DHS Seeks Possible Restriction on H-1B Visa Extensions


(ESPAÑOL) The Department of Homeland Security is considering new regulations that would prevent H-1B visa extensions.

The proposal, being drafted in memos shared between DHS department heads, is part of President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative promised during the 2016 campaign.

The administration is specifically looking at whether it can reinterpret the “may grant” language of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act to stop making the extensions. The act currently allows the administration to extend the H-1B visas for thousands of immigrants, predominantly Indian immigrants, beyond the allowed two three-year terms if a green card is pending.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” said a U.S. source briefed by Homeland Security officials.

Officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is under DHS, said they can’t discuss “any part of the pre-decisional processes.”

The proposal is part of a series of new regulations the Trump administration is taking at the same time a bipartisan group of lawmakers moves forward on legislation to tighten rules that award visas to H-1B holders. The administration also has announced plans to end work eligibility for spouses of H-1B holders. In addition, the administration is considering changes to the allocation of H-1B visas to give priority to more highly educated and skilled workers.

While the H-1B issue doesn’t draw the same attention as other immigration-related policy deliberations, such as building a wall across the southern border, it is significant to American employers. Tech giants such as Facebook and other big companies, from Bank of America to Caterpillar, have long argued that the 85,000 annual cap on these visas is too low and that they need to bring in more foreign tech workers because they can’t find enough highly-skilled American workers.

On the other side, critics of the program say H-1B visas are increasingly being abused and that American workers are being laid off as U.S. companies send work to outsourcing companies that employ thousands of H-1B workers.

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