Showing posts with label H1-B. Show all posts
Showing posts with label H1-B. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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U.S. no longer the dream destination for Indian students

The U.S. is no longer the dream destination for Indian students. Data released by the U.S. embassy has shown a sharp decrease in the number of students opting to study in the U.S. according to analysts, Indian students are seeking other destinations because of the global slowdown and tight visa procedures, reports IBN Live.

The U.S. embassy data reveals there is a 25 percent decrease in F1 student visas over the past one year, which means only 25,680 U.S. visas were issued for Indian students between October 2008 and September 2009 as compared to 34,510 visas last year.

"A large number of students wanted to stay on and work after the studies so as to cover the cost of the education. This is not happening because of the recession and the lack of jobs available in the U.S.," said, Director of Career Smart, Usha Albuquerque.

The loss of U.S. is naturally a gain for other countries like Canada, Australia, Germany, New Zealand and France. Human Resource analysts like Career Smart say that these countries are proving to be better student destinations, both in terms of affordability and easy visa procedure. "Because of the recession a large number of universities have cut back on their funding. Also, in the U.S. it is far more expensive than any other country and I think students have started realizing the good courses in other countries," Albuquerque explained.

Many of the students also apparently realize that India now offers more job opportunities as compared to foreign countries where they will have to spend much more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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US facing dearth of skilled workforce: Survey

In what could be signs of prolonged trouble for employees and businesses even after the economic recovery, the lack of better educated and trained workforce in the US is intensifying the unemployment problem, says a study.

The study by an independent commission, The Springboard Project, said the US is at risk of losing its "competitive edge" and its workers' economic potential by not addressing business' growing demand for a better educated and better trained workforce.

"American workers' unmet need for further education and training is exacerbating today's unemployment problem and portending long-term trouble for workers and businesses - even after the economy recovers," the report stated.

The project is an independent commission started by Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, is creating innovative approaches to help US workers to develop the skills they need to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Indicating increased need for a better skilled workforce as much as 65 per cent of employers surveyed said they would require an associate's degree or higher for most positions.

The survey found a glaring need for workers with higher levels of skills and credentials, which was in sharp contrast with employers' modest efforts to provide training.

The survey revealed half of employers currently have such a serious gap between their needs and employees' skills that it affects their productivity.

But, though they see a need for highly skilled workers, nearly half (48 per cent) of employers do not provide or require ongoing education or skills training for their employees, primarily because of cost, it added.

On the other hand, workers also understand the value of training, but are being confronted by obstacles to making it a reality.

About 62 per cent of workers said a convincing reason to pursue training is that the future economy would be extremely demanding and if their skills are not up to date, someone would pass them by, The Springboard Project survey said.

However, a large proportion of workers are not pursuing training and education because of practical obstacles. Workers cite cost, convenience and lack of reliable information on trainings which would lead to a job or higher salaries as the top three factors preventing them from enhancing their skills and improving their education.

"The survey findings underscore the fact that we can and must do a better job of training and developing talent in the US," The Springboard Project Chairman William D Green said.

"With these findings, we can better understand challenges facing our workforce and developing and implementing solutions to overcome them is critical to ensuring US' future," Green added.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

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Mahindra Satyam to reshuffle US team

Having effected changes to its top deck in Australia and New Zealand earlier, and in Europe just last week, Mahindra Satyam is now planning a reallocation of responsibilities at its bread-and-butter US operations that accounts for a major portion of its revenue.

Mahindra Satyam CEO C P Gurnani said a "reshuffle" in the United States is likely to be announced "in the next 7-10 days", while remaining hazy on what the proposed modifications would entail.
While it was under Ramalinga Raju, the US accounted for 59-60% of the firm's revenue, a scenario that, Gurnani said, might not have changed much.

However, Gurnani (an ex-Tech Mahindra honcho) was quick to clarify that it would be incorrect to presume that the likely re-arrangement would necessarily result in a Tech Mahindra person being asked to head Mahindra Satyam's US operations.

Incidentally, the new head of Mahindra Satyam's Europe operations, Vikram Nair, used to enjoy the same position at Tech Mahindra before. Last month, GE -- Mahindra Satyam's key client in the US and also one of its top 5 customers worldwide -- announced that it was extending its multi-million dollar contract with the Indian company for three years, starting January 2010.

In September, another important US customer O C Tanner reaffirmed its commitment to Mahindra Satyam. "Clearly, we will get to handle the enterprise applications side of the order that Tech Mahindra has bagged from Etisalat," Gurnani said.

Friday, October 2, 2009

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More than 18,000 H-1B visas yet to be grabbed

Reflecting the dire straits of the US job market and strict regulations imposed by the Congress, over 18,000 of the H-1B visas, once the most sought after by Indian professionals, is yet to be grabbed.

