MUMBAI: Amidst the growing clamour for clamping down on H-1B visas, a popular work visa especially for Indians hailing from the technology sector, an association of IT service companies and its member-companies are relishing the taste of success of a lawsuit.
Under the terms of a settlement entered into by the immigration agency of the Trump administration with ITServe Alliance, a large coalition of IT service companies in the US, the agency will drop its restrictive policy memo (within 90 days of the settlement agreement).
In a statement sent to TOI, ITServe Alliance stated that “Finally US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has signed a settlement agreement with us, a few hours ago, this follows a March 10, summary judgement which had gone in our favour.”
TOI had front paged coverage of this judgement, in its edition of March 11.
A policy memo issued by USCIS in February 2018, had imposed burdensome requirements on IT service companies, such as having to provide detailed customer contracts and itineraries of employees that are deputed to client sites, with H-1B visa applicaitons.
This had resulted in a sharp spike in requests for evidence (RFEs) while processing H-1B applications filed by IT service companies and also in denials. This policy memo will now be dropped in its entirety, within the 90-day period. Another crucial development is that USCIS will now re-open and adjudicate over 60 H-1B applications petitions that were part of the lawsuit.
“This is a significant milestone in ITServe’s strategy to advance our members’ ability to employ US based technical employees as well as serve our clients without any interruptions to the projects we deliver” said Sudhakar Pennam, chairperson of the governing board of this association.
USCIS also agreed that it will not issue approvals for H-1B petitions with validity periods shorter than the time period requested by the H-1B applicant, unless such decisions include or are accompanied by a brief explanation as to why the validity period has been curtailed. Over the past few years, the tenure of H-1B visas that were allotted was shrinking. In some cases, it was only for a few weeks or days, as opposed to the permissible three-year period. “This hopefully, will now be a rarity rather than the norm,” say immigration experts.
ITServe Alliance adds that USCIS has also agreed to pay a sum of $ 187,000 towards legal costs as part of the settlement.
Kishore Khandavalli, Advisory Director at ITServe Alliance said: “This is a significant milestone as this directly benefits the H-1B employees nationwide, provides them stability and a predictable future.”
Referring to statistical data issued by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), the coalition points out that there are over 6 lakh IT related jobs open as of May 13. The unemployment rate for those in computer related occupations has dropped to 2.8% in May, from 3% prevailing in January. Thus, unemployment cannot be cited as the reason for campaigning for strictures on H-1B visas.
“In the backdrop of the pandemic, we need software professionals to make sure all IT systems are running well and smoothly, given the new work-from-home environment,” adds ITServe Alliance.
Deepali Khadakban, Director (PAC) at the association summed up: “Our members employ thousands of employees in the US, this judgment and settlement will help enable us to keep the projects work and tax dollars in the United States, we need that to happen now more than ever!”