An Indian passport sits on a desk along with a set of visa application forms at a BLS International Services Ltd. visa processing center in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg )

U.S. Makes It Tougher For Companies To Employ Fresh Foreign Workers Under H-1B

The Trump administration has introduced a new set of stringent provisions to the H-1B labour application process under which the U.S. employers must disclose the total number of foreigners already employed by them, making it tougher to sponsor fresh foreign workers.

The new information required by the Department of Labour is significant because before sponsoring a foreign worker for the H-1B visa, the company needs to get its labour application approved by it.

The department certifies that there are no domestic worker for that particular position and as such the company can hire a foreign guest worker under the H-1B visa category.

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

The Labour Condition Application form updates will now require employers to provide more detailed information about H-1B worker employment conditions, including disclosing all places of employment for H-1B workers, including periods of short duration and providing the estimated number of H-1B workers at each place of intended employment.

It also requires the clear identification of secondary entities which are using H-1B workers and seeks H-1B dependent employers which are claiming an exemption solely on the basis of education, such as a master's degree, to provide documentation of the degree.

Under the new forms, employers also need to give an estimate of the the total number of foreign nationals already working at each location listed in the application. Further, revisions to the worker complaint form include added data fields designed to better describe the nature of an alleged programme violation, the department said in a statement on Tuesday.

To allow appropriate time for transition, the new forms will be made available for use in the coming weeks. An announcement will be made on the Office of Foreign Labour Certification's website identifying the date when they will be made available, it said.

Also read: Trump Administration To Propose Major Changes To H1-B Visa Rules

Since 2017, the department has taken action to combat visa fraud and abuse and encouraged the U.S. workers to report complaints, including establishing protocols for promptly referring matters related to criminal fraud to the department's Office of Inspector General for investigation.

It has also directed the department's Wage and Hour Division to use all its tools in conducting civil investigations to enforce labour protections provided by the visa programmes.

Further it has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to promptly refer complaints from U.S. workers who believe they have been discriminated against based on the nationality or citizenship.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the form changes are the latest in a series targeting employers who place foreign nationals at third-party work sites.

In a February policy memo, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services required employers to provide detailed work itineraries for the entire duration of H-1B petitions involving offsite employment. An advocacy group representing small and medium size IT companies have filed a lawsuit against U.S.CIS on this issue.

"Employers should expect renewed scrutiny on where H-1B employees are working, whether they are working at third-party sites and, if so, whether the arrangement is permissible," said Justin Storch, director of regulatory affairs and judicial counsel at the Society for Human Resource Management.

Also read: TCS Among Top 10 Firms To Get Foreign Labour Certification For H-1B Visas