As we discussed in our recent blog post, on April 3 the Trump administration announced a new level of H1B visa rule enforcement that is a game changer for those seeking a non-immigrant work visa. The fact this rule change was announced on the day this year’s petitions began to be accepted, means that there was no chance to amend or revise any H1B visa petitions.
This was clearly intentional and aimed at curtailing the dominance of the program by IT outsourcing companies. Interestingly, the same day Singapore came out with a similar policy shift, as that is another country that is a destination of Indian IT workers.
In short, it will be more difficult now to obtain an H1B visa if you cannot show evidence that you have a significant amount of professional experience in your occupation and are applying for high paid specialty occupations position.
There are two main points to be aware of based on this shift in rule enforcement:
- Based on the USCIS announcement, entry level computer programmers seeking employment with outsourcing firms will likely be denied an H1B visa in the future, as they will no longer been seen as working in a specialty occupation. Nearly 12% of H1B visas have been given to programmers in the past, and are those that typically replace US workers in the IT industry.
- Further, those already working in that type of position may be subject to work site visits by the Department of Homeland Security to determine if they obtained the position without the required qualifications.
So, it is essential for H1B applicants (as well as those already working in the US) to have a clear strategy going forward, and we have put together guide of key steps that you can take to begin or continue working in the US in your occupation.
Meeting the H1B Visa Specialty Occupation Requirements
The Reality: To have a chance of obtaining an H1B visa, you must be in a specialty occupation, with evidence of educational background and work experience that match the position description exactly.
Strategy: If you are an IT worker without at least 3-4 years of relevant work experience in your occupation, your chances of obtaining an H1B are now reduced. Your best option is to either pursue a Master’s Degree, or work in your home country to obtain more work experience. Don’t waste time looking for low paid, contract IT work in the US, as the visa will not be available.
The Reality: Current petitions that are for entry-level IT positions have little chance of success, and petitions without adequate evidence of experience will also be more frequently denied.
Strategy: If your petition this year is denied, you may still have a chance of submitting additional evidence of your background. However, you should not make any travel or personal plans until you know the outcome of the USCS review.
Types of Occupations
Many types of occupations can qualify for the H1B visa, and you can see a complete listing here in this article.
The new enforcement measures will primarily affect the IT field, so that is the area we will address.
The Reality: The competition for H1B visas in the IT field will now increase significantly, and as the Trump administration has promised, only the ‘best and brightest’ will be hired. There will no longer be an ‘open door’ for young Indians just entering the IT field and hoping to come the US and obtain contract work as a means of gaining experience.
Strategy: If you are a qualified IT professional, you have a better chance of getting a visa with a cap exempt position, such as with a university or health care organization. In this way, you avoid the lottery, can apply at any time of year, and will not have to compete with other IT workers looking for positions with US tech companies in Silicon Valley.
Reality: Entry level IT positions may no longer qualify for H1B visas.
Strategy: If you are a computer programmer, it is time to expand your skills or change your occupation in the IT field, if you still hope to work in the US with an H1B visa. If you are entry level, you can contact an outsourcing company to see if they have positions at home or in other countries with easier work permissions.
Reality: The new enforcement of H1B visa rules will affect primarily sponsors that are IT outsourcing companies such as Tata Consultancy and Wipro. The new policies specifically single out any H1B visa sponsors that have a large percentage of H1B visa workers, or who cannot verify their business information.
Strategy: Applying for contract IT positions with outsourcing companies is now a low probability path to obtaining an H1B visa. You should avoid any companies or ‘consultants’ that assure you this is still a possibility.
Reality: Qualified IT professionals will still be able to find sponsors and positions with US tech companies that offer high wages and long term employment, rather than contract positions via outsourcing firms.
Strategy: If you have the skills and experience, it is still viable to seek an IT position for next year with companies such as Google, Facebook and others. If you have a petition with a sponsor already for this season that is a direct H1B employer, you may still be able to obtain a visa in the lottery if you meet the qualifications.
Site Visits by Homeland Security
The Reality: Current H1B visa holders working in the US are now more subject to scrutiny of their educational and work qualifications. If they do not have evidence of related experience, are often benched or are routinely contracted to other firms in new locations, they may be subject to revocation of their visa.
Even the US Justice Department is now involved in investigating claims of H1B visa fraud or abuse that may have displaced an US worker. In those cases, deportation is a possibility.
Strategy: If you work in the US for an outsourcing company in the IT industry, you should be sure to have all of your documentation of education and work experience available. Site visits by DHS will be used to uncover any H1B visa holders that may have misrepresented their background, or who were hired at wages designed to replace more costly US workers.
Please contact us if you have any questions about your current or future H1B visa petition and we will do our best to guide you based on this policy shift.
- April 5th, 2017