New H-1B visa rules make it more expensive and harder to hire workers from India — but they may not hold ground

New H-1B visa rules make it more expensive and harder to hire workers from India — but they may not hold ground
US President Donald TrumpIANS

  • The Trump administration has rolled out new H-1B visa rules less than a month before the US Presidential election.
  • This time the minimum wage requirements have been bumped up, and the eligibility criteria has been tightened along with some other changes.
  • Lawyers and experts believe that since the order didn’t follow the normal regulatory process, it’s likely to face a fierce challenge in court.
The Trump administration has moved to make significant changes to Silicon Valley’s converted H-1B visa. The rules proposed by the US President will make it more expensive to hire employees from outside the country, tighten the eligibility criteria for visas, and plug up some of the other ‘loopholes.’ However, they may not stick around for very long.

For Indian IT companies — like TCS, Infosys, HCL Technologies, and Wipro — this may not be a very big deal in the short run since they have already been localising their workforce and trying to cut down on visa requirements. However, in the long run, this could bode darker tidings.

On the other hand, tech giants within the US, like Google, Apple, Facebook and others, depend on the H-1B visa to hire tens of thousands of employees each year, not just from India, but also other countries where the cost of labour is cheaper.

Critics believe that the changes are more political in nature, coming just ahead of the 2020 US Presidential election in November. Regardless of the motivation, lawyers and experts assert that the new rules are likely to be challenged in court since they bypassed the normal regulatory process.

Department of Homeland Security acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli estimates that a third of applicants would be denied under the new rules.

What are the new changes to H-1B visa rules?
The new rules significantly raise the existing wage levels of H-1B employees. There are four wage levels, and the minimum amount for each has been bumped up — in certain cases, to more than double than what it used to be.

Wage levelEarlier wage percentileNew wage percentile

The definition of ‘speciality occupation’ has also been narrowed down. Only certain types of degrees will now qualify a candidate for a visa.

Select contract workers will also have a shorter time limit on their visas.

More monitoring is also on the cards with the new rules enhancing the government’s ability to enforce compliance with worksite inspections, before and after an H-1B petition is approved.

“With millions of Americans looking for work, and as the economy continues its recovery, immediate action is needed to guard against the risk lower-cost foreign labor can pose to the well-being of U.S. workers,” Patrick Pizzella, the deputy secretary of labor, told reporters on Tuesday.

Trump has already been overruled once before
The change to the H-1B visa ruels comes after a federal judge ruled that Donald Trump had overstepped his authority in June when he issued an order suspending H-1B visas, H-2B visas, L-1 visas, and J-1 visas till December 2020.

This time the new rules augment the play book for two departments — Homeland Security and the Labour Department.

According to immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, Homeland Security and the Labor Department are expected to publish the new rules in the federal register in “coming days.” However, the firm expects the matter to end up in court.

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