Proposed Changes May Send 500,000 H-1B Visa Holders Back to India

If the proposal is implemented, a foreign worker will have to exit the United States while the green card application is under process.


More than 500,000 skilled workers may have to return to India if the Trump administration decides to implement the proposal of not extending the H-1B visa of those waiting for a green card. The Department of Homeland Security is looking into regulations on H-1B visa extensions as a part of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” promise made during the election campaign.

As per the current law, foreign workers are allowed one three-year extension of the H-1B visa, which is also valid for three years. At the end of six years, if the worker has a pending green card application, the H-1B visa is extended until the processing time for the green card is completed. Since there is a huge backlog of green card applicants — mostly from India and China — they end up spending 10-12 years in the United States.

If the proposal is implemented, a foreign worker will have to exit the United States until the green card application is processed, the Hindustan Times reported, adding that the proposal has been circulated in the form of an internal memo in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It seeks to remove the provision under which extensions were granted to foreign workers holding H-1B visa whose applications for permanent residency were under process.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” reported citing a U.S. source briefed by Homeland Security officials.

The H-1B visa, over the years, has become a route for immigration, and was looked at favorably, as foreign skilled workers from India, such as Microsoft head Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, add value to the U.S. tech industry.

Any change to H-1B visa rules is going to affect India more than any other country as more than 50 per cent of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually go to Indian workers. About 255,000 Indians have been issued H-1B visas in the last six years.

The proposal comes on the heels of the Trump administration’s plan to roll back the H-4 EAD visa, which allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States. This was introduced during former president Barack Obama’s tenure.

Changes in H-1B visa regulations have been under a lot of scrutiny since Trump assumed power. While some say that young, foreign-born skilled workforce pays into the U.S. tax system and enhances the country’s economy, others hold that keeping foreign workers out would mean benefit to home countries.

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