New H-1B Visa Rules Will Restrict U.S.’ Access To Skilled Talent: Nasscom
Pedestrians pass in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

New H-1B Visa Rules Will Restrict U.S.’ Access To Skilled Talent: Nasscom

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Industry body Nasscom on Wednesday said the changes announced to the H-1B visa programme will restrict access to skilled talent as well as harm the American economy and jobs.

The Trump administration has announced new restrictions on H-1B non-immigrant visa programme, to protect U.S. workers ahead of presidential election.

It said the move is aimed at protecting American workers, restoring integrity and to better guarantee that H-1B petitions are approved only for qualified beneficiaries and petitioners. The move is likely to affect thousands of Indian IT professionals.

Also read: Joe Biden Promises To Revoke H1-B Visa Suspension If He Wins 2020 U.S. Elections

"Nasscom believes that the changes announced to the H-1B visa program will restrict access to talent and will harm the American economy, endanger U.S. jobs, put U.S. interests at risk, slowing down R&D into solutions to the Covid crisis. It is important for the U.S. market to be able to access skilled talent for its businesses, especially during the Covid recovery phase," Nasscom said in a statement.

Also read: H1-B Visa Suspension To Have Rs 1,200-Crore Impact On Indian IT Firms: Crisil

The new rules notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labour for the H-1B visa regime, changes the definitions of specialty occupation, employer and employee-employer relationship, and limits the validity of an H-1B visa to one year for a worker placed at a third-party worksite.

It also increases enforcement and investigations for these visas.

The new rules also change the current four-tiered prevailing wage system for jobs that U.S. employers seek to fill with foreign workers. Both rules will be issued as Interim Final Rules, without any notice period or right to comment.

"These regulations seem to be based on misinformation about the programme and run counter-productive to their very objective of saving the American economy and jobs. This is particularly relevant at a time when U.S. businesses continue to face a huge deficit of STEM skills, Nasscom said.

It added that the overall U.S. unemployment rate grew from 4.1% in January 2020 to 8.4% in August 2020, while unemployment in computer occupations declined from 3% to 2.5% in this period.

In the 30-day period ending Sept. 28, 2020, there were over 652,000 active job vacancy postings advertised online for jobs in computer occupations, up from 625,000 vacancies in the 30-day period ending May 13, 2020, Nasscom noted.

"That is, despite the high degree of overall unemployment in the U.S., demand for high-tech skills continues to remain robust - clearly endorsing the argument that there are just not enough workers with relevant skills to fill them. The new rules announced will worsen this talent gap by making it more difficult for U.S. employers to hire foreign workers," Nasscom said.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The development comes less than four weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election. Trump, a Republican, is seeking another term in the White House. He is being challenged by former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

In June, the Trump administration had suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers.

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