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US drafts stricter rules for H-1B visa

world Updated: Mar 22, 2009 01:40 IST
HT Corresspondent
HT Corresspondent
Hindustan Times

The restrictions on hiring skilled foreign workers on H-1B visas included in the stimulus package have kicked in. The US Citizenship and Immigration Service on Friday announced additional requirements for employers who have received bailout funds from the Treasury Department or emergency loans from the Federal Reserve.

Indians receive the largest share of H-1B visas, meant for specialty occupations. The first category of companies includes banks that have received assistance under the Troubled Asset Relief Programme and the second automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

The stated objective of the Employ American Workers Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Feb. 17, is to ensure that bailed-out companies do not displace U.S. workers.

Under this law, if such a company seeks to hire new H-1B workers, it is considered an “H-1B dependent employer.” H-1B dependent employers must make additional attestations to the Labour Department. Many people have argued that this virtually bars hiring of foreign workers.

Even before the notification was issued, Bank of America withdrew appointment letters it had issued to about 50 foreign students set to graduate from U.S. business schools. In fact, the issue has affected the rollout of something called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF.

The $1-trillion programme aims to jump-start consumer and business lending. Hedge funds, insurers and other companies considering joining the plan are worried about hurdles to bringing in foreign talent, Bloomberg reported. USCIS clarified that the new law does not apply to H-1B petitions seeking to change the status of a person already working for the employer in another authorised category.

"It also does not apply to H-1B petitions seeking an extension of stay for a current employee with the same employer," the agency said. On April 1, USCIS will start accepting H-1B petitions covered by the Fiscal 2010 cap. The financial year begins October 1.