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US introduces stricter screening for H1B; Indians may be hit

Indian professionals aspiring to go to the US 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.

world Updated: May 09, 2009 01:07 IST

Indian professionals aspiring to go to the US 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 US 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," Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said.

Imposition of what is seen as protectionist measures in the US 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 benefitted 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.

"Our top obligations are to American workers, making sure American workers have jobs. From an enforcement standpoint, my priority is to make sure that there's no fraud occurring within the H-1B programme at all," Napolitano said at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Napolitano said over the last month, the Department has added some tools to rigorously enforce H-1B visa programme and prevent fraud.

Napolitano comment's on H-1B visa programme came in response to a question from Senator Richard Durbin, who along with Senator Chuck Grassley, has introduced a legislation in the US Senate in this regard.

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

Senator 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 them," Durbin said.

"They charged the citizens of India coming to the US on H-1B visas and 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 US," he alleged.