What started as a bill to kill the loopholes in the H1B immigration program (Issa Bill) has turned into something else! The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering altering one of the provisions of the H-1B visa program that could curtail the stay for many foreign nationals (especially Indians & Chinese) working in the United States.
Every year, 85,000 foreigners are hired by for-profit companies who are granted an H-1B visa on the basis of a lottery. The Trump administration is all set to deny extensions of H-1B visas to green card applicants —a step towards the ‘self-deportation’ of the Indian tech workers in the United States. Currently, the DHS is looking at reinterpreting the “may grant” language in the H1B visa law to cease indefinite H1-B extensions for green card applicants. The current law allows the foreign guest workers one 3-year extension of the H-1B visa of three-year validity. At the end of the sixth year, if the immigrant worker has a pending Green Card (Permanent Residency) application, the applicant is allowed an almost indefinite extension of the H-1B visa till the Green Card process is completed.
The rewriting of employment-based H-1B visa rules under the “Buy American, Hire American” initiative could be a big brain drain for America.
If the new visa sanctions materialize, America could see as many as 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders forced to leave the US, which could potentially damage the US economy. But the starkest of all the consequences that maybe America is not particularly concerned about is that America could see a paucity of skilled workers especially in the fields of technology and science. And a ripple effect would be seen in the Indian IT industry and the H-1B visa holders.
A report by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group reveals that in 2017, an estimated 57 out of every 100 jobs in the region requiring a bachelor’s degree or more was filled by someone who was not born in the United States, including an estimated 25,000 H-1B holders. Many have highlighted that this would cause significant talent drain in America. According to Adecco, 92 percent of business leaders in the US are not skilled as they need to be, and 64% think that the lack of a skilled US workforce will result in less investment in US companies. Currently, in the US, the unemployment rate among technically skilled workers is less than 2 percent, which shown a shortage of talent. Nasscom president Chandrashekhar has also stated that out of 2 million STEM jobs, 1 million is in IT sector, and this movement by US government will impact the economy of US.
Many are assuming that this particular action will take a long time to realize. The present H-1B visa extension was authorized under the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) passed in 2000 to support the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998. But in case the change to the visa regulation is considered, “the DHS will have to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register, enter a notice-and-comment period, and eventually present the proposal to Congress. The process can take years.”1
Whether or not the change becomes a reality, both the US and India will be affected alike. It is to be seen when and how such effects take place.
Access the Summary of Protect & Grow American Jobs Acts here.