The United States has raised the specialisation bar for H-1B visas for hiring computer programmers and, on Monday, just around the time it began accepting petitions for 2018, warned employers against using the visa programme to discriminate against American workers.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the H-1B programme, changed guidelines over the weekend to prevent US firms or US-based units of multinationals from using these visas to hire computer programmers.
In a March 31 policy memorandum, the USCIS said a computer programmer with an ability to use IT skill will not be sufficient. A petitioner “must provide other evidence to establish that the particular position is one in a specialty occupation”.
The intention was to push companies to hire only high-skilled workers from abroad and leave low or medium level jobs for Americans, as has been the stated position of some in the Trump administration, who have been critical of this programme.
And on Monday, day one of the opening of the 2018 cycle, the justice department issued a stern warning to employers on using the high-skilled visa programme to discriminate against local workers.
“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division in a statement.
“US workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims,” he added.
While the justice department is known to have investigated and prosecuted allegations of discrimination before, it could not be immediately confirmed if such a warning was ever issued around the time employers began filing H-1B petitions.The justice department said in a statement that anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) “prohibits employers from discriminating against US workers because of their citizenship or national origin in hiring, firing and recruiting”, and added, “Employers violate the INA if they have a discriminatory hiring preference that favors H-1B visa holders over US workers”.