According to the latest figure update by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), approximately 46,700 of the H-1B visas in the general category were filled up by September 25; against a Congressional mandated figure of 65,000.

Thus, more than 18,000 H-1B visas or over one-fourth of the slot are still to be filled up, even as the financial year began today.

Primarily meant for professionals from computers and information technology sectors, the H-1B visas have been one of the most sought after visas for foreign professionals in previous years. The US Citizenship and immigration Service (USCIS) have been receiving several times the number of the allocated quota.

However, this is for the first time in several years that thousands of H-1B visas are still to be filled up even at the start of the financial year.

This is unlike the previous years when the entire 65,000 visas were grabbed on day one. Many a times, the USCIS had to resort to a computerised lottery to determine the successful candidates.
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Over 2000 IITians to unleash skilled India through PanIIT

More than 2000 IITians are expected to attend the largest entrepreneurship conference of PanIIT, to be held in Chicago from October 9 to October 11, 2009. PanIIT aims to be a platform to provide networking opportunities for IITians, contribute proactively to nation building and enhance the IIT brand.

The importance of PAN IIT, which represents alumni from all IIT campuses, in the U.S. can be seen as around 60 percent of Silicon Valley startups have at least one IIT graduate in the founder's rank. "In 2007, CBS 60 minutes brought the IIT brand front and center, and in 2005, the U.S. Congress had honoured the alumni for their contributions to the U.S. economy," says Piyush Agrawal, Spokesperson, PanIIT.

The worthy names of the industry will gather at this conference to discuss the different issues, the world is facing today. To add value to the conference and reflecting IIT's status across the world, former U.S. President Bill Clinton will join the IITians to share his views. The former president will address the gathering about challenges and opportunities in today's key global issues such as public health, education, and climate change with a focus on transforming ideas into action.

This seventh Global Alumni conference of PanIIT, will acknowledge the importance of 'Entrepreneurship and Innovation in a Global Economy'. The event will see business leaders from leading corporations delivering their experiences in the line of entrepreneurship. The Indian origin, U.S. Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Aneesh Chopra, will deliver the keynote address at the conference which will be opened by India's Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal. The other keynote speakers will include Nathan Myhrvold, CEO, Intellectual Ventures and Founder of Microsoft Research, Carl Schramm, President and CEO, Kauffman Foundation, Jim Owens, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar and Jim Rogers, Chairman and CEO, Duke Energy.

The winners of 2009 PanIIT award have been selected from over 200 nominees by a panel of luminary judges. The Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Dr. (Late) Rajeev Motwani, who was an advisor to Google founders Sergery Brin, Larry Page and many more. The Academic Excellence Award will be given to Dr. Pradeep Khosla, Dean, College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon, the Corporate Excellence Award to Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology Officer, Cisco. Dr. Suhas Patil, Chairman, Emeritus Cirrus Logicand Chairman, Digite and Cradle Technologies will be awarded the Entrepreneurial Achievement Award and the Technology Leadership Award will be given to Dr. Ravi Sethi, President, Avaya Labs. "These individuals have helped to make the IITs in India one of the most elite educational institutions in the world today," said Umang Gupta, Co-Chairman, Board of Directors, PanIIT and CEO, Keynote Systems.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

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TCS: We need more time

The new head of India's top outsourcing firm, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, said that it would take another few months to tell whether business spending was recovering, as customers were still working on their IT budgets for 2010.

"We'll have to wait for the next three months. All the customers are going through their cycles now," N Chandrasekaran, who takes over as chief executive when S Ramadorai retires on October 5, said in an interview.

TCS, which provides consulting, system integration and call center management, competes with India's Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd as well as big global players such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co and Accenture which offer similar services to multinational corporate clients.

Ramadorai, in the same interview, said the company was seeing more stability but that a more substantial recovery would take time.

"When is there going to be growth? I think it's going to take a while," he said.

Despite the cautious outlook and a recently announced plan by Dell Inc to buy technology services company Perot Systems, Chandrasekaran said he did not see a need for TCS to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions.

"It's not a question of ... getting squeezed" by US companies beefing up their services offerings, Chandrasekaran, currently chief operating officer, said.

"There is a lot of room for organic growth. We're expanding our footprint, we're expanding our portfolio of services that we offer," he said. But he added that TCS would consider acquisitions that bolster the company's portfolio of services.

He also said the company plans to add 1,000 jobs in the United States in the next year to boost its presence in a market TCS sees recovering ahead of other regions like Europe. The company currently has around 13,000 workers in the US.

