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H1B Visa: Toughest ever H-1B visa process begins today

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The process of filing petitions for H-1B, one of the most sought after American work visas among highly skilled Indian professionals, begins Monday amid unprecedented scrutiny by the Trump administration.

From April 2 (Monday), the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will open its doors to the H-1B visa applications for the season 2018-19. Successful applicants will be able to work in the US from October 1, 2018, during the tenure of the visa – which maybe for an initial maximum period of three years.

In a policy memorandum issued on March 23 but made public recently, the USCIS stated that in cases where multiple applications are filed by “related entities” (a parent company, a subsidiary, or even an affiliate) for the same visa seeker, there needs to be a legitimate business need. Else, these applications will be rejected.

Kuldeep Singh, an immigration lawyer, says, “In the US federal law, a single company cannot file multiple H-1B applications for the same visa applicant. When a company files an H-1B application, another related company cannot do so unless there exist two separate job opportunities. These jobs must be clearly different.”

There have been many reports from the USCIS, the federal agency responsible for processing all H-1B visas, that it will have absolute zero tolerance for even minor errors in the application. Talks on various social media platforms and among various groups indicate that immigration lawyers this time expect a much higher rate of rejection.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows US firms to employ foreign workers in jobs that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on this visa to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries such as India and China. The H1-B visa has an annual limit of 65,000 each financial year as mandated by the US Congress, their parliament.

When it comes to spouses of H-1B visaholders, they get the H4 visa currently, which doesn’t allow them to work or run a business until they obtain an employment authorisation document (EAD). However, not all dependent spouses of the H-1B holders are eligible to apply for an EAD. This route is available only to the H-1B visa recipients on track for a Green Card. Hence, many foreign professionals are exploring the option of becoming a permanent resident of the US.

Jasleen Kaur, who has done her masters in finance management from State University of New York, is holding a meeting with her immigration lawyers on the pros and cons of applying for an H-1B visa. She is hopeful her employer will consider sponsoring her for this overseas work permit.

The extension of the decision deadline by four months comes as a temporary relief to the spouses who have accompanied H-1B visa holders to the US. The visa, as reported, attracts many specialised workers from India and China to the US for employment.

Immigration experts say that the US department of homeland security handles 30,000-odd applications for employment authorisation each year, in addition to renewal requests. The Trump administration’s draft proposal in June will be the first step towards ending the mechanism of granting this authorisation.

Amandeep Kaur, a software professional from Chandigarh who works in Accenture, says: “It sure is good news for those working in US. Ever since the likelihood of sending families back came into limelight, professionals were in a dilemma about going to the US.”

Updated: April 2, 2018 — 2:31 am

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