Trump Administration Suspends H-1B Premium Processing Again

Trump Administration Suspends H-1B Premium Processing Again

For the second year in a row, US Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended premium processing for all cap-subject petitions for H-1B visas during the filing season for fiscal year 2019, which begins on April 2, Roy Maurer reports at SHRM:

“Premium processing will be delayed … to give USCIS sufficient time to take in the expected large numbers of filings,” said Scott J. FitzGerald, a partner in the Boston office of the global immigration law firm Fragomen. “We do not anticipate that this will delay notification of whether such cases have been selected in the H-1B lottery. Instead, this will delay the time in which the case is approved, subject to a request for evidence, or denied.” …

“The fact that USCIS is only now finishing up its processing of H-1B cap cases filed at this time last year is absolutely unprecedented,” FitzGerald said. “These delays are presumably related to the substantial increase in the issuance of RFEs for those cases. The fact that these cases, filed under regular processing, are receiving final determinations almost a year after they have been filed and almost five months after the requested start date [Oct. 1] is disappointing and seems a clear reflection of the agency’s new and tougher mission statement.”

Quartz’s Ananya Bhattacharya adds that the suspension will likely have a negative impact on the India-based outsourcing firms like Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services that are the most extensive users of the H-1B program, as well as the Silicon Valley tech companies that count on skilled foreign workers hired on these visas to meet their insatiable demand for talent.

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Trump Administration Further Tightens Standards for H-1B Approval

Trump Administration Further Tightens Standards for H-1B Approval

In keeping with President Donald Trump’s agenda of stopping alleged abuses of US work visa programs, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new policy on Thursday that will subject H-1B skilled worker visa applications to greater scrutiny. The changes, which USCIS says are meant to address abuses common among H-1B employers, mean that the agency “may request detailed documentation to ensure a legitimate employer-employee relationship is maintained while an employee is working at a third-party worksite.”

This will have a significant impact on the outsourcing firms that currently account for the bulk of H-1B visa applications, Ananya Bhattacharya explains at Quartz:

So, when Indian techies, who make for a majority of the H-1B applicants each year, apply for the visas now, they may have to furnish “evidence of actual work assignments,” the notice said. These include technical documentation, milestone tables, marketing analysis, cost-benefit analysis, brochures, and funding documents. In addition, the applications will also have to include various contracts, a worker’s itinerary, and detailed statements of work, among other things.

The move, in line with Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order from last year, will directly impact an entire cohort of Indian outsourcing firms like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro, and others. These companies often send workers from India, deputing them to third-party sites on a contract basis. … The closer scrutiny will also likely make H-1B extensions tougher to secure. To get the next round of approvals, the “petitioner should also establish that the H-1B requirements have been met for the entire prior approval period,” the USCIS said.

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As Amazon’s ‘Mechanical Turks’ Push for Better Conditions, a New Platform Emerges to Court Them

As Amazon’s ‘Mechanical Turks’ Push for Better Conditions, a New Platform Emerges to Court Them

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform allows individuals and organizations to outsource minute “human intelligence tasks” for very small payments, and is commonly used to fulfill the mundane task of feeding data into machine-learning algorithms. A study of US-based “Turkers” last year found that the typical user was young, well-educated, and using Mechanical Turk for work daily or regularly. Most use the platform to supplement income from other sources, though about a quarter said they earned most or all of their income there. Also, more than half of Turkers reported earning less than $5 an hour, well below the US federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Like other workers earning a precarious living in the gig economy, Turkers run a high risk of being exploited, but this highly distributed workforce has begun to fight for its rights. In a Wired’s Miranda Katz takes a look at how Turkers are pushing for changes at Amazon to protect them from being underpaid (or not paid at all):

[T]he Turker workforce has proven particularly difficult to organize: MTurk magnifies the challenges of the gig economy, with its isolated workers spread across the globe and hidden behind usernames, performing minute tasks on a platform operated by a massive, wealthy corporation. MTurk is also one of the least consumer-facing corners of the gig economy—so while ethically minded customers have taken Uber, Handy, and the like to task for their treatment of workers, Amazon’s gig-work platform has largely managed to evade public scrutiny for its low pay and reported lack of transparency. …

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Amid H-1B Uncertainty, Infosys Plans to Hire 10,000 US Workers

Amid H-1B Uncertainty, Infosys Plans to Hire 10,000 US Workers

Infosys, India’s second-largest IT services and outsourcing company, announced on Tuesday that it would hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years, Madhura Karnik reports at Quartz, ostensibly in response to the Trump administration’s desire to crack down on the use of H-1B skilled worker visas:

The Bengaluru-based firm will also set up four technology and innovation hubs across the US, Infosys said in the release. The first one will be opened in Indiana in August and is expected to create 2,000 jobs by 2021.