Friday, September 25, 2009

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US tech industry lost 115K jobs in H1

Seems Indian techies have been luckier than their counterparts in the US. According to a study by TechAmerica Foundation, US technology industry cut 115,000 jobs in the first half of 2009, compared to the 72,900 tech jobs added in the same period in 2008.

However, in the US too, the tech sector seems better than other industry verticals. While between June 2008 to June 2009, tech lost 224,100 jobs, a 3.7% decline; the US private sector shed jobs at a higher pace of 5.1%.

The Washington-based non-profit foundation also said that high-tech manufacturing in the US continues to shed jobs, having lost 69,500 from January to June 2009. The high-tech services sectors shed 45,500 jobs from January to June 2009, a 1% drop.

The report also said that for the first time in its 5-year history, all three services sectors saw losses: engineering and tech services lost 21,500 jobs, while communications services shed 13,600 jobs. In software services the job cuts stood at 10,400.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

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Companies continue to send employees overseas amid cost cuts: KPMG

Companies across the world have continued to send employees overseas to take advantage of business opportunities, despite a reduced budget for international assignment programs during the economic downturn, a KPMG survey says.

According to a survey of 470 human resources (HR) executives by the global consultancy, firms are implementing a variety of options to potentially save costs associated with long-term or standard assignments.

Some of these options include short-term assignments (STAs), currently being used by 79 per cent of firms, while permanent transfers is being utilised by 45 per cent of organisations, the survey said.

"KPMG survey results mirror our experience with clients. We saw that companies/employers often adjusted parts of their programs and examined alternate assignment types based on their business needs, but continued to send assignees to work on long-term business opportunities overseas," KPMG LLP managing director of Global Mobility Advisory Services Achim Mossmann said.

"As the decline in global economy affected almost every area of business and most firms assessed cost-effectiveness of their operations, international assignments were no exception," Mossmann added.

The KPMG survey also revealed that firms made changes to various policy provisions to save costs.

For example, to help determine the cost of living adjustment (COLA) calculation on their assignee packages, 31 per cent of the firms surveyed are using an "efficient purchaser index".

The index is a sliding scale measurement of the ratio of the cost-of-living between the home and host locations, which assumes that an experienced assignee is a 'smart shopper' and is able to purchase goods and services more economically than the average assignee.

The KPMG survey revealed that 49 per cent of respondents find assignees take too much time to administer. Perhaps in response to this view, almost half (47 per cent) of the respondents outsource parts of their international assignment programs to gain access to a service provider's global resources and expertise.

"In some cases, HR departments have been downsized leaving fewer people to manage more work. In these situations, administrative models are often reviewed to achieve efficiency and cost savings," Mossmann said.

The KPMG report stated that outsourcing certain program elements can help reduce the time and effort spent by HR professionals and allows the organisation to tap into the economies of scale in an outsourcing environment.

"As organisations continue to utilise international assignments, they also need to make sure there is a mechanism in place to measure how these assignments provide long-term benefits to the organisation," it added.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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20,000 H1B visas still up for grabs in the US

About 20,000 H-1B visas, one of the most sought after for overseas professionals including Indians, are still up for grabs in the US which is struggling to fill up the allocated number of 65,000, even as less than a month remains before the start of the next financial year.

Primarily meant for computers and information technology professionals, the H-1B visas have been one of the most sought after for foreign professionals in previous years.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been receiving several times the number of the allocated quota. However, this year, the USCIS is struggling to fill up the 65,000 H-1B visas as mandated by the US Congress.

This is mainly attributed to the strict approval policy adopted by the USCIS this year and the ongoing economic recession, which has resulted in a 26-year high unemployment rate of 9.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


US govt seeks $5 mn for H-1B visa fraud

The US government has reportedly filed a new expanded indictment against an IT services company, Visions System, for fraudulently using H-1B visas.

According to a report in Computerworld, the US government alleges that the New Jersey-based IT services company paid H-1B workers based on Iowa's lower prevailing wage rates through the creation of shell firms in that state, and not the prevailing wage rates of the higher paying locations where they worked.

According to the report, if federal prosecutors win their case against Visions System Group Inc, they will ask the court to approve $4.9 million in forfeited assets, an amount "representing the total amount of gross proceeds obtained as a result of offenses," the government said.

However, this amount is a reduction from the $7.4 million the US sought from Visions Systems in its initial indictment, filed earlier this year. The reduction was not explained in court documents.

Visions Systems and its executives named in the indictment are fighting the charges in US District Court in Iowa. The attorney representing Vision Systems disputes the government's charge. The news report quotes the company's attorney, Mark Weinhardt, saying that the workers were paid at or above the prevailing wage rates of the places that they were working.

