H-1B reform agenda: The US government intends to continue with its immigration plan of reforming the H-1B visa process. Including amendments to the guidelines governing H-1B specialty workers and more flexibility to foreign students on F-1 visas. As indicated by the 2021 Regulatory Agenda published last Friday.
The semi-annual plan gives a listing of all regulations under the active thought of the US government’s labor department in the coming year.
“If the changes hinted at in the summary are executed it will benefit many of the thousands of students studying in the US”. Said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner, LawQuest, an immigration law firm.
Indians are the second-largest nationality of foreign students in the US. Many of them stay under the optional practical training (OPT) to work in the country.
As reported by ET on December 13, this comes even as a bill to get rid of the OPT program. Along with more stringent norms for big tech companies employing H-1B workers. Which was presented in the US House of Representatives last week.
US tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have been among the top recipients of H-1B visas in recent years.
Another significant agenda is the Trump era proposal to increase wages for H-1B workers, which had been put on hold following litigation. If approved, this would result in an average increase of 40% in wages for H-1B visa holders. Moreover, impacting foreign students who normally continue working on an H-1B visa once their OPT ends.
H-1B reform agenda
“Right now, no final decisions have been made. It is also believed that the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) will back away from implementing a wage-based selection of H-1B candidates. And that the H-1B lottery process will proceed,” said Rajiv S Khanna, managing lawyer at immigration.com. “It appears highly unlikely that in the current environment of a paucity of workers. The Department of Labor or the UCIS would need to make it harder for US businesses to fill their vacancies.”
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for this will be given in March 2022, later which it will be kept open for public comments. “Subsequent to the notice period the government takes into consideration this comment yet doesn’t always modify the proposed rule. Also, for this situation, there is a lot at stake, and I think the enormous IT-based companies. Like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc, will lobby hard to avoid these or possibly alter the changes,” said Chothani.
Proposed regulation of the H-1B visa program proposes revising guidelines relating to the “employer-employee relationship” and bringing in flexibility for startup entrepreneurs. It also said that the government would implement new requirements and rules for site visits. Including in connection with petitions filed by H-1B dependent employers.
“Site visits by immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It has been on the rise and it seems they will give specific guidance on how and when these will be conducted. With work from home for many H-1B employees, it becomes very difficult for companies. Also, to monitor compliance and address ICE visits or audits,” said Chothani.