New, tougher rules on H-1B working visas at third-party worksites have been announced, specifying that companies must state the specific workplaces and projects that staff will be working on.
USCIS outlined the new regulations in a memo, and there has been backlash particularly from Indian firms that are the main beneficiaries of H-1B visas. Nearly two-thirds of H-1B visas awarded by USCIS each year go to Indian firms, mainly in the tech services sector.
The main amendment to existing policy is that USCIS may request detailed documentation to ensure that an employer-employee relationship is maintained at a third-party worksite. USCIS says that in order for a third-party H1-B petition to be approved, the beneficiary must be in a specialty occupation and the employer must maintain a relationship with the employer for the duration of the requested validity period. Employers must also demonstrate that they have specific and non-speculative qualifying assignments in a specialty occupation for that beneficiary for the entire time requested on the petition, and USCIS will usually limit the validity time frame to match the length of work. Traditionally H-1B visa run for three years, so this will reduce the length of most that are issued.
USCIS states that the new rules are intended to combat H1-B abuse, but the move has caused controversy among Indian software and engineering firms that are likely to be hardest hit.
In an interview with Economic Times, R Chandrashekhar, president of Nasscom, a trade association of Indian Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing industry, said he did not expect the new rules to have much of an impact, although he felt they were contrary with the Trump administration’s aim of cutting red tape. “These new norms do complicate the process and make it more onerous in terms of the paper work involved both for the issuance of the visa and the continuation and extension of it,” he said.
Others think the rules could have a bigger effect on smaller and mid-size firms. Executive placement services major Head Hunters’ Managing Director Kris Lakshmikanth told IANS, “The new policy will not impact bigger Indian IT firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL. But mid-size and smaller firms, which do body shopping and application development will be affected, as they will find it difficult to get inter-company papers from bigger clients for H-1B visas.”