"Vision Systems Group's business was to bring highly trained computer specialists to the United States to serve a need that was unmet or underserved by our native population. We don't think bringing people from abroad to meet that need is or should be a crime," Visions Systems attorney reportedly said.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Nasscom proposes new service visa to replace H-1B

The country’s software industry body Nasscom has proposed a new category of service visas for the US to replace the controversial H-1B visa. The service visa will enable companies to send their employees to the US on work for a certain period and will not lead to immigration or permanent residency.

Nasscom has initiated dialogue with key Congressmen and industry groups, such as TechAmerica, Compete America and the US India Business Council, for the proposed change in visa. It is also encouraging a more comprehensive debate on the issue of immigration abuse rather than limiting it only to H-1B or L1 visas.

“We do not wish to encourage the abuse of visas for immigration. Our objective is to get the work done and bring back our people. There are 11,000-12,000 Indians who go to the US for work and their average stay is less than two years,” said Som Mittal, president, Nasscom. He said the service visa, along the lines of the work permit that Europe currently has for overseas workers, would help address the concerns of visa abuse.

In April this year, US senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durban proposed a legislation to limit both H-1B and L1 visas and force firms with over 50% of their staff as H-1B and L-1 visa holders to hire US locals, sending alarm bells through the Indian IT industry. Nassscom’s move, if successful, will protect the interests of the Indian IT industry by allowing them to continue sending their employees to the US on service visas for the duration of the work. “There is a need to differentiate between matters of trade and immigration,” said Mr Mittal.

“The service visa will enable US companies to avail the best of Indian talent without worrying about immigration issues. It will not have residency or permanent citizenship implications,” said Ganesh Natarajan, vice-chairman, Zensar Technologies.

Technology firms, both Indian and multinational, are one of the largest users of H1-B visas. In the past few years, there have many unsuccessful attempts to restrict the use of H1-B visas through legislations that have proposed a cap on the number of visas that can be issued.

According to industry estimates, there are about 12,000 employees from Indian IT firms and 10,000 from American IT firms that go to the US annually on these visas.

This year, however, because of the slowdown and reduced demand for technology services, only around 45,000 H-1B visas have been issued compared to the total available 65,000 H-1B visas. “Usually, the entire H-1B quota is filled up in a matter of days. This year, there are only four months to go and the quota is still not filled,” said a senior IT industry executive.

Free the H-1Bs, Free the Economy

This is a guest post by Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Executive in Residence at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.
Originally posted on TheWashingtonPost

I have a suggestion for our President on how to boost economic growth without spending a penny: Free the H-1B's.

More than a million doctors, engineers, scientists, researchers, and other skilled workers and their families in the U.S. are stuck in ?immigration limbo." They entered the country legally and have contributed disproportionately to our nation?s competitiveness. They paid our high taxes and have been model citizens. All they want to do is to share the American dream and help us grow our economy.

They could be starting companies, buying houses, building community centers, and splurging like Americans. But because we don?t have enough permanent-resident visas (green cards) for them, they?re stuck in the same old jobs they had maybe a decade ago when they entered this country. They are getting really frustrated and many are returning to their home countries to become unwilling competitors. And they are taking our economic recovery with them.

Xenophobes will claim that immigrants take jobs away and blame them for everything that is wrong in their lives and in America. But as TechCrunch wrote last week, skilled immigrants create more jobs than they take away. That is a fact. My research team documented that one quarter of all technology and engineering startups nationwide from 1995 to 2005 were started by immigrants. In Boston, it was 31%, in New York, 44%, and in Silicon Valley an astonishing 52%. In 2005, these immigrant founded companies employed 450,000 workers. Add it up. That?s far more than all the tech workers we gave green cards to in that period.

It?s not only jobs that they've created. In 2006, more than 25% of U.S. global patents had authors who were born abroad ¿ and this doesn?t even count people like me, who came here, became citizens, and then filed multiple patents. Of Qualcomm?s global patents, 72% had foreign-born authors, as did 65% of Merck?s, 64% of GE?s, and 60% of Cisco?s. I?m not talking about silly patents filed with the U.S. Patent Office here, I?m talking about WIPO PCT applications ¿ the patents that help our companies compete globally.

Why does Silicon Valley need a foreign-born workforce? Because these immigrants are able come to a foreign land where they face hardship and discrimination and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world?s best technical minds and most successful entrepreneurs. They are able motivate Silicon Valley?s top guns to work even harder and think smarter. They add a global perspective and enrich America.

