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US district judge strikes down Trump’s new H-1B visa rules

Venkatesh Ganesh Mumbai December 2 | Updated on December 02, 2020

In a move that could bring cheer to Indian techies looking to work in the US, a California judge has struck down the Donald Trump Administration's policies around tightening eligibility and raising minimum salaries for foreign employees on high-skill work visas.

US District Judge Jeffrey White found that the unemployment crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic was not ‘good cause’ for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Department of Labour to flout the proper regulatory procedure when issuing the two policies, both of which clamped down on H-1B specialty occupation visas. In his ruling, the Judge found that the departments had violated the Administrative Procedures Act when issuing two new regulations.

The Department of Labour recently issued an executive order, which revised the salaries of H-1B wages upwards. Many had objected to this move, saying this could be arm-twisting many small businesses as they would not be able to afford to hire senior-level techies.

The US court order opens up doors for smaller sized companies in the US as well as freshly graduated techies (in specific areas) to be hired on H-1B visas. This comes at a time when the placement season for Indian engineering graduates has just begun.

“Since the last four months we have openings for new hires but due to the administration’s stance on H-1B visas, we put a hold on our hiring. With this ruling, we will apply for H-1B visas as there are not many locals who can fill these roles,” said the CEO of a Michigan-based outsourcing company.

According to Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner of LawQuest, an immigration law firm, this augurs well for Indian IT companies that were reeling under the huge increases in applicable wages for H-1B workers. “Paying higher wages for H1-B visas is bound to push up the cost of doing business for companies and eventually will result in the economy ending up absorbing this (cost),” said Sophie Alcorn of Alcorn Immigration Law.

Stricter definitions

Another welcome result is that the judgment prevents the DHS from imposing stricter definitions in the H-1B classification and degree requirements that were to go into effect on December 7, said Chothani.

But its not yet clear how the incoming Joe Biden administration will view issues around immigration as the Senate is still controlled by Republicans. “This is still up in the air. There will be a minimum wage raise for sure but the absolute numbers are not clear,” said Nitin Kumar, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Appnomic.

Published on December 02, 2020

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