Will not tolerate “misusing” H-1B visa: US Justice Department, as 2017 window opens

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NEW YORK: The H-1B visa filing window for 2017 started today, April, 3, and the Department of Homeland Security will accept applications till April 7, but the Justice Department had a stern warning for companies applying for skilled foreign labor: don’t misuse the H-1B visa to the disadvantage of American workers.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division said, in a statement. “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.”

Under the direction of former Senator Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is likely to go after big and small companies who have had complaints against them for abusing the H-1B visa system. Sessions is a big critic of legal and illegal immigration.

The move also comes on the heels of U.S. Oregon District Court Judge Michael Simon throwing out a lawsuit that challenged the H-1B visa lottery system, saying that the government’s random visa distribution method does not violate the law.

The lawsuit termed the H-1B visa lottery by the USCIS as a “never ending game of chance.” The federal judge didn’t agree with that assessment in his 31-page opinion.

The case was brought by two Portland, Ore. firms, Tenrec Inc., a web development company, and Walker Macy, a landscape architecture firm. Each sought to hire an H-1B visa worker, but lost the lottery. The lawsuit wanted petitions to be processed in the order they are received, and end the lottery system.

It remains to be seen how many H-1B visa applications are received this year, and if a lottery would be required. This year, a total of 85,000 H-1B visas would be granted, with 20,000 of them reserved for foreign graduate students on F-1 visa, with advanced degree. The lottery system is used when applications exceed the 85,000 visas available.

Some top Indian IT companies have recently announced that they would be hiring more employees locally, and slowly wean away from the practice of sending employees from India on H-1B visa and L-1 visa for contract work in the US.

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