The largest immigrant founding groups are Indian, British, and Chinese. Indian-born immigrants, for example, founded 6.7% of America?s tech companies and 15.5% of those in Silicon Valley ¿ but, according to the U.S. census, constitute way less than 1% of the U.S. population. So do the Chinese, but they contribute to 16.8% of our global patents. It doesn?t take a statistician to figure that these are pretty impressive numbers.

Yes, I know that H-1B?s don?t start companies. And that is the problem. We don't let them.

Hundreds of thousands of mostly very smart and highly educated workers who could be starting companies are not. While they wait for their green cards, they can?t even change jobs or accept a promotion, for fear of losing their turn in line. If they lose their job, they have to find another job within 30 days ¿ or get booted out of the country. Their employers know that these workers aren?t going anywhere, so they can go easy on the salary increases and bonuses. Some unscrupulous employers do take advantage of them. And their spouses usually can?t work, and in some states can?t even get drivers licenses, because they don?t have social-security numbers. Does this sound like America?

Unlike the daunting economic problems facing the country, this problem is easy to fix. Just increase the number of green cards for skilled workers. Maybe let them cut the line if they buy a house or start a company that employs a bunch of Americans. My guess is that we?ll get tens of thousands of startups and a couple of hundred thousand houses sold. That is a bigger economic boost than the clunkers program we've just thrown $2 billion dollars at.

Friday, August 28, 2009

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H1-B restriction: Silicon Valley to be hurt

Several bright minds outside America take that flight to the U.S. seeking better opportunities in places like Silicon Valley, which is often described as the Mecca for entrepreneurs. However, with the hue and cry surrounding the H-1B visas the flow of immigrants into U.S. may get affected, which may also diminish the tech prowess of the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

There was at least one immigrant founder in 25 percent of all engineering and technology companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005, reveals a study by a group of Professors in Duke University and the University of California. These entities generated over $52 billion in 2005 sales, while creating over 450,000 jobs as of 2005. With these contributions by the immigrants in the U.S., any impediments in the issuance H1-B visa can have a huge impact on the American economy.

The U.S. administration under George W Bush had been pushing for immigration reforms, which failed to take shape last year. There are roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and the reforms are aimed at making a way for some of these immigrants to stay in the country legally. Now that Barack Obama has taken charge in the White House, are these reforms on his priority list?

Recently, Obama assured the pro-immigrant activists that the immigration reforms would not lose its importance over the health-care reform and the energy legislation. The President is likely to endorse the views of Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman of the Senate's Immigration Subcommittee, who has said that he will introduce new reform legislation this autumn.

However, there are some challenges that Schumer and team faces in order to make the legislation a reality. Senators Richard Durbin and Charles Grassley are sponsors of a bill to stop the alleged abuse of H-1B visas, which allow companies to employ workers from overseas for limited stays. They have introduced a legislation to restrict the number of H1-B visas to be issued, which was bombarded with criticisms outside U.S. These visas are popular among technology companies like Microsoft, Infosys and Wipro, which bring some of the brightest minds from around the world to work in the U.S.

The current situation can make U.S. less attractive to immigrants, who may eventually contribute to the country's growth. Take the examples of Vikram Pandit, Indra Nooyi or Sanjay Jha, who took that flight to the U.S. and have made it big by heading some of the largest companies on the planet.

Commentators like CNN's Lou Dobbs have often highlighted about a huge reverse brain drain in the U.S. - which has been his dream - that is closer to reality. Immigrants, who have received their education and work experience in U.S., are packing their bags to go back to their homeland. In addition, there is also a decline in the number of foreign students seeking admissions in the U.S. universities, for the first time in five years.

According to the latest report by the Council of Graduate Schools, the average decline in the admissions from students outside U.S. is three percent. The highest decline is seen from countries in Asia with India leading the pack with a 12 percent decline.
Originally posted on siliconindia.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Immigration Service inspecting H-1B employers
The Immigration Service has recently begun investigating H-1B employers to identify fraudulent petitions. Employers are reporting privately contracted investigators arriving unannounced at worksites to investigate approved H-1B petitions.

These visits are deliberately unannounced and the investigators ask to speak with the human resource (HR) representative and H-1B worker. The employer rep and employee have little to no time to prepare the information needed. The element of surprise can also confuse the H-1B parties and result in inconsistent responses.

Investigators are asking the HR representative questions about the company such as the how many employees it has and how many are legal residents. Questioning then moves to the H-1B job duties, salary, work hours and start date. Sometimes the person interviewed is not as familiar with the job duties as, say for example the H-1B employee’s immediate supervisor. This can result in well-intentioned but harmful guessed answers. The H-1B employee is also individually questioned about duties and responsibilities, salary, work hours and period of employment. When one investigator was asked if the interview was based on a random selection process, the investigator stated that it was not random.

