The White House is currently considering a rule change the H-1B visa program which would result in the large-scale deportation of H-1B beneficiaries. The rule change was enclosed a Department of Homeland Security Memo. It calls for disallowing H-1B workers to keep their visas while their green card applications are pending.
This change would mean thousands of immigrant workers – 82% of which are Indians and Chinese – would be deported until their green card applications were approved – a process that could take a decade or more. A clear majority of these workers are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers in the tech sector.
The rule change does not take into consideration the extensive waiting time for green card. Green card applications have priority dates. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) sets the number of immigrant visas that may be issued to foreign nationals seeking to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card) each year. When the demand is higher than the supply of visas for a given year in any given category or country, a visa queue (waiting list or backlog) forms. The priority date is the date of filing the is currently being processed.
Priority Dates for an EB-2 green cards are running 9 years behind for Indian nationals. For EB-3 green cards the wait is approximately 11 years for Indian nationals. This is a considerable length of time for the foreign professional to have to spend outside the country while awaiting their green card.
Moreover, deporting tech workers would exacerbate the shortage of tech workers in the U.S. by removing workers from the industry. In addition, American companies would have to move more jobs abroad which would result in a loss of jobs for Americans who work in the tech industry.
This is one of many disheartening moves the administration has made in regard to the H-1B visa. Spousal work permits have been revoked, a preregistration system has been put in place for the H-1B lottery, approval ratings have plummeted to 59%, and a new bill threatens to raise required pay to $135,000 per year, an arbitrary figure not supported by the current system of using the prevailing wage data.
This is another move to further restrict to kill the merit-based visa that most supports our tech corporations and our economy. The H-1B visa resulted in $17.3 billion in revenue across all countries in 2010 alone. In order for the U.S. to remain competitive, the White House must devise immigration policies that are amicable to corporations and innovation. They must take tech shortages and the needs of our most profitable industries into consideration.