The issue surrounding the H-1B visa, coveted by Indian IT professionals, is rearing its ugly head again. This time, it is about the declining approval rate for the visas based on the data released by the US Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS).
Experts say this will impact half a million Indians residing in the US, and renewal of visas, that was automatic until now, may take up to a year.
This is hardly surprising given the kind of crackdown the IT industry has seen in recent times. This will not just have a huge impact on the new applications, but also renewals of H-1B visas, say immigration experts.
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Pankaj Joshi, Managing Director, Nysa Capital, said, there are at least over half a million Indians with an H-1B visa and at least 150,000-200,000 H-1B visas are up for renewal every year. The visa restrictions are making renewals even more difficult.
“Earlier, the Request for Evidence (RFEs) in renewals was rare and renewals were hardly questioned. It is not the case anymore,” Joshi said. He explained that the H-1B renewal process that was automatic now takes anywhere between six months to a year.
The USCIS has been sending more RFEs before renewing and many are even rejected creating uncertainties among the visa holders.
“This will affect at least a million Indians in the US,” he added.
Pallavi Murugesan* and her spouse went to the US on an H-1B visa a few years ago and got their visa renewed recently. However, the uncertainty surrounding the visa is making it difficult for them to stay peaceful.
“We are living in fear all the time as we don’t know what kind of changes this administration will bring. We were lucky to get our visa renewed this time but from here on this is going to be tough,” she said.
The family of three, including Murugesan’s 12-year-old son, are looking to coming back to India after their current term or relocate to countries such as Canada or even Ireland.
Joshi explained that since Donald Trump administration assumed charge, two things have started happening – stringent H-1B visa clearances that include frivolous RFE and a rise in rejection rate. This is what was clearly reflected in the recent data released by the USCIS on Friday.
According to the Wall Street Journal report based on the released data, close to 60 percent of companies that applied for a visa on behalf of foreign workers received requests for additional information in the last quarter of 2018. It was 46 percent in 2017 and 28 percent in 2016. The approval rate fell to 75 percent in the final quarter of 2018 from 83 percent in 2017 and 92 percent in 2016.
“Because of these restrictions, what is happening is that many Indians are either going for the EB-5 visa or looking at other countries,” Joshi said. The country is seeing an increase in demand for EB-5 visa since 2015, where it stood over 200 to 850 in 2018.
EB-5 requires the applicant to invest $500,000 in the US projects and create employment for at least 10 Americans. Once the approval is in place it takes 2-2.5 years to get the Green Card instead of 15 years now. “But this number will increase to five years as we have reached the country cap of 700 visas per country,” Joshi added.
Given the situation, people are Murugesan are looking to move to countries that offer better visa regulations. Immigration service providers such as Joshi are expanding services to other countries such as Canada, the UK, Ireland and Schengen countries last year to cater to this crowd.(*Name changed to protect identity.)