More changes in visa regime, bad news for Indians in US

Visa processes may become more tiresome and there will be changes for H-1B, as well as F-1 student visas and optional practical training


If the revisions and suggestions proposed by the Department of Homeland Security in the US are implemented, Indians dreaming of working there may be disappointed. The first suggestion is to revise the definition of H-1B, so that only ace-quality talent can enter the US. This implies a revision of the employer-employee relationship, making wage increments mandatory for H-1B visa holders so that they are the most highly skilled in the true sense of the world. This means, the rate of rejection may go up. The visa process may become really challenging, discouraging employers. Given that about 70 per cent of the total H-1B visa holders in the US are Indians, this redefinition may not augur well for them.

In the new visa regime, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has proposed a time period be fixed for admission and extension of stay for students. As per the current practice, F-1 visa holders are allowed to stay in the US as long as they wish to, provided they have the eligible status granted by the US government for F-1 holders. A revision will affect the over two lakh Indian students who wish to stay on after graduation or OPT.

The optional practical training (OPT) options given to student visa holders will also be amended with more supervision and increased compliance, so that they do not misuse the same. This means, schools and institutes will have to invest more in terms of compliance and supervision to keep fraud at bay, as most Indian and Chinese students see OPT as a faster way to obtain an H-1B visa. A significant number of Indian graduates get work permits for OPT jobs every year.

It has also been proposed that the H4 Employee Authorisation Document (EAD) be removed. The H4EAD permits the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US. This was a very attractive hiring option for many companies, as H4 EAD workers could be hired at wages much lower than H-1B visa holders. It is said that there are about 70,000 visa holders in the US.

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