“In helping our clients improve their businesses and pursue new kinds of opportunities, we are really excited to bring innovation and education in a fundamental and massive way to American workers,” Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka said in the release. “Since joining Infosys nearly three years ago, it has been my personal endeavor to help us get much closer to our clients, to co-innovate with them, on their most important business problems,” he added. Other IT companies, too, have been preparing to deal with the H-1B issue, filing fewer visa applications and increasing local hiring.

While the administration has yet to make any changes to the rules governing the distribution of H-1Bs, it has threatened to prosecute employers who overlook American workers and hire H-1B visa holders instead. US President Donald Trump has been sharply critical of the visa program, and there is bipartisan consensus in Congress that it is in need of some kind of reform. This has been unwelcome news for Indian IT professionals and the outsourcing companies that employ them by the hundreds of thousands, which take the lion’s share of H-1B visas each year.

Nonetheless, Infosys says the decision was a long time in the making, and not a reaction to Trump’s policy agenda, Wired’s Issie Lapowsky observes:

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Trump Administration Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Visas

Trump Administration Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Visas

US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Friday that it was temporarily suspending expedited applications for H-1B skilled worker visas, Newsweek reported:

[USCIS] said on Friday that starting April 3 it will suspend “premium processing” for up to six months. Under this expedited procedure, applicants can be eligible for visa approvals within 15 days, instead of a regular review period that can last for up to a few months. … USCIS said that during the suspension period, individuals still can request expedited consideration, but must meet certain criteria, such as humanitarian reasons, an emergency situation or the prospect of severe financial loss to a company or individual.

The agency says the suspension is meant to address a backlog of visa applications, but given President Donald Trump’s plan to crack down on H-1Bs, some see it as an opening move in implementing that plan, Quartz’s Itika Sharma Punit learns:

India’s IT outsourcing industry, which gets over 60% of its revenue from the US, has been fearing a rise in protectionism in its largest market ever since Trump got elected. The temporary suspension is in line with the US president’s anti-immigration stance and could hint at a tighter H-1B visa policy in the future, according to recruitment experts.

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Indian Professionals Unnerved by Trump’s Immigration Policy

Indian Professionals Unnerved by Trump’s Immigration Policy

As US President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from specific countries has its day in court, and amid indications that his administration plans to curtail several pathways to legal immigration for skilled workers, many Indians living and working in the United States are exploring their options of relocating back to India, the Economic Times reported recently:

Recruitment firms led by BTI Consultants, RGF Executive Search, Transearch, The Head Hunters, and Antal International have reported doubling of queries from US-based Indian professionals over the past few weeks as the Republican winner to the White House race declares his policy stance after the January 20 inauguration.

Nervousness has also gripped Indian companies that have a significant US employee base: Hunt for Indian talent in the US are now joining the swelling list of cancelled mandates. Kris Lakshmikanth, chief executive of The Head Hunters (India), says that he has got some 30 calls until now from technology professionals exploring opportunities back in India, compared with practically no queries until just a couple of months ago. “This number is likely to increase even more in the coming days,” says Lakshmikanth.

At the Los Angeles Times, Shashank Bengali and Parth M.N. report from Mumbai that young tech professionals there are worried about Trump’s plan to crack down on H1-B visas, as the demand for jobs abroad is very high:

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Will AI Disrupt Big Law?

Will AI Disrupt Big Law?

Mark Cohen looks to the future at Forbes, noting how automated processes are already making inroads into the traditionally innovation-averse legal sector:

It’s no surprise that AI is rapidly becoming a staple in the delivery of legal services. The disaggregation of legal tasks fueled by globalization, technological advances, and the financial crisis propelled legal process outsourcing companies (LPO’s). The LPO model relies on labor arbitrage and technology to dramatically reduce the cost of high-volume/low-value “legal” functions like document review. This has enabled LPO’s to pry certain types of repetitive work from high-priced law firms. LPO’s demonstrated that law firms are not the sole—or most efficient and cost-effective—providers of all legal services. They also confirmed that technology and process management—together with legal expertise—are all essential legal delivery components.

AI is ushering in the second phase of legal delivery disaggregation. …

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