Washington: Indian professionals aspiring to go to the U.S. to work may now find it more difficult to get H-1B visas with Washington deciding on stricter screening following complaints of misuse of the facility.

Acting on the complaints, the U.S. has adopted “fraud prevention tactics” to prevent such misuse.

“We’ve added fraud prevention tactics. We’ve begun looking at other more standard fraud investigatory techniques that weren’t being used in H-1B that we are now going to employ. It includes things like sites visits and worksites visits,” said Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Imposition of what is seen as protectionist measures in the U.S. in the wake of the financial meltdown has already had its fallout. There were 44,000 applicants this year for the Congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas which in the past has always been overbooked.

Professionals from India, especially from the IT sector, have traditionally benefited the most from the H-1B scheme.

Due to certain provisions in the stimulus package which prevents American companies having received Federal grant money from hiring overseas skilled workers, not many firms applied for the H-1B visa petitions this year. Ms. Napolitano’s comments on H-1B visa programme came in response to a question from Senator Richard Durbin, along with Senator Chuck Grassley, have introduced a legislation in the U.S. Senate in this regard.

They were also instrumental in inclusion of provisions in the stimulus act, which stops hiring of foreign workers by U.S. companies receiving federal aid money.

Mr. Durbin alleged that most of the H-1B visa fraud is being done by companies in India. “The most outrageous abuses when it comes to H-1B visas include the fact that some major companies overseas, primarily in India, have successfully managed to marshal many of these H-1B visas and make a profit off of them”.

“They charged the citizens of India coming to the United States on H-1B visas and then when they, after three to six years, when they are to return to India, they charge to place them in companies which will then compete with the United States,” he alleged.

“Secondly, there’s a serious concern, a very serious concern that Senator Grassley and I share that many of these H-1B visa holders are going to displace American workers or be placed in positions where unemployed American workers might otherwise have an opportunity,” Mr. Durbin said.

President Barack Obama last week unveiled proposals to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that shipped jobs overseas to countries like India and slammed the current “tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo”. — PTI

Corrections and Clarifications

With reference to a PTI Washington report, "U.S. tightens H-1B visa norms"("International" page, May 11, 2009), Bryan Dalton, Consular Section Chief,US Consulate General, Chennai, clarifies: U.S. companies receiving U.S.Federal funds under various economic recovery and stimulus legislationpackages are not barred from hiring foreign workers. Rather, if they havereceived those funds, they must certify that hiring a foreign citizen willnot displace or disadvantage any American citizen, and that they firstsought Americans to fill the position.