It is important that H-1B employers and employees be prepared for these unannounced visits. The designated HR representative should have a clear and thorough understanding of the H-1B worker’s duties and responsibilities. The HR rep should not guess any answers, but, have the information readily available, including the start date, work hours, and wages paid. These should be consistent with those listed on the petition, and if not, immediately brought to the attention of the company’s immigration attorney to advise on the corrective measures that need to be taken.

It was extremely revealing that these inspections are not random. From a previous release by the immigration service, we know that certain factors trigger referrals to the H-1B fraud unit. These are employers with gross annual income of less than $10 million, less than 25 employees, companies engaged in consulting or staffing showing no end-client/work description or itinerary, job location on the LCA differing from the place of employment, no website for IT companies, excessive blanks in the petition and for certain H-1B occupations. The suspect occupations are Accountants, Market Research Analysts, Business Analysts, Financial Analysts, Advertising Managers, Public Relations and Sales positions with what the Immigration Service calls “marginal companies”. A marginal company is defined by the Immigration Service as lacking the organizational complexity required to support the position on a full-time basis. Examples provided to adjudicators are liquor stores, dry cleaners, gas stations, residential care facilities, convenience stores, donut shops, fast food restaurants, dental offices, 99 cent stores and parking lots.

The Immigration Service has created a profile of what it deems to be a suspect H-1B petition. There are many legitimate H-1B petitions that fit squarely within the suspect profile. H-1B employers and employees in this position should understand that they can be subjected to additional scrutiny from the Immigration Service. Consequently, they should be properly prepared by thoroughly and accurately documenting the H-1B position. They should clearly understand the scope and terms of employment. Then, even if they receive a surprise visit from an investigator, they will be able to demonstrate the H-1B position is a legitimate and valid position.
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H1B Cap : August 2009 Update

The USCIS H1B cap count, as of August 14, 2009, is 45,000. This is a slight increase over the past several counts. The advanced degree cap remains at 20,000. The USCIS continues to accept FY2010 H1B cases under the advanced degree and regular caps.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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Visa norms crush Indian job dream for expat spouses

Source: EconomicTimes
In August last year, when Miranda Green’s husband, Drew, got an offer from Shell to relocate to India on an intra-company transfer with full international terms, the Dutch couple was ecstatic. It helped that the energy company promoted dual-career couples like Miranda and Drew, both had worked for over 20 years with Shell, she in the accounts department and Drew as a materials and corrosion engineer.

The company also needed an accounts specialist with deep knowledge of Shell’s processes to lead its new business support organisation in Bangalore, and Miranda’s qualification and experience with Shell were a perfect fit for the job.

Things seemed to be going according to plan for the couple until they applied for work visas (called employment, or ‘E’ category, visas) at the Indian embassy in the Netherlands in February this year. While Drew, 46, got his, Miranda’s was refused on the grounds that as an expatriate’s (expat’s) wife she is not eligible to work in India.

“My job meant a lot to me. Drew and I were shocked and devastated. It became clear in our discussions with the embassy that any further appeals might make matters worse. After a lot of soul-searching, we decided to go ahead with Drew’s assignment and I resigned my job to accompany him (to Bangalore),” says a dejected Miranda.

For 35-year-old American Brandon de Cuir, too, the passage to India as an accompanying spouse has been a difficult one. Brandon’s wife, Christi DeCuir, a business development executive, got an India assignment on an intra-company transfer with Cisco Systems starting January 2008.

Since Brandon’s then employer, Seattle-based renewable energy firm Blue Marble Energy, did not have operations in India, it became difficult for him to obtain a visa. So he thought he would do the next best thing: try and land a job in India’s tech capital, Bangalore.

“I tried with at least four local start-ups, but the fact that as an accompanying spouse I would need to return to my home country to apply for an employment visa and the inherent bureaucracy and uncertainty in the whole process put the companies off making a job offer,” says Brandon, who is now willy-nilly a full-time homemaker and baby-sitter––the couple were blessed with a baby boy, their firstborn, last fortnight.

“This is such a pity as the Indian government says it wants to encourage the type of technologies in which I have expertise,” he added. The Greens and the de Cuirs are among the hundreds of expat couples whose India dreams begin to sour when they come into contact with an outdated visa regime that hinders dependent visa-holders, chiefly spouses, from automatically working in the country even after a valid job offer on an intra-company transfer.

Couples of Indian origin, who often opt for a career move to India, too are impacted by this law. Currently, foreign nationals coming to India on an employment visa may obtain an “X visa” meant for dependents such as spouses. If the spouse decides to take up employment in India, the person will be required to go back to the port of origin and obtain an employment visa, which could take a long time.

