The Trump Administration is illegally delaying or denying applications for visas that tech companies, including some of India’s largest outsourcers, depend on to stock their U.S. operations with programming talent, according to an industry group.
Immigration officials are rejecting the applications based on interpretations of H-1B visa rules that “cannot be anticipated by either the statutory or regulatory text,” said Compete America, in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“This lack of certainty and consistency wreaks havoc among the nation’s employers which are hiring high-skilled Americans and foreign-born professionals,” the organization said.
The H-1B allows foreign workers in specialty occupations, such as software development, to work in the U.S. for up to six years. Domestic and international companies operating within the country say a shortage of American-born tech workers makes them reliant on H-1B visa workers to fill the gap.
Indian outsourcers Infosys, TCS and Tech Mahindra were among the top five users of H-1B visas in 2017, records show. Wipro ranked 10th. Those companies typically bring in workers from India to staff their U.S. development labs or to work for their U.S.-based clients. The H-1B is also popular with U.S. tech giants looking to supplement their workforce. IBM and Google were among the top 10 H-1B employers last year.
But Compete America, which is pushing for immigration reform on behalf of tech companies and research institutions, claims that U.S. officials, under direction from the White House, are imposing new and legally questionable roadblocks to visa applicants.
According to the organization: “The agency appears to be acting outside of its own regulations and the controlling statute.” Compete America is arguing against the administration’s current view that:
• A comparatively entry-level job, and corresponding wage level, cannot be in a specialty occupation.
• The specific field of study requirement for a specialty occupation means the job must necessitate completion of a single major or qualifying degree
• The requirement for an occupation to usually carry a degree prerequisite means a degree must always be needed.
Compete America is asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, both of which play a role in adjudicating H-1B applications, to bring their policies into line with the statutes that govern the program.
As a presidential candidate in 2016, Donald Trump said he would end the H-1B program outright if he were elected president. At the same time, Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, relied heavily