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

 

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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

American Missionary killed by isolated tribe on island in Andamans in India

The story sounds like that from a bygone colonial era – an adventurous white missionary goes into the wilderness and is killed by tribal using Spears, Bows and Arrows. This story seems to have been replayed in Circa 2018 in the isolated Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar. The news is making headlines in India and in the digital world.

The local police are investigating the apparent killing of an American by an isolated island tribe off the coast of India.  A statement issued by the police for the Andaman and Nicobar islands late Wednesday said the police and India’s coast guard carried out an aerial survey of Northern Sentinel Island on Tuesday.

The tribals – Sentinelese people – are highly resistant to outsiders and the government tightly restricts visits to the island. It is unclear how or when the American, John Allen Chau received permission from local authorities to visit the island.

The Police claimed that fishermen who helped Mr Chau visit the island saw a dead person being buried at the shore. The dead person appeared to be Chau. The fishermen then returned to Port Blair, the capital of the islands, and reported what happened.

John Allen Chau
John Allen Chau is believed to have paid fishermen to ferry him to North Sentinel Island. Photograph: John Allen Chau/Instagram

John Allen Chau, 27, is believed to have paid fishermen to ferry him to North Sentinel Island, home to a 30,000-year-old tribe known to aggressively repel outsiders.

“The fishermen in the dinghies tried to warn him it’s a risky thing,” Denis Giles, an activist for the rights of tribal groups and a journalist on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was quoted saying. He said Chau, who some Christian groups have claimed was a missionary, had been trying to find ways to reach North Sentinel Island and finally succeeded on Saturday, taking a dinghy with the fishermen, then completing the rest of the journey by kayak.


Media accounts of the story

American killed by isolated tribe on island in Andamans – The Guardian
Police go to island to look into US man’s death – Washington Post
Isolated Tribe Kills American With Bow and Arrow on Remote Indian Island

Love for Indian-Pakistani couple means moving across borders – to UAE

The Indian and Pakistani cricket rivalry has been on display at the Asia Cup 2018 in the United Arab Emirates. While the focus is on cricket, it is also highlighting another aspect of UAE as a home to many cross-border couples from India and Pakistan.

Couples who find love across the bitterly divided border in the subcontinent find it easier to live in UAE than in India or Pakistan. Pakistanis have trouble getting visas for India, and vice versa; and it gets harder every time there is a spurt in violence and upheaval across the border.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence; and relations soured further after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

High-profile couples like the Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and Indian tennis star  Sania Mirza have a home in Dubai. An Agence France-Presse (APF) interview also featured couples like Kasim Vakkil, an Indian and his Pakistani wife Ghazala who are part of the UAE’s large South Asian community.  “My marriage would not have been possible if we were not living in UAE. Ghazala is from Lahore and I am from Mumbai but living at this neutral venue made our marriage possible.” Kasim told AFP.

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Dubai taxi driver Sunil Manohar, from India’s Karnataka state, married Nunda from Pakistan’s Sindh province after their families met in the UAE. “UAE is a nice place for cross-border families,” he said. “In the past, a few couples were stuck in Pakistan because they were not getting an Indian visa.”

An interesting video article in Khaleej Times also features the lives of such couple:

Many tech savvy couple also converge in popular facebook groups like IndoPakFamiles 

 

Indian man arrested for impersonating U.S Immigration official on social media

This week, Kanwar Sarabjit Singh a 51 year old lawful permanent resident (LPR)  in the United States pleaded guilty for using Facebook and WhatsApp to falsely represent himself as an employee of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Mr Singh claimed he worked in the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (USCIS). He offered to obtain ‘genuine US visas’ in exchange for a fee of $3,000 to $4,000, US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and impersonation of a federal officer and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on December 14.

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As part of his scheme, Mr Singh created a fake photo identification document pretending to be from the DHS, which he mailed to others in an effort to show that he was capable to obtain US immigration documents.

Mr Singh gained the trust of a local pastor and his church, including elderly members, and falsely represented to them that he owned a small company in India that provided labour for services, including data entry, to two large, international companies and that for a small, up-front investment, they would see a large return on their money.

More details in the press release from U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia

A citizen of India pleaded guilty today to operating a fraud scheme in which he used Facebook and WhatsApp to scam people seeking to purchase United States visas.

According to court documents, Kanwar Sarabjit Singh (aka Sandy Singh), 51, a lawful permanent resident, used Facebook and WhatsApp to falsely represent himself as an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who worked in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and who could obtain genuine United States visas in exchange for a fee of $3,000 to $4,000. As part of his scheme, Singh created a fake photo identification document purporting to be from DHS, which he emailed to others in an effort to show that he was, in fact, able to obtain United States immigration documents. Singh instructed individuals seeking immigration documents to email him passport photographs, copies of their passports and other personally identifying information and to send him money via overnight delivery service or by wire transfer. After receiving these documents and the requested fee up front, Singh created and emailed fake letters purporting to be from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, which falsely represented that there was an appointment to pick up the requested visa documents. Many of Singh’s victims resided overseas and were impoverished.

In addition to this visa fraud scheme, Singh also admitted to engaging in an investment fraud scheme in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in 2012, in which he defrauded approximately 22 investors of approximately $340,000. Singh gained the trust of a local pastor and his church, including elderly members, and falsely represented to them that he owned a small company in India that provided labor for services, including data entry, to two large, international companies and that for a small, up-front investment, they would see a large return on their money.