Online forums including social media have become an outlet for anxious and anonymous H1B aspirants to vent emotions amid uncertainty over the future of their careers
Emotions are running high in Indian tech circles after the Donald Trump administration amended the H1-B visa guidelines, making it difficult for foreign computer graduates to work in the US.
The US quietly reworked its H1B visa policy over the weekend, and this is likely to impact entry-level IT workers the hardest. About 40 percent of the IT workers who apply for tech jobs fall under the entry-level category.
Many who had entered the US on an H1B visa through IT consultancies and offshoring firms are finding that visa renewals are taking longer. Fresh H1B applications are pending with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services since months, leading to anxiety among candidates and their families.
Online forums including social media have become an outlet for anxious and anonymous H1B aspirants to vent amid uncertainty over the future of their careers.
Some workers whose visa renewals have been recently denied by employers are asking their companies to fire them so that they can stay in the US for a grace period of 60 days and find another possible sponsor.
“I am employed on an H1B by an Indian IT services company and currently here in the USA," says a perplexed H1B aspirant on a social forum. "Unfortunately, my project is getting cancelled due to budget issues. A grace period is only applicable only if the employer terminates me.”
Employers are now expected to make hurried designation changes or promote their existing H1B holders to justify to government agencies that they are not replacing local citizens with cheap foreign labour.
Fearing visa cancellation or being denied re-entry, many Indian techies in the US are unable to return home to address to urgent family needs.
Employees on H1B who are ill or are on maternity leave are also a worried lot.
“I am on H1B and live in California. Due to maternity health issues I was hospitalised in October 2016 and the California government helped me with state disability insurance,” said an H1B worker on social media. She is worried about her visa not being renewed since she has been off the payrolls for a few months.
For those whose H1B renewal requests have been denied, there is also concern about their spouses who are in the country on an H4 dependent visa.
Some are opting to become students again just to stay in the US. This comes even as reports emerge that the Department of Homeland Security is actively reconsidering the guidelines to allow people on an H4 visa to work in the US as they compete with US workers for jobs.
A court case has also been filed against the Department of Homeland Security by various associations on allowing H4 holders to work in the US.
Even as the anxiety among H1B aspirants persists, many voices from inside the US have come out in support of the move by Trump administration, citing it as a way to protect American IT jobs.
“The upshot is that (now) a computer programming position is not automatically a specialty occupation,” Ron Hira, an associate professor at Washington DC’s Howard University, told Bloomberg.
Silicon Valley companies have not yet issued a statement regarding the new amendments.
However, companies such as Google have advised their foreign workers in the US in last few months to check their visa status before leaving the country as they might not be allowed entry on return.
Indian IT Industry leaders have advised their offshoring project managers to recruit local talent from American colleges rather than opting for foreign workers on H1B to support local operations in the US.About 120,000 H1B holders are estimated to be present in the US and with their H4 companions, the total active workforce is expected to be higher.