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H-1B visa rules for computer programmers in US: 6 things you need to know

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has changed the guidelines for defining “speciality occupation” while granting H-1B visa

india Updated: Apr 04, 2017 11:12 IST
Yashwant Raj
A “computer programmer”, an entry level position in software industry shorn of additional high-tech specialisations, will no longer be considered a “speciality occupation”, says a new policy memorandum issued March 31.
A “computer programmer”, an entry level position in software industry shorn of additional high-tech specialisations, will no longer be considered a “speciality occupation”, says a new policy memorandum issued March 31.(AP File Photo)

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs and regulates the H-1B visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers, has changed the guidelines for defining “speciality occupation” that its officers will be required to determine when clearing petitions.

1) ‘Computer programmer’ not enough

A “computer programmer”, an entry level position in software industry shorn of additional high-tech specialisations, will no longer be considered a “speciality occupation”, says a new policy memorandum issued March 31.

2) What more is needed

The petitioner, which is the employer, must provide other evidence to establish that the position is a specialty occupation as defined by rules.

For instance, the note says, though a general-purpose bachelor’s degree such as a business administration may be a legitimate prerequisite for a particular position, requiring such a degree, without more, will not justify H-1B specialty occupation visa.

3) Lottery system hit

Immigration lawyers say the new guidelines will impact entry-level positions and heighten scrutiny of petitions all around.

A lawyer said the new guidelines could allow the USCIS to reject petitions selected through the lottery system, which is used by the agency to pick the 65,000 visa grated every year from hundred of thousands applications.

4) Who will be affected

The companies that hire programme-level workers because they are less expensive compared to local Americans. It helps client companies keep costs down, which is at the root of outsourcing.

5) Indian companies

Generally speaking, a lot of Indian firms using this business model could be hit. More qualified workers will command better and higher salaries, which will deny companies the benefits of wage arbitrage, eating into their profits.

6) Legal challenges

The new order could be challenged in court by lawyers who will argue their clients were not given enough time to prepare. The order came on March 31, just days before the opening of 2018 petitions.