Potential changes to H-1B Visa Program Could ‘Self Deport’ Over Half  A Million Indians

As President Donald Trump considers plans to create new rules that would curb H-1B visa extensions and could see thousands of mostly Indian skilled workers deported while they wait for their green cards, industry leaders in India are warning that the move could also hurt the U.S. economy.

The proposal, which was part of Trump’s Buy American, Hire American initiative that he vowed to launch on the campaign trail, is being drafted by Department of Homeland Security leaders, sources have told McClatchy DC. If approved, it could see as many as 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders forced to leave the U.S., IndiaToday.in has reported.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently considering major regulation changes that would prevent extensions of the H-1B visa, according to reports. Should the measure proceed, many highly-skilled workers in the program, hundreds of thousands of whom are of Indian origin, would lose their visas while their green card applications are pending, the Miami Herald reported.

The administration is specifically looking at whether it can reinterpret the “may grant” language of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to stop making the extensions, reports here said.

The Trump administration also announced in February 2017 that it plans to also roll back on the H-4 EAD visa program which attracts and retains highly skilled foreign workers by granting work authorization to the spouses of H-1B visa holders who are awaiting their green cards.

The administration also plans to redefine high-specialty professionals for the purpose of H-1B visas. The United States grants 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visa every year out of which 65,000 are hired abroad and 20,000 are enrolled in advanced degree courses in U.S. schools and colleges.

Currently, individuals in the H-1B program are allowed extensions beyond the allowed two three-year terms by the administration if the individual has a pending green card. “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,” said a U.S. source briefed by Homeland Security officials in the Herald report.

“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,” said a U.S. source briefed by Homeland Security officials.

A visa holder is granted an H-1B visa for three years and is considered for three more years with one extension after which they must return to their country. However, in the meantime, if they are approved for a green card then they are allowed to wait in the U.S., using the extensions and for Indians, that wait could be for years given the massive backlog caused by the system of per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies.

An estimated 70% of these visas go to Indians who are hired mostly by American companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google and some by American arms of Indian tech giants like Infosys, Wipro and TCS.

H-4 children, the progeny of H-1B visa holders, are facing an uncertain future as they become adults who are no longer considered immediate family relatives, forcing them to return to their birth country.

Currently, more than 1.5 million Indian immigrants, who came to the U.S. on employment-based visas, are stuck in the green card logjam, noted SIIA, adding that highly-skilled immigrants from other countries can get green cards in about seven months. Indians – the fastest-growing group of immigrants to the U.S. – may face a backlog of up to 82.5 years. Each year, people from India are allotted only 7 percent of all green cards issued that year – less than 9,000 each year. The green card backlog has tremendous impact on H-4 children, who are no longer considered dependents once they turn 21.

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