Although I routinely say that I prefer a shortened H-1b approval over a denial, I often see the frustration on the part of my IT and engineering staffing and solutions companies when they get an H-1b approval shortened to the date of the current JO,PO, or SOW expiration. We can only assume that USCIS examiners are not ignorant to the realities of PO's etc and fully recognize that they are often issued in quarterly or yearly periods that do not necessarily reflect the full-time of the engagement; consequently, we must assume that the USCIS practice is but, another effort to create a chilling effect on the use of H-1b visas. Now it appears that this practice has shifted from the staffing industry to also impact other industries. Check out this recent Bloomberg article. From my own practice, I recently had a Fortune 500 client asked to prove that they had sufficient work for an IT professional to do for the full 3 years sought.
As confirmation hearings begin on Senator Jeff Sessions becoming the next Attorney General, it is enlightening to hear what he has said on H-1b visas. In an interview published in 2016 for Breitbart, Sessions made claims such as "over half of US STEM grads can't find jobs"; "IT wages have not gone up since 2000" and, "there is no shortage of skilled workers in the U.S." Check out the full story here.
In the first week of the new Congress, Rep Issa (R-CA) re-introduced a bill HR 170 designed to reform the H-1b program. The key component in the bill would raise the dependency exemption from $60,000 to $100,000. This same bill previously failed at the Committee level in 2016. It is expected that this will be but, the first, of bills introduced to change the H-1b visa program.
Many IT Consulting cos. allow workers to telecommute and work form home instead of going into the office or a client facility each day. Unfortunately for H-1b workers, this practice poses a significant risk. Recently, several US Consulates in India have denied H-1b visas for H-1b workers who indicated that they were being permitted to perform part of their work remotely from home. It was reported that one Consular official commented, "if you can work from home, you may as well stay here in India and work" Although there is no legal basis or authority for a visa refusal on these grounds, the concept of legal basis or authority is often unrecognized at US Consulates particularly in India and Manila.
Coinciding with the release of a study conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy, a group of US business leaders met with President Obama and urged him to reform the skilled visa system through the utilization of policy reforms. Though President Obama consistently talks about government getting out of the way of private business, his policy-makers at the USCIS have been acting in just the opposite manner. The USCIS through the use of policy memos such as the January 2010 Neufeld memo have engaged in a systematic campaign to thwart the growth of US businesses that utilize foreign workers. Specific policies have been directed at entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses who often drive employment growth especially in recessionary times. It is hoped that President Obama will turn some of his talk into action. The Huffington Post has published a summary of some of the proposals that were discussed during the meeting. Check it out and forward it to your friends and your Congressional reps because although there is much that President Obama could do, significant changes will likely require legislation.
TechServe Alliance announced that Senator Cornyn (R-Texas) has written a letter to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Director to consider the implications of the Neufeld memo and its impact on the IT Staffing and Consulting industry. The Senator urged the Director to meet with industry officials to fully understand the impact of this policy. There is evidence that the Neufeld policy has led to a greater outsourcing of IT jobs overseas, severely limited the creation and growth of small and medium sized IT businesses which, have long been acknowledged as critical in ecomoic growth and curtailed US domestic hiring. It is hoped that those were unintended consequences and that the Director will take a personal interest in this critical issue.
Kudos to Senator Grassley, his puppets at USCIS and other like-minded policy makers that have consistently created or applied policies that restrict and burden the use of the H-1b visa. Oh how quickly our brilliant politicians and policymakers forget that Intel, Google, Yahoo, and eBay were all founded by immigrants in an era with LESS restrictions on the H-1b visa and LESS restrictions on the L-1b visa and LESS of a wait for a green card. USA Today reports the story of SnapDeal a high tech company whose founder was previously in the US on an H-1b visa but decided to start his new company in India instead of the US due to H-1b visa restrictions. The company has grown to a size of over 400 employees. But, hey we don't need those jobs here in the US. It's time for Washington DC to wake up and recognize that there are economic consequences to immigration policy and the US economy is being negatively impacted by the current culture of NO !
With the H-1b cap season in full swing, the USCIS has issued a new set of FAQ on the subject of "cap-gap". A "cap-gap" occurs when a foreign student's EAD card, issued pursuant to the OPT rules, expires prior to October 1, 2011. The USCIS has adopted rules that provides for an automatic extension that allows students to continue to be employed under the OPT provisions as long as their sponsoring employer has timely filed an H-1b cap subject petition that is properly receipted. An employer should be careful that the employee's I-9 form is properly completed in this situation. We applaud the USCIS for its "cap-gap" policy.