The battle over H-1B visas is not ending anytime soon and the fate of thousands of non-immigrant workers from South Asia, especially India, hangs in the balance. Ever since Donald Trump assumed office, South Asians living in America are facing a tough time. At the very beginning of his tenure, Trump had spoken of restricting the H-1B visa as part of his agenda of putting Americans first. It was believed that Indians who get a major share of the H-1B visas would be affected most by the America-first policy.
Trump has issued repeated warnings to companies to stop discriminating against US workers. He wants to end the H-1B visa abuse and stop the over-hiring of foreign workers under the visa program. So, although the government has started accepting H-1B visa petitions for the next fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2017) and the lottery has opened without any changes, some major reforms have also been announced by the government concurrently with the above decisions to overhaul the H-1B visa program.
Earlier this year, the government had introduced a Bill in the US House of Representatives to overhaul the employment-based and non-immigrant visa program for temporary workers. If passed, the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders would be raised from $60,000 to $130,000, making it harder for those applying for H-1B visas to find placement in America.
Apart from calling for more than doubling the salary, the Bill also says that equally or better qualified Americans should be considered first by employers for the vacant positions before recruiting H-1B visa holders. Moreover, in order to break the monopoly of Indian IT giants like TCS, Infosys, and Wipro as the major beneficiaries of this program, the bill proposes allotting 20% of H-1B visas to small and start-up companies so that they get a fair chance to compete for high-skilled employees. If passed, the bill would have a huge impact on Indian IT companies and H-1B visa holders.
In line with Trump’s goal to curb discrimination against Americans, the U.S. has, on the one hand, tightened the rules for issuing the H-1B and L-1 visas and made their renewal difficult on the other hand.
Indian Union Minister, Suresh Prabhu, said that H-1B and L-1 visas issue has been taken up ‘very strongly’ with the U.S. The Indian Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, had also raised the issue with Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State last month.