Significant Changes to the H-1B Visa Announced

By Paul Grotas and Tsui Yee

Last updated: 04.04.2017

On March 31, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a policy memo clarifying when the position of ‘computer programmer’ can be considered a specialty occupation to qualify for an H-1B visa. Rescinding a memo from 2000 that is now considered obsolete, this current memo states that computer programmers are not necessarily specialty occupations, because individuals with an associate’s degree may still enter these occupations.

It was surprising that USCIS issued this memo on the eve of the H-1B cap filing deadline of April 1st. Also USCIS announced this past Monday that it would implement efforts to reduce H-1B fraud or abuse. See also related news coverage by The New York Times.

In a press release entitled Combating Fraud and Abuse in the H-1B Visa Program, USCIS announced that it has taken or will take the following steps to deter H-1B fraud or abuse:

  • Established an email address to report suspected H-1B fraud or abuse
  • Provided a detailed list of H-1B fraud indicators
  • Established protections for H-1B workers who report suspected fraud or abuse
  • Expansion of site visits, focusing on the following:
  1. H-1B dependent employers
  2. Cases where USCIS cannot validate an employer’s basic business information
  3. Employers petitioning H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location

These actions indicate the Trump administration’s belief that the H-1B visa program should be curtailed because “many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged.”  Yet, to many US companies, the H-1B visa is a vital and indispensable tool for securing highly skilled and qualified foreign workers.  The H-1B visa is the most commonly used temporary work visa in the U.S.  

The irony in all this is that President Trump has a long history of hiring foreign and immigrant workers for his various businesses and not fairly compensating many of these employees. We view these developments as simply the latest in a series of hypocritical policies put forth by the new President.

Read the March 31,2017 memo.