Students attend a career counselling session. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

H-1B Relief For Indian Workers, U.S. Says No Change In H-1B Extension Policy

In a relief for Indian techies, U.S. authorities today said the Donald Trump administration is not considering any proposal that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the country.

The announcement by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services came days after reports emerged that the Trump administration was considering tightening H-1B visa rules that could lead to deportation of lakhs of Indians.

The reports had said the Trump administration was mulling ending extensions for H-1B holders.

The U.S. CIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing interpretation of certain language in Section 104 C of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) statute that states that U.S. CIS may grant the extensions, an official said.

This provides for H-1B extensions beyond the six-year limit.

“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead,” Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations at the U.S. CIS, said in a statement.

The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes.
Jonathan Withington, Chief Of Media Relations, U.S. CIS

The statement comes after last week's news report by U.S.- based news agency McClatchy DC according to which the U.S. was considering new regulations to prevent the extension of H-1B visas, the most sought after by Indian IT professionals.

The U.S. CIS was never considering such a policy change, he said adding that "any suggestion that U.S. CIS changed its position because of pressure is absolutely false."

The reported move had been opposed by both the industry and several lawmakers.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies, a trade association of Indian information technology firms, had warned that any disruptive move on the visa front would be detrimental for both India and the U.S.

The U.S. CIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education—masters and above—from U.S. universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The H-1B programme offers temporary U.S. visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers.

Since taking office last January, the Trump administration has been talking about cracking down on the H-1B visa scheme.