U.S. Visa Applicants will be required to share Social Media accounts with State Department

The US State Department will now require new visitors, visa applicants and prospective immigrants to the United States to hand over their social media account names as well as email addresses and phone numbers used over the past five years.

Earlier last year, the government posted 60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Nonimmigrant Visa 

The Department also is revising the collection to add several additional questions for nonimmigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms.

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According a State Department statement,

“We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants, We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

In March 2017, President Trump asked the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence to put in effect “a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures,” according to a memo published in the Federal Register. Requiring information about the social media accounts of visa applicants was part of that.

Unless you are exempt due to diplomatic or official reasons, you will need to supply five years’ worth of social media and email account history, as well as past international travel information.

The forms will list the most popular social networking platforms — likely including Facebook and Twitter, among others — and will also invite applicants to list any other platforms and accounts not included on the paperwork.

Millionaires fleeing India in larger numbers: GWMR Report

A recent report by Global Wealth Migration Review (GWMR) suggests that Indians who have the means to quit the country are doing so in large numbers. The report indicates that a large number of Indian high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) moved to USA, UAE, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the GWMR report, India saw the third highest outflow of wealthy individuals last year. Nearly 5,000 millionaires, or high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), left the country, which is 2 per cent of the total number of HNWIs in India.

The UK for the last three decades was ranked among the countries with the highest number of inflow of wealthy individuals but the trend reversed sharply in the last two years, thanks to Brexit.

China topped the list, as its economy is starting to show the impact of the trade battle with the US.  Russia occupied the second spot, ahead of India, as the Russian economy grapples with the impact of multiple embargoes. 

The report forecasts a growth in large number of entrepreneurs in India attributable to, good educational system and English speaking workforce. A strong growth forecast in the local financial services, IT, business process outsourcing, real estate, healthcare and media sectors (10 year wealth growth forecast: 200%).

The report also pointed out another critical problem with the Indian economy of the degree of inequality growing at an alarming rate. The HNWIs hold nearly half the total wealth in the country.

The report highlights  Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, among global cities to look out for in the next decade.   However, the report also went on to mention that the outflow of HNWIs from China and India is not “particularly concerning”

The outflows of HNWIs from these countries are not particularly concerning as they are still producing far more new HNWIs than they are losing. Also, once the standard of living in these countries improves, we expect several wealthy people to move back.

Links

 

H1-B Cap for 2019 reached, and Indian companies top visa rejections

Here are a couple of updates on H1B Visas that are of interest to applicants and companies

The USCIS announced that

“On April 5, 2019, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS will next determine if we have received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2020 H-1B cap.”

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According to a research report by CARE Ratings, the total number of H-1B applications approved to the top five IT majors — TCS, Infosys, HCL, Wipro and Tech Mahindra — stood at a mere 22,429, down from 43,957 in 2017, amid the rhetoric against immigrant workers by the Trump administration.

In FY18, a total of 331,098 H-1B petitions were approved and companies with the highest number of approvals were Cognizant Tech Solutions US Corp, TCS Ltd, Infosys Ltd, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corporation, which cumulatively received 33,576 approvals.  However, the number of approvals reduced by 11%, from 37,393 in FY14.

Out of the total awardees, 73% possess Bachelor’s degree and rest 27% have Master’s degree. The median salaries offered by companies in chart 2 were in the range of USD 75,000 to 131,000. 

A few key highlights from the report

  • Cognizant Tech Solutions witnessed 4,338 denials in FY18, the highest by any company. This was followed by TCS Ltd and Infosys Ltd. The top five companies were cumulatively denied 11,907 petitions, out of which 80% were of extension visas and rest 20% of initial visas.
  • Infosys with 26%, registered the highest number of H-1B visa denials among Indian IT majors, followed by HCL America Inc, TCS Ltd, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc and Wipro Ltd.

 

Also of interest Listing of top 100 H1B Visa Employers in the US in 2016-17

 

Ben & Jerry’s will help support “We Are Sikhs initiative”

Maintaining ethnic culture and identity is especially hard for those who migrate across continents. The “We Are Sikhs initiative” is attempting an outreach to educate American and Western public about the rich culture and heritage of Sikhs.

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Image from wearesikhs.org

The earliest Sikh immigrants to America were young men. Carrying the weight of hungry families on their shoulders, they braved the difficult journey by boat from the Punjab region of India to the states of Washington and California. Leaving villages ravaged by British exploitation, these pioneering Sikhs saw in America a nation that rewarded hard work. And work hard, they did. From 1903-1908, thousands of Sikh laborers toiled to build our nation’s roads and railways in Northern California. They laid 700 miles of roadway between Oakland and Salt Lake City, remaining today as part of Interstate 80. Wearesikhs

The National Sikh Campaign announced that Ben & Jerry’s has signed up to support “We Are Sikhs initiative” to educate the public about the contributions of Sikh Americans and the meaning of the turban.

Also find an extensive listing of Gurudwaras across America  and in Canada

Amid a record driver shortage, Indian-American Sikhs are taking to trucking

NPR ran an interesting feature on truck drivers from Punjab filling the void in American trucking industry.

The trucking industry is experiencing a major shortage of drivers. But in the last two years, one demographic has been gravitating towards the industry by the thousands: Indian-American Sikhs. It’s an attractive blue-collar job because it doesn’t interfere with articles of faith, like turbans or beards.

Listen to story on NPR  https://www.marketplace.org/2019/03/07/world/indian-american-sikh-truckers/popout

Also check out “Sikh Truckers in America”

Starting at 2 am, Pandher hopes to cover the 520-mile stretch in about 9 hours with recommended breaks to reach Lincoln before noon. The long journey through the night doesn’t bother Pandher who is used to such hauls. What does bother him though is the nights and weekends that his work takes him away from his family and little children.