Refusal rates, too, are high, as in the case of Miranda Green. There are over 50,000 highly skilled expat employees in India working with Indian and overseas multinational companies, according to an estimate by the Hague-based Permits Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that lobbies governments globally for open work authorisation for expat spouses. The foundation counts 42 leading transnationals such as Shell, Ericsson, British Airways, ING, Unilever, AstraZeneca and KPMG among its corporate sponsors.

“India is a growth story; every company wants to bring its best people to India, and our members put India right on top of our priority list along with Indonesia, Malaysia, the European Union and China,” says Kathleen van der Wilk-Carlton, a member of the Board of Permits Foundation.

The foundation has recently begun a lobbying effort with the Indian government to make it easier for highly skilled spouses of expats to work in this country. It is also in talks with member companies on the issue. “They (the companies) all recognise this as a small but important issue. It starts with being a personal issue, but becomes a corporate issue (soon),” adds Ms Wilk-Carlton.

Archana Bhaskar, HR head of Shell India, says that spouses not being able to work has become a issue because of the criticality of expat skills, especially in a sector like oil and gas. “Invariably, the question from these potential expat hires is whether their spouse can work in India, and often they don’t accept India postings because this is not easy,” she said. The Shell Group employs around 100 expats among its 2,000 staff.

Globally, despite protectionism by some governments in the wake of the economic slowdown, the cross-border movement of highly skilled professionals remains critical for multinational corporations. Experts feel that India, too, needs to imbibe a range of skills that are not available locally to cross-pollinate them with the ones that exist in the country.

As far as the Indian government is concerned, it is grappling with a huge backlog of cases pertaining to various visa issues such as extensions and transfers since 2003, “and any big change on employment visas looks unlikely,” feels Mumbai-based immigration lawyer Poorvi Chothani.

A senior official in the ministry of home affairs told ET that there is no policy change in the offing for spouses of foreign nationals coming to India on employment visas. “The Indian rules are merely reflecting old patterns of expat entry when spouses were not working. It is probably an oversight, but for us it’s early days in our engagement with the government here,” observes Ms Wilk-Carlton.

Work permit-related restrictions often depend on reciprocal arrangements between two countries. “Some MNCs have been lobbying with the Indian government to allow spouses of employment visa holders to work in India. However, it often depends on reciprocal protocol in the country of origin. For instance, there are a large number of Indians in the US on H1B visas and their spouses are not allowed to work there. Besides, the mandatory payment of social security is also an issue with the H1B visa holders. Sorting out such reciprocal issues would help in easing work permit issues for spouses of expats working in India,” says Sonu Iyer, tax partner, at Ernst & Young.

Compared to some of the countries where there are a large number of Indians on work permits, India does not really fare too well in offering a level playing field for spouses of work permit holders. “Increasingly, countries view business-related transfers differently from long-term immigration and recognise the benefit of introducing country ‘attractiveness’ measures,” the Permits Foundation wrote while presenting its case to the home ministry.

Miranda says that right now they are only eight weeks into her husband’s assignment, so she is busy with the challenges of settling into a new country. “But there will come a moment when I want to think about what else I can do to keep my brain active and my employment skills up to date. If I do find another job, I understand that the regulations require me to go back to the Netherlands to start the whole employment visa process again. I don’t relish the thought of it,” remarks Miranda, who says that her husband has already halved his four-year assignment because of the country’s unsympathetic work visa regime for expat spouses.

A global survey by the Permits Foundation covering over 3,000 expat spouses in 117 countries in December last year lists lack of job opportunity for the spouse as a major mobility deterrent for senior executives.

Brandon says that he and his wife have now been in India 18 months and his desire to work in the host country has been a major factor in deciding not to stay here longer despite the fact that Cisco would have liked his wife to extend her contract.

“My wife’s next posting is likely to be in Europe where there are several countries in which I, as an accompanying spouse, am permitted to take employment or self employment without needing a separate work permit. This will make it a really attractive posting for both of us,” he said.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

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H-1B Visa Companies Getting Unannounced Visits by Feds

Source: eWeek
If your company is using H-1B visa workers, you may get a surprise from the government. Piece of advice for your manager: It's voluntary, but the surprise could intimidate.

In an attempt to help root out fraud and other criminal activity, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services agency is making surprise visits to companies with H-1B visa holders on the books.
After reports came out that there has been evidence shown of fraudulent use of temporary workers, bad documentation abusing the system and many visa holders not being paid prevailing wages, the Feds are showing up without notice and looking to see that everything is on the up and up. Click here for complete story from eWeek.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


20,000 H-1B visas still remaining

For the first time in several years the H-1B visa programme, once the most sought after among Indian professionals, is unlikely to reach its cap of 65,000 before the start of the 2010 fiscal with nearly 20,000 slots lying vacant thanks to the tattered US economy.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it has received approximately 49,000 H-1B petitions till August seven counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap, more than four months after it started accepting applications for visas for the 2010 fiscal beginning this October.

