The US H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa. It allows US companies to hire graduate level workers in specialty areas that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. IT is one of these specialised areas. Other sectors are Finance, Accounting, Mathematics, Architecture, Engineering, Medicine etc. It is easier and quicker to apply for a non-immigrant visa than a US Green Card. So H-1B visa route is followed by companies who want to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US. As per latest US immigration law a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas can be made available each fiscal year.
Green Card is officially known as Permanent Resident Card. If you have a green card you are allowed to live and work permanently in the United States. The steps you must take to apply for a Green Card will vary depending on your individual situation. Legal residents can apply for U.S. citizenship only after five years of being green card holders.
New Rules for H-1B Visa Extension
The Department of Homeland Security is considering a new rule that will prevent H-1B visa extension. Currently foreign workers are allowed one three year extension of the visa. At the end of these six years if the foreign guest worker has pending green card then there will be indefinite extension of the H-1B visa, till the green card processing is done.
But under the proposed new rule if the H-1B visa holder has not got a green card at the end of six years the person has to exit USA till the processing is complete. This policy, if implemented, is likely to affect 5 Lakhs Indian professionals working in USA. Another aim of this new rule is to stop use of green card as a route for immigration.
Change in the current rule will affect India more than any other country. More than 50% of H-1B visa issued to foreign workers goes to Indian professionals. In last six years alone around 2.50 Lakhs of Indian workers have gone to USA via H-1B visa route. So this rule if implemented will have major ramification for Indian IT professionals.
Article by Col P Chandra (Retd)
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