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Suspension of express visa may be to facilitate merit based immigration system

Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan

 With the suspension of expedited processing of H1B visas for six months, there is growing apprehension among students aspiring for H1B Visa in United States. Recently U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that United States suspended the expedited processing of H1B visas for six months with effect from April 3rd 2017 thus eliminating the option of shorter wait times for the program that helps highly skilled foreigners to work at US companies. Expedited processing of H1B visas facilitate companies submitting applications for H-1B visas for potential employees can pay an additional cost of $1,225 dollars so as to get the visa within 15 days or the fee will be refunded. But the unexpected decision to curtail the visa services will temporarily affect aspiring H1B visa candidates.

US parliament is planning to make an amendment in H1B visa which will affect Indians who form 15 percent of H1B visa holders in United States. H1B visa is issued for technocrats, scientists, engineers and other professionals to work in United States. Proposed changes in H1B visa include restriction on visa issuing and salary requirements. Recently it has been decided that H1B visa holders are to be paid 130000 US dollars instead of 60000 US dollars annually.
 The change comes when President Trump made announcement on merit based immigration system the day before suspension of premium visa. Merit based immigration system will be beneficial for Indian students who completed STEM courses from US. Moreover it will be beneficial to tech professionals from India since it is a fact that Trump will not get required number of STEM professionals from US. Now Trump is concentrating on semiskilled or unskilled jobs wherein Americans were not getting enough opportunities. So ‘Americans first’ agenda will be applicable to unskilled/semi skilled worker category. IT and medical professionals from India are the major group working in United States under H1B visa. Indian Scientists forms 3 percent of total scientist population in US and contribute more than 30 percent scientific contribution to the country.
Trump introduced the idea of a merit-based immigration system after invoking the memory and words of late President Abraham Lincoln, saying, "Lincoln was right and it is time we heeded his words."Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families -- including immigrant families -- enter the middle class," Trump said in a State of the Union-style address that lasted for an hour. So the suspension of premium H1B visa happened in order to introduce merit based immigration system.
The H-1B visa program is the main pathway for highly skilled foreigners to work at US companies. Over the years, US lawmakers have debated proposals to change the popular H-1B visa program, with suggestions for how to fix it a highly contentious topic.
The proposed legislation would eliminate the lottery system in favour of a "preference system" created by USCIS to give priority to foreign students educated in the US. In doing so, it would aim to weed out foreign outsourcing firms, which are said to exploit the system.
It would also require employers to make a "good faith effort" to recruit American workers over foreigners, as well as give the departments of Homeland Security and Labor more authority to investigate fraud and abuse.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would start accepting the H-1B visa applications for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1, 2017, from April 3. “This temporary suspension will help to reduce overall H-1B processing time,” By temporarily suspending premium processing, the USCIS has said that it will be able to process long-pending petitions, which they have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years, and prioritise adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.
No need to worry
For Silicon Valley companies, many of which employ large number of H-1B holders, this move could signal that waiting time for approval may get much longer. But with the onset of merit based immigration system undue delay in visa processing can be reduced. Moreover there are chances where in additional fee may be eliminated and the system will become more transparent in nature. 
Meanwhile Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged US president to develop a reflective, balanced and farsighted perspective on movement of skilled professionals. Proposed control on H1B visa will affect the professionals from India who are aspiring to work in United States. India is worried about the prospects of IT industry where 80 percent of the export revenue is from United States. Uncertainty prevails in IT sector with regard to campus recruitment and hiring rates. Some of the IT companies even reduced the campus hiring rates. But the recent suspension of express visa system may not affect Indians, but delay their visit for more than six months. But in long run it will be beneficial to Indian students at a time when merit based immigration becomes operational.
 (Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan is the educational and Career Consultant and Director of Entrepreneurship at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Pookode, Wayanad. E mail-tpsethu2000@gmail.com)
               
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