Companies have been given a stern warning to not discriminate against Americans by “misusing” the H-1B work visa, the most sought after visa by Indian IT professionals and firms.
On Monday, The Justice and Homeland Security departments issued warnings to numerous companies applying for the foreign guest-worker program, telling company executives to fill those jobs with Americans first. The Trump administration has promised more investigations and prosecutions against companies that abuse the system.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division said.
The warning comes as the government begins to accept employers’ H-1B visa petitions for the next fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017. On Friday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which comes under the Homeland Security Department, released rules that could limit the number of computer programmers who get H-1B visas. The USCIS also announced multiple measures to “deter and detect” the “fraud and abuse” of the H-1B visa program.
The announcement suggests that the US government will be especially strict in the approval of H-1B visas this year, as the USCIS opened the application process on Monday, starting a scramble for 85,000 highly coveted slots.
A report in the New York Times said the visa program faces uncertainty as it has been criticized for being what some people call a scheme to displace American workers with cheap foreign ones. The report goes on to call this year’s rush to file the visa applications as an all-out scramble, since the future of the program is still unclear.
The recent moves seem to some, as a design to please Trump’s supporters, who have been urging him to fulfill his campaign promise of eviscerating the H-1B program, criticizing it for giving American workers unfair competition. They were waiting for major reforms before the application process started this week, but said Mr. Trump failed to deliver on his promise.
“Personally, I am still waiting for the president to just tell us his plan and tell us he cares about this issue. The silence and inaction, together, make it hard for me to believe the president is still on the side of the American worker as it relates to H-1B visas, outsourcing and offshoring,” said Sara Blackwell, a Florida lawyer who has represented employees who lost jobs to H-1B visa holders.