“As truckers, we do miss quite a bit on their (kids) growing up. And that hurts more than the hard work. But that’s the price you pay to be a trucker,” says Pandher, wistfully.

Pandher, who started as a truck driver, running an intrastate hazmat in 2003, today owns the Laramie, Wyoming, based Akal Travel Center, which has 9 trucks, 13 tanker trailers and 4 truck stops in Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico. Pandher is among the thousands of Sikhs in the American trucking industry.

Nearly 71% of the freight tonnage on land moves on trucks. The American trucking industry forms the lifeline of the U.S. economy. According to the 2012 Survey of Business Owners by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were nearly 600,000 trucking companies with $300 billion in sales. The American Trucking Association estimates that 3.5 million truckers move 10.55 billion tons of freight annually.

 

 

Indian dentist murdered in Australia, ex-boyfriend dies in subsequent road accident

A 32-year old Indian woman, who was practicing as dental surgeon in Australia, was found murdered in her car in Sydney. Her ex-boyfriend, who is the prime suspect, is said to have died in a ‘deliberate’ road accident later.

The body of Preethi Reddy was stuffed in a suitcase and was kept in the car, which was parked roadside. Preethi’s body had multiple stab injuries. The ghastly murder  is believed to have taken place on Sunday considering the details of her last contact with the family members. The victim hailed from Mahbubnagar district in Telangana. She was working as dental surgeon at Glenbrook Dental Surgery, a hospital about 70 km from Sydney. Reports say that she left home for a medical conference at St Leonards on Sunday (March 3) but failed to return home till evening. Her sister, Nithya Reddy, lodged a complaint with the Sydney police. Her family and friends also opened a Facebook page seeking help to trace her. After the cops declared tracing the mortal remains of Preethi, Nithya posted on the page, “Our dearest Preethi is no longer with us”.

Preethi, according to reports, went to a hotel where her ex-boyfriend Harshwardhan Narde was staying. CCTV footage showed her going to a nearby fast food joint on George Street around 2:15 am and then proceeded to her car. She was last seen at a line in McDonalds in the wee hours, where she bought a water bottle. The South Wales police traced her car parked in a street in Eastern Sydney.

“Preethi’s vehicle was parked on Strachan Street, Kingsford, about 9:30 pm on Tuesday. During a search of the vehicle, the police located Preethi’s body in a suitcase. Further inquiries have established that Preethi stayed at a hotel on Market Street in Sydney on Sunday with a man known to her. Strike Force Carlwood investigators have since been notified that the man died in a head-on collision on the New England Highway near Willow Tree at about 10 pm on Monday. Detectives from Oxley Police Area Command are investigating the circumstances surrounding the collision, which is believed to be a deliberate act,” a South Wales police statement said.

Harshawardhan, 34, was found lying dead after a head on collision. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide by ramming his BMW into a truck. The car later caught fire, reports further said. Narde was also a dentist. They both attended the same conference on Sunday. It is suspected that Narda might have murdered Preethi at the hotel and managed to stuff the body in a suitcase and leave it in her car seven kilometers away.

Preethi’s family moved to Australia many years ago. Her father Narasimha Reddy teaches at Western Sydney University.

US Government makes changes to H1B visa applications; Advanced degree holders get top priority

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule for H1B visa applicants that will raise the probability of more US advanced degree holders filling the first wave of total available slots. This recalibration will filter out those with just bachelor’s degrees, making it harder for them to get an H1 Visa approval.

The DHS summary states:

This final rule amends Department of Homeland Security (“DHS” or “the Department”) regulations governing petitions filed on behalf of H-1B beneficiaries who may be counted toward the 65,000 visa cap established under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“H1B regular cap”) or beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education who are eligible for an exemption from the regular cap (“advanced degree exemption”).

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The Trump administrations’s rule goes into effect 1 April. In the current system, 65,000 visas are available in addition to 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from a U.S. institution. The annual lottery is scheduled for April generally starts with lottery for the advanced-degree holders first. The change is estimated to increase the number of advanced-degree holders selected in the lottery by 16 percent, or 5,340 workers each year, the USCIS said

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief L. Francis Cissna was quoted saying “these simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better”.

“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

There are several experts voicing concerns about this move. Cyrus D Mehta, founding partner of a New York based law firm told TOI,

“The skewing of H-1B visas towards those with master’s degrees from US institutions under the new selection methodology is in some senses counter to the H-1B law, which was to permit those with foreign degrees, and equivalent work experience, to qualify for H-1B classification. Hence, a foreign physician with a master’s degree in medicine from a foreign university who intends to provide critical medical services in a shortage area in the United States may have less chances of nabbing an H-1B visa under the new proposal.”
“Even a highly skilled IT worker with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from a reputed Indian institution such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), will have less chance of getting an H-1B in the new proposal. Both the physician and the IT worker with foreign degrees have the potential of making contributions to the US in the same way, or even greater, as one who has recently graduated with an MBA from a US.

Others like feel that the move is a step in the right direction. Mohan K, an Enterprise Architect and a technology consultant says

“Foreign students pursuing advanced degrees in American Universities are likely to benefit from this move. Graduates of such programs are more likely get their H1 Visas approved and will stay back and contribute to the US economy.

While there will be some short term confusion, the move is likely to attract more students to American Universities.

However, students planning to pursue advanced degrees and PhDs in the US, should  will have to keep in mind that a rule like this is not ‘law,’ but a policy decision by the Trump administration. As a recent WSJ article indicates, the move may be challenged in the court or rolled-back by future administrations.

About H1B: The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to seek temporary help from skilled foreigners who have the equivalent U.S. Bachelor’s Degree education. Link to a list of The list of Top 100 H-1B Employers in 2017