowed to hire the workers with the best skills for the job, regardless of where those workers happen to have been born, their increased competitiveness boosts all the industries around them," the daily added.
It is not the only publication putting the spotlight on the ebbing demand for H-1B visas. According to The Wall Street Journal, US corporations continue to struggle with a paradoxical labour market where 5,48,000 tech jobs remain open while unemployment in the technology sector hovers below full employment levels.
(With PTI inputs)