The tech industry has been waiting for some time to receive final clarification on H-1B visa reforms proposed by the Trump Administration in 2016. So far, there has been very little movement and widespread confusion when it comes to hiring foreign tech talent. Now, industry groups and special interests are taking steps to gain the clarification employers need to remain compliant.
Industry Leaders Are Demanding Constitutive Action
In November 2018, Compete America, a coalition that advocates for immigration reform and includes the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, argued that current H1-B changes lack clarity, making compliance virtually impossible. The group also complained that current H-1B visa applications are being delayed and denied in greater numbers, as are visa revocations.
In a letter posted on the Compete America website, the group complains that communication has been lax and confusing every step of the way. They write, “…shifts in agency action have been perplexing to our coalition’s members, especially because the agency’s changes in approach were unannounced and unexplained and are not previewed in the regulations governing a qualifying H-1B specialty occupation that have been in effect since 1991.”
Compete America has requested that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) review the policies, assess current practices and communicate more effectively with the employers – including the tech employers, who arguably rely on the H-1B system more than any other industry.
Compete America was preceded in its public criticism by a group called ITServe Alliance, a tech industry membership group. In October, ITServe Alliance filed suit against USCIS claiming the agency was approving visas for less time than the standard three-year duration. According to court documents, ITServe Alliance claims that the agency was issuing H-1B visas for months or just days at a time, claiming that in some cases, the visa was expired before the actual approval arrived.
Clarification Is Not on the Horizon
So why hasn’t the government provided the clarity tech companies are demanding? First, the premium H-1B processing system has been suspended through February of 2019 to allow the government to catch up on a backlog of applications. As this is occurring, it is rumored that the Trump administration is working on a new H-1B lottery process that some believe would actually increase the number of visa holders with advanced degrees.
Action has been slow, and despite demands and even lawsuits from high-profile groups, the administration is still dragging its feet. Clarification and uniform regulations are not likely to be seen any time soon.
Are You Hiring Tech Talent?
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