H-1B visa approvals: Indians, particularly those from the technology area, who are the major beneficiaries of the H-1B non-immigrant visa program, are very much aware of the challenges associated with looking for a visa extension. It implies an extra cost for the sponsoring employer and anxiety for the visa holder.
Recently under the Biden government, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has trained its officials. To defer to past approvals when expanding visas, for example, the H-1B work visa.
In short, USCIS is returning to its previous long-standing guidance gave in 2004. The Trump government had revoked this guidance and required that each visa extension be treated as another application. This had led to a surge in requests for extra documentation (known as Requests For Evidence – RFEs). Which increased administrative costs for sponsoring employers and led to delays. Or in other instances, there was an outright denial of visa extensions on various grounds.
H-1B visa approvals should be for six years
But much more can be done to improve the legal immigration system. In response to invitations to the public to submit their suggestions, David J. Casket, an exploration individual at the CATO Institute, said. “The USCIS should replace the three-year limit on initial H-1B petition approvals with a six-year limit. And the Department of Labor (DOL) should revert to its earlier regulation allowing a six-year approval of the labor condition applications.” The laws permit extension beyond six years only if the H-1B visa holder is following the process of obtaining a permanent status (green card).
In his submission to the USCIS, Bier added, “Despite the fact that the law imagines employment of at least six years. DOL and USCIS regulations limit LCA and visa petition approvals to close to three years. Filing for an expansion after three years is an unnecessary and expensive burden. Employers and workers suffer unjust costs and potential delays. And USCIS and DOL are burdened with additional reviews of materials that they have already reviewed and approved. In fiscal 2020, H-1B workers and employers had to file more than 320,000 extension requests.”
A survey of the USCIS information shows that of the 3.19 lakh H-1B visas gave to those born in India (which is 74.9 percent of the total H-1B visas gave during the fiscal year ending 30th September 2020), 2.45 lakh were approvals for visa extensions.
In the backdrop of the recent policy manual update, which calls upon immigration officials to defer to past approvals when extending visas. Bier clarifies that there is no longer any basis for defining “coming temporarily” to mean less than six years.