By Ted Hesson
April 04, 2017
H-1B IN THE CROSSHAIRS: The Trump administration is sending strong signals that it will toughen regulatory enforcement of the H-1B visa program, which allows businesses to employ foreign technical workers on a temporary basis. Monday marked the start of H-1B “cap season,” wherein businesses scramble for the limited number of H-1B visas. The Justice Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services marked the occasion by announcing that they would investigate and prosecute vigorously any companies that broke the rules. In addition, USCIS issued a memo Friday that said “computer programmer” would no longer be considered automatically an H-1B “specialty occupation” absent additional information.
The main losers appear to be outsourcing firms — which, you may recall, drew much criticism in recent years as vehicles by which companies like Southern California Edison and the Disney Corporation got around a statutory prohibition against replacing U.S. tech workers with H-1B guest workers. Outsourcing companies, many of them headquartered in India, have become the biggest users of the H-1B program; Tata Consultancy, Cognizant and Infosys were granted the most new H-1B visa petitions in 2014, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.
USCIS said it will focus work-site visits on companies that employ H-1B visa holders who work elsewhere, (i.e., outsourcers) and pay close attention to “H-1B dependent” businesses (again, outsourcers). A White House official told Morning Shift that the administration is considering additional ways that the president might use his authority to “rigorously enforce” H-1B regulations. According to a background document from the White House, USCIS will soon identify on its website companies trying to bring foreign workers into the U.S. The document also said USCIS will conduct “additional interviews and follow-up visits” with H-1B visa holders to ensure that employers are following the law. “I think we may see stricter adjudication standards for the cases that make it through the [H-1B visa lottery],” Bill Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Morning Shift, “particularly for the companies that place employees at the worksites of other companies.”
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