H1B Visa Holders
H1B Visa Holders

Washington: In a big relief for Indian techies, US authorities on Tuesday said the Trump administration is not considering any proposal that would force H1B visa holders to leave the country.

The announcement by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) came days after reports emerged that the US administration was considering tightening H1B visa rules that could lead to deportation of 7,50,000 Indians. The reports had said it was mulling ending extensions for H1B holders.

The USCIS “is not considering a regulatory change that would force H1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing interpretation of Section 104 C of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) statute that states that USCIS may grant the extensions,” an official said. This provides for H1B extensions beyond the 6-year limit.

“Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead,” Jonathan Withington, Chief of Media Relations at the USCIS, said in a statement.

“The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment based visa programmes,” Withington said.

The statement comes after last week’s news report by US-based news agency McClatchy DC Bureau according to which the US was considering new regulations to prevent the extension of H1B visas, the most sought after by Indian IT professionals.

The USCIS was never considering such a policy change, he said adding that “any suggestion that USCIS changed its position because of pressure is absolutely false.”

The reported move had been opposed by both the industry and several lawmakers. The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), a trade association of Indian information technology, had warned that any disruptive move on the visa front would be detrimental for both India and the US.

The USCIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education — masters and above –from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The H1B programme offers temporary US visas that allow companies to hire highly skilled foreign professionals working in areas with shortages of qualified American workers. Since taking office last January, the Trump administration has been talking about cracking down on the H1B visa scheme.