“Trump is the first of any modern president to advocate for reducing legal immigration,”
says Sarah Pierce of the Migration Policy Institute. Some experts predict that fiscal year 2018 which ends September 30 will show a rare decline in the number of immigrants granted permanent legal residency partly due to changes in the H1B Visa program.
One of the misperceptions about immigration is that the majority of people are sneaking across the border for poor paying jobs requiring little to no education. The New York Times reports that nearly half of all foreign-born people who have arrived since 2010 have college degrees, compared with about 30% of native-born Americans. “We are having this debate about getting our system to be merit-based, but it really in effect already is one,” said David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. “The least-known fact about legal immigration to the U.S. is that its’ much more educated that the general U.S. population.”
H1B and Indian IT Consultancies
So why so much chaos and uncertainty regarding changes to the existing and new H1B visa holders? The success of Indian IT Consulting companies in obtaining H1B visas for their employees is partly to blame. Companies like Infosys, Tata, Cognizant and Wipro were garnering 64.5% of all H1B visas as recently as 2014. Infosys was the largest employer of H1B visas that year. In 2017 the 65,000 H1B visas were all allocated within four days of eligibility. The extra 20,000 visas for advanced degreed applicants were closed to new applicants at the same time. These IT consultancies have the application process down to a science that seemed to eliminate the individual or small company applicant access to an H1B. There is also the perception that the Indians coming to the U.S. to work at a third-party site through these consultancies, were being paid less than the median rate of pay. Myvisajobs.com produced a report showing that Indian IT consultancies’ average salary was in the $80K range while those H1B employees working at U.S. based firms like Google, Microsoft and Amazon in 2018 made an average of $130K. H1B employees of IT Consultancies were periodically victims of “benching.” While between assignments, they went unpaid but remained legally in the U.S. as employees of the Indian company. All practices considered non-competitive by the current administration.
Another red flag to the Trump administration is the impact of family sponsorship. “Of the 1.1 million green cards granted in 2017, about 2/3 went to people sponsored by relatives, compared to just 12% who were sponsored through employment,” reported the New York Times. Under a new Trump proposal green card holders would be limited to sponsoring minor children only, not adult children, parents and siblings as historically been the case.
H1B Fraud Targets
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has indicated they will focus on the following employers as targets for site visits: H1B-dependent employers or those who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers, companies where their basic business information can’t be validated easily, and employers petitioning for H1B workers who work off-site at another company’s location. These site visits are to pursue any fraudulent actions such as: the H1B worker not being paid a certified wage, a disparity between H1B worker wages and other workers performing the same or similar duties, the H1B worker not performing the duties specified in their H1B petition, the H1B worker having less experience than other workers in the same position and the H1B worker not working in the certified location.
Other new policies have made the application, documentation and employer verification process much more involved and stringent. The minimum annual salary for an individual with an H1B visa has been increased from $60,000 to $90,000. Visa duration is potentially being changed making it difficult to obtain a green card before the H1B expires, and spouses under H4 visas may lose their ability to gain legal employment. Premium processing has been suspended for six months in both of the last two years and the interview process is much more rigorous and detailed.
All of these restrictions have had multiple impacts. Indian IT consultancies have reduced their visa filings by as much as 52.4% . Some reports say that Indian company rejection rates are as high as 70%. The latest data also suggest that American corporations are being granted more H1B visas. The National Foundation for American Policy says that Amazon had an increase of 78% in H1B visas obtained and Facebook had a 53% increase. There remains the risk of complying with difficult rules and regulations no matter who is sponsoring you for your H1B. The popularity and success of the H1B visa programming in bringing needed, advanced degreed workers into the U.S. is definitely at risk.