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Cancellation of H-1B Visa Program & H-4 Spouse Visa to Impact India the Hardest

The H-1B Visa Program of the United States is one of the most sought-after visas not only by Indian professionals but across various nationalities. The H-1B Visa permits the U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in speciality professions and one of the biggest beneficiaries of this visa are IT workers from India. At a time when H-1B visa rules are being tightened by Trump administration, there is increasing attention on the EB-5 visa program. EurAsian Times analyses the impact of the cancellation of H-4 & H-1B Visa Program on Indian workers.

Under the EB-5 visa program, also called ‘cash for visa’, people can apply for permanent residence (PR) in the United States (not citizenship) for themselves, their spouse and children below 21 years. The only condition to get EB-5 visa is to invest and create at least 10 permanent full-time jobs in the United States. At present, the minimum investment required to obtain the EB-5 visa is US$ 1 million.

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What is the problem with H-1B Visa Program?

Will the American President Donald Trump repeal or undermine the H-1B visa program is a mystery; however, the scrapping of the H-1B Visa has remained in limelight since the US presidential elections. During the campaign, President Trump made some appearances with US I.T workers who lost their jobs to Indian counterparts, working on H-1B visas. After he was elected as the President, he recruited Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General who was a staunch critic of H-1B Visa program. Thereafter, President Trump on various occasions also backed the need to bring in the talented workforce from overseas but also contradicted his own statement by Hire in America statement.

H-1B Visa Program – Threats From Trump

One of the promises that Donald Trump made during his campaigning was to repeal the open immigration and trade program that has threatened the American workers, which also includes the H-1B visa program. The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USICS), which is responsible for the H-1B Visa Program is evaluating the process so that it fits into Presidents Trump’s Policy of ‘Buy American, and Hire American’

However, the H-1B visa program is mandated by the US legislation and any modification is only possible through the congressional process. The H-1B visa program has undergone various changes since its inception and at present has an annual cap of 65,000. An additional 20,000 visas are granted to aspirants with master’s degrees from US universities. Every year, the number of applicant to H-IB visa exceeds the capping, and therefore a lottery system is used to grant the visas. 

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In a highly volatile U.S. Congress, passing any bill, including the bill on H-IB Visa program, is extremely challenging. Hence, the USCIS seems to be working on slight modifications to the program through executive measures. Based on the underlying legislation that mandates the numbers and scope of the program, many elements are decided by executive rule-making. The lottery system to select the applicants, for instance, is based on an executive decision. The Trump administration extended the H-IB lottery system this year, however many congressmen have been debating to modify the evaluation process to gauge the competence of the applicants.

Cancellation of H-4 and H-IB Visa Program

USCIS now examines all applications for renewal of H-1B visas, requiring the applicants to establish eligibility all over again, after the expiry of the current visa. The USCIS now also plans to issue H-IB Visas for a shorter duration, besides scrutinizing the work sites to ensure that workers are at places they are legally supposed to be in.

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Overall, USCIS is working on reducing the advantages of hiring international workers to the United States via the H-1B Visa Program for organizations.  A more disturbing decision that the Trump administration has already announced to suspend work permits to spouses of H-1B workers expecting US permanent residency. More than hundred thousand spouses benefit from H-4 Employment Visa (spouse visa) and the majority of them are women from India. Moves to change the H-1B visa program and suspension of H-4 Employment Visa is going to impact Indian IT workers the hardest.

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