H-1B visas are once again open to Indian IT workers

The US government has reversed regulatory changes that would have narrowed the definition of the H-1B visa program. It comes as a relief for its major beneficiaries, Indian IT workers.

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reversed a regulatory change redefining the ‘specialty occupations’ that can apply for H-1B visas. The change would have restricted which applicants were eligible for the visas, which allow highly skilled foreign workers to travel to the US for work. The move comes as a relief to thousands of Indians with the ‘American Dream’.

The original rule change, proposed by the former President Donald Trump’s administration, would have curbed off-site placement of H-1B staff, raised employer compliance obligations, and reduced H-1B visa validity for workers employed at third-party job sites.

The rule change was made in October 2020, but rejected in December by the US District Court for the Northern District of California. However, it took the DHS until May 19, 2021, to reverse the change in the Code of Federal Regulations.

It’s another piece of good news for foreign workers seeking jobs in the U.S.: In March, President Joe Biden’s administration allowed a Trump-era ban on new H-1B visas to expire.

Mahesh Jain, director and CEO of IT talent sourcing firm Hirexa, said the announcements will prompt companies across the globe to rethink their strategy towards deploying talent to the US. “The change comes as a relief for Indian information technology firms, which are among the largest users of such visas. The move from the Biden administration will make ‘America Great Again.’ It’s a symbiotic and rational approach and we all are integral part of one global market.”

Staffing firm TeamLease’s VP and business head Siva Prasad Nanduri said there might not be a direct impact from the new H-1B announcement in the recruitment process of the IT companies. However, he said, it’s a good move by the US government. With this, more H-1B visas will be given to the immigrant workforce and Indians will have more opportunities.

Hirexa’s Jain said that the timing might reduce the effect of the latest announcement, since it arrived during the peak of the second wave of the COVID pandemic in India.

The biggest downside of this, according to Nanduri, is that there is no clarity on rate card changes with respect to wages as there is no directive on the pay scales. The US labor department has delayed a regulation that would raise prevailing H-1B and other visa wages from May 14, 2021, to November 14, 2022.

Hiring trends in India

Nanduri said contract staffing in India has seen an increase in the past year. “The reason for this is that it is easier and has a faster turnaround time. Companies with project technicalities where they need people and can’t wait for 30 or 60 days, they choose contract-based staff.” It wasn’t just contract staffing that saw an increase, he said: other recruitments in IT have also seen a surge. He credited this to the huge investments for IT and digital infrastructure projects and hybrid working culture. “This is not just true for IT companies, but across industries where there are IT functions.”

Cloud computing, RPA, data scientist, cybersecurity specialists, full-stack developers, UI/UX designers are the most sought-after job roles today, he said, and they have seen a significant increase in demand in the last year: “From the first wave to the second wave of COVID, these skills have seen an increase of at least 20 percent.” These skill sets are important for candidates dreaming of American jobs: “Reskilling or upskilling with these latest skills will equip them better for H-1B qualification,” he said.

Jain, meanwhile, says Indian talent is always ready for the H-1B visa category.

“From a qualification and skill perspective, we do not have any challenges. What we need to invest in is building the workforce which fits in the cutting-edge tech stack, making the Indian workforce to have an edge over global talent in the technology sector. This can happen when we have forward thinking policies from the Government and collaborative mindset from companies,” Jain concluded.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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