In what could come as an impediment to major IT firms, entry-level roles in computer programming cannot be termed as ‘specialty occupations’, as per the new guidelines by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The classification under ‘specialty occupation’ is necessary for a work visa in the US, so this move could lead to large-scale rejections of H-1B applications.
The US government has defined a specialty occupation as “one requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialised knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent) in the field of specialty”, for its H-1B visa program. This puts the onus on the company to prove that the employee they are sponsoring, possesses advanced or specialised skills for the job.
According to Nomura Research’s analysis, 40-60 per cent of the labour condition applications (LCAs) filed by Indian IT companies were in the entry-level or Level 1 category in 2016. To add to this, 89 per cent of the visa applications come from IT outsourcing companies, as per a media report. Theoretically, this should imply severe consequences for the IT industry. However, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has attempted to allay the concerns in a statement, saying: “The clarifying guidance should have little impact on NASSCOM members as this has been the adjudicatory practice for years and also, as several of our member executives have noted recently, they are applying for visas for higher-level professionals this year”.
Since almost 70 per cent of all the H-1B visas are issued to Indians, and the IT industry forms the majority of that, IT companies would need to adapt swiftly to these changes. To help them do that, it would be useful to focus on the elements that can accelerate their transformation: automation, virtual and near-shoring.
People Matters had earlier reported on the lack of clarity among the Indian IT companies on the H-1 B norms, following a number of changes introduced by the Trump administration. While this memo might clear things up a bit, its long term impact will have to observed over the coming months.