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.

This is the latest of several moves the Trump administration has made to place greater restrictions on the use and, in the administration’s view, abuse of H-1B visas. Whereas last year’s H-1B application period went ahead with no rule changes from the government, Bhattacharya notes that this change comes about a month before the filing period for fiscal year 2019 begins on April 2.

Last year, the Justice Department threatened to aggressively prosecute employers suspected of overlooking American workers and hiring H-1B visa holders instead, while Trump’s executive order called on several executive agencies to crack down on “fraud and abuse” in the H-1B and other visa programs. Since then, the administration has tightened standards for H-1B renewals and proposed ending work eligibility for spouses of H-1B workers, while taking smaller, less public steps to slow down the approval process and make it more difficult for H-1B visa applications to succeed.

The uncertain future of the program under Trump has led tech companies, the main employers of H-1B visa holders, to decrease their hiring of foreign talent. Outsourcers like Infosys, meanwhile, are opening more offices and recruiting more employees in the US, partly to diversify their growth strategies but also to hedge against the possibility of the H-1B market being regulated out of existence.