H1-B visa policy changes need US Congress Approval

Changes in the H1-B visa policy haven’t been passed by the US congress. Three bills seeking changes to the US H1-B visa policy that were pending before the US Congress had lapsed at the end of last year and new ones if any would take a while before they were passed, sources told.

These remarks came on the back on news reports on Friday saying that “The US Department of Homeland Security was proposing to revise the rules governing the sanction of H1-B visas aimed at attracting only the best and the brightest to the US.”

H1-B is a Non-Migration visa that allows the United States of America (USA) companies to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. The visa program allowed technology and IT-based companies to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from India, which accounted for nearly 70% of all such visa issuance, and also for about 93% of H-4 visas meant for the spouses of H-1B holders up to 2017.

External Affairs Minister Subrahmaniam Jaishankar on Thursday in the winter session of Parliament said ‘he had raised the issue of the changes in the H-1B visa program that are impacting Indian professionals twice with the United States administration in the past few months.’

Replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha on H-1B visa denials as a result of changes by the Trump administration, Mr. Jaishankar said that according to official statistics, 27,707 of 1,16,031 new H-1B petitions, or 23.9%, were denied in the fiscal year 2019.

“These issues were raised by External Affairs Minister with his U.S. counterpart [Secretary of State Michael Pompeo] in New Delhi in June 2019 and with the U.S. interlocutors in Washington D.C. in September/October 2019. In our engagements, we have emphasized that the H-1B professional visa program has been a mutually-beneficial partnership, which should be nurtured,” he said.

“We are constantly in touch with the American system, the American government and members of Congress to persuade them and to convince them that tapping the Indian talent pool is to our mutual benefit, In that, I think, we have been successful in large measure”, he added.

According to figures provided to Parliament, the MEA said that the number of visas under the program had increased from 1,19,952 in 2015 to 1,29,097 in 2017, but have subsequently fallen to 1,25,528 in 2018.

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