NEW YORK – As a part of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promise of the “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may soon come out with a proposal – which is currently in an internal memo stage – that would prevent H-1B visa extensions, while many Indians wait for their green cards, leading to a potential ‘mass deportation.’
According to a McClatchy Bureau report, the Trump administration is specifically looking at whether it can reinterpret the “may grant” language of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to stop making the extensions.
Currently, the act allows the administration to extend H-1B visas for thousands of immigrants beyond the allowed two, three-year terms if a green card is pending, but The Hindustan Times reports that the DHS intends to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose green card applications have already been accepted, sending an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indians back home.
“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” said a U.S. source briefed by Homeland Security officials.
A visa holder is granted an H-1B visa for three years and is considered for three more years with one extension after which they must return to their country. However, in the meantime, if they are approved for a green card then they are allowed to wait in the U.S., using the extensions and for Indians, that wait could be for years given the massive backlog caused by the system of per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies.
An H-1B visa holder is granted a visa extension anywhere between one to three years, and the USCIS may grant some visa holders as many extensions as needed depending upon the wait for their green card.
The Trump administration also announced in February 2017 that it plans to also roll back on the H-4 EAD visa program which attracts and retains highly skilled foreign workers by granting work authorization to the spouses of H-1B visa holders who are awaiting their green cards.
The administration also plans to redefine high-specialty professionals for the purpose of H-1B visas.
The United States grants 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visa every year out of which 65,000 are hired abroad and 20,000 are enrolled in advanced degree courses in U.S. schools and colleges.
An estimated 70% of these visas go to Indians who are hired mostly by American companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google and some by American arms of Indian tech giants like Infosys, Wipro and TCS.
The Hindustan Times reports that if the proposal goes through then it will be American companies getting hit, rather than Indian ones who tend to rotate workers, as they are more likely to apply for their H-1B employees’ green cards.