USCIS ?Policy Memo? on H1 Visas: Is it really a big deal?

USCIS ?Policy Memo? on H1 Visas: Is it really a big deal?

A statement from a US ?government department can send ripples across the globe. Nowhere is it more evident than the recent ?Policy Memo? (link) issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The statement issued over the weekend has sent ripples across the IT community across the globe, and comes at a time where tech-companies are ready to file for H1 visa applications for 2018 fiscal year. The four-page memo is rather verbose and contains a lot of technical verbiage like

?Based on the current version of the Handbook, the fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation. Thus, a petitioner may not rely solely on the Handbook to meet its burden when seeking to sponsor a beneficiary for a computer programmer position. Instead, a petitioner must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation as defined?

In summary, however, the intent of memo is simple: The memo aligns with the Trump administration’s focus on reserving H1 visas for high-skilled (and higher-paid) professionals. The memo implicitly encourages low/mid-level to be reserved for American workers instead.

An immigration attorney following this process said the memo would increase scrutiny for H1-B applicants for the computer programmer job category. The attorney added that most Silicon Valley companies don’t hire entry level programmers, and so the real impact of the change would be felt by offshore companies. “It’s not an unsubstantial development,” said a USCIS spokeswoman.

Analysts and the media are divided over the impact of the memo. On one hand, some feel that the low-level jobs will continue to be reserved for Americans while many in the industry already realize that this is merely re-clarifying a policy that has been in place for a long time.

What are experts saying about this:

?The upshot is that a computer programming position is not?automatically?a specialty occupation,? Ron Hira, an associate professor at Washington DC?s Howard University, who specialises in offshoring and high-skill immigration, explained via email. ?The burden will be on the employer to demonstrate that the computer programming position it is trying to fill with an H-1B worker meets the ?specialty occupation? requirement. The job itself must be a specialty occupation,? he added. (link : Cheap Indian engineers now have no place in Donald Trump?s America ?)

“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,” Nasscom said in a statement. Nasscom counts IT outsourcing firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro as well as American firms like Cognizant, Microsoft, IBM and Accenture as members.? (H-1B visa memo to have little impact on Indian IT cos: Nasscom)

There are around 120,000 H-1B visa holders in the U.S., mostly from India. The clampdown on these visas will make it harder for more junior programmers to qualify for H-1B visas. Some estimate this could hold up around 40% of applications. It leaves Indian IT companies with an unpalatable choice: place fewer workers through the scheme, or hire more senior, better-paid programmers. Either option will crimp earnings.?(Trump Visa Crackdown Hits India?s Tech Giants )

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