Hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals working in the country may lose their H-1B visas as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) looks to implement new regulations that will stop extensions of the work-based non-immigrant visa.
At present, Homeland Security’s proposal exists only as a draft circulating within the Department’s higher ranks. The move is central to the Trump administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, following up on one of the key promises by the president during the campaign period.
The Trump administration is seeking to reinterpret the “may grant” language stipulated in the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to end the H-1B extensions. The law allows the administration to extend the H-1B visas of thousands of immigrants, most skilled workers from India, beyond the allowable two three-year terms with a pending green card.
According to one source briefed by Homeland Security officials, the plan is to force the hundreds of thousands of Indian skilled workers in the tech sector to “self-deport” after their visa expires, opening up these jobs to Americans.
About the H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is a special working visa open to foreign workers in highly specialized fields, such as accounting, information technology, academic research, medicine, as well as other industries “requiring specific theoretical and technical expertise.” As a non-immigrant visa, however, H-1B holders are not able to stay in the country beyond their employment terms.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an office under Homeland Security, has stated that they cannot comment on or disclose any part of the pre-decisional processes on any changes affecting the H-1B program for the time being.
According to USCIS chief of media relations Jonathan Withington, “The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programs.”
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working parallel with the executive branch to place tighter regulations on the H-1B visa, authoring and lobbying legislative measures to complement the executive’s tightening grip on the work visa.
Furthermore, the government’s anti-immigration campaign does not end with the H-1B program as it also intends to end the H4 visa, a “dependent” visa allowing spouses of H-1B holders to follow them into the US and likewise be eligible for work in the country.
As the Trump administration weighs its options on what to do with the H-1B program, the fate of the hundreds of thousands of non-immigrant visa holders is in limbo.
If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.