White House plans to tighten the screws on H-1B visa, says report

Defending his swift action on the controversial immigration order, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, “There is nothing nice about searching for terrorists before they can enter the country ... This was a big part of my campaign. Study the world!”   | Photo Credit: AP

The White House is reportedly ready with an executive order targeting guest worker visa programmes that allows the movement of skilled workers to the U.S., which is used extensively by Indian IT companies.

The U.S government issues 85,000 H-1B category of guest worker visas every year through a lottery system, and this year’s process kicks off on April 1.

According to a draft copy of the executive order published by Vox, the new executive order will also restrict the Optional Practical Training (OPT) work, a job training opportunity available for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Masters from a U.S university.

Spouses of H-1B visa holders could lose their permit to work, which was granted by the previous Obama administration, the Vox report said, but this part is unclear in the draft. The lottery system could be replaced with a new method of selection that will allow only the “the best and the brightest” as beneficiaries of the programme.

The new executive order also envisages an inspector raj in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will be required to carry out “site visits” at places where guest workers with L-1 visas are employed.


Within a period of two years, the DHS will expand such inspections to all sites where guest workers are employed. L-1 visas are used for intra-company transfers. It also requires the DHS to “improve the monitoring of foreign students” in the U.S.

The document titled “Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” was one of the six documents that Vox received from a source. The outlet did not publish the documents until two of them turned out to be authentic. Since publication last week, a third one also turned out to be authentic – the one on restricting travel from Muslim majority countries.

The standard duration of OPT is one year, but with extensions allowed by consecutive administrations it can now extend up to three years for STEM Masters. The Obama administration allowed the last extension in May 2016.

(A recording of the live discussion on Trump's immigration policies and its impact on India was hosted on The Hindu's Facebook page on Jan. 30)

“STEM OPT extension is especially appealing to Indian students, who are concentrated in master's programmes in engineering and computer science. Data from SEVP indicates that in 2016, 83% of Indian students, 43% of Saudi Arabian students, 78% of Iranian students, and 40% of Chinese students were enrolled in STEM programmes,” said Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of InterEdge, a US-based provider of support services for international students.

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Printable version | Apr 30, 2021 3:13:59 AM |

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