This is in contrast to the previous years when the USCIS had to resort to computerised draw of lots as it received petitions outnumbering several times more than the Congressional mandated cap of 65,000 within the first few days after it started receiving H-1B applications.

The figure of 20,000 slots in the vacant category has remained almost the same for the past two months. This is also due to a large number of rejections of H-1B petitions.

Indian IT professionals have been a major beneficiary of H-1B visas, figures released in the past have said. An additional 20,000 H-1B can also be issued to those foreign professionals, who have masters or higher degree from the US.

Though the USCIS received 20,000 petitions, it continues to accept applications in this category. For the fiscal 2010, the USCIS started receiving H-1B petitions from April 1. In the first five working days, it received 42,000 H-1B petitions. In the month and half since then, USCIS has received just 7,000 more H-1B petitions.

This is mainly attributed to the current economic crisis and the tougher measures being adopted by the USCIS and the State Department in sanctioning of H-1B visas.

In 2007 and 2008 the caps were reached in the first few days itself -- April 2 and April 1-5 respectively.

In 2007 and 2006, the H-1B cap in the general categories were reached on May 26 and July 26 respectively, while in 2005 it was reached on August 10.

In 2004, the USCIS had to wait till October 1, before it stopped accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal 2005, while the fiscal year 2004, it took 10 months to reach the cap.

The cap could not be reached in 2001, 2002 and 2003, when the Congress had mandated 195,000 H-1B visas instead of 65,000.

For the years 2000 and 1999, the Congress had sanctioned 115,000 H-1B visas. While for the fiscal 2000, it was on July 21, cap exceeded. From 1992 to 1997, when the Congress had mandated 65,000 H-1B visas, the cap was not reached.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Green card applications down nearly 80 percent

Green card applications have fallen substantially over the past years, according to a study by the Associated Press. Employers have sponsored less than half the number of employees in 2008 and 2009 than in 2007 and earlier. High unemployment and broader recessionary factors have triggered the decline in permanent resident applications.

In fiscal year 2007, employers submitted nearly 235,000 green card applications. By 2008, applications fell to around 104,000. For the first eight months of this year, fewer than 36,000 employer-sponsored applications have been filed. If current application rates persist through the rest of 2009, volume will have fallen close to 80 percent from the 2007 peak.

Projection is based on the assumption that current application rates for 2009 will continue through the end of the year and is strictly for the purpose of illustration.

In 2007, the last year for which data is available, most applications came from India, Mexico, the Philippines, China and Korea, according to Department of Labor data.

Applications are down in part because there are fewer jobs in the market right now and those that are open involve more competition from American applicants than in the past. An unemployment rate that's approaching 10 percent has made it less desirable to hire employees needing green card sponsorship. Keep in mind that hiring and sponsoring an employee entails extra legal costs not present with hiring a U.S. citizen.

To hire a non-U.S. citizen and sponsor a green card, an employer in the United States has several hurdles. It needs to prove that it couldn't find a domestic candidate with the minimum requirements for the position, that it is financially healthy and that it will pay the prevailing rate of pay for the position (relative to the market). And, the green-card candidate must have specialized or unusual skills that make the position impossible to fill through the U.S. labor pool.

The popular misconception that non-U.S. employees are coming into the country and undercutting highly paid Americans is thus not true, as employers can't shop around in cheaper labor markets.

With fewer green card applications being submitted, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is having an easier time handling its workload. In the past, it could take 15 months or longer for an application to be completed. Now, the department has the process down to five months, which is still a month off from its four-month objective. A larger staff and a decline in applications of almost 80 percent from the 2007 peak were exactly what the department needed to put its target within reach.
Source: DailyFinance and msnbc
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What is H2B visa?

H-2B Work Visa General Information: The H-2B Work Visa was created to allow people to come to the United States temporarily, mainly for non-agricultural jobs, in which the U.S. workers are in short supply. Up to 66,000 H-2B Visas are issued every year. This year's annual quota has not yet been reached. Prospects are good that H-2B Visas will remain available in future years.

H-2B Work Visa Eligibility Requirements: You qualify for an H-2B Work Visa if you are coming to the United States to accept a temporary or seasonal non-agricultural job from a U.S. employer. You may apply if you have the correct background, skills or natural abilities needed by the employer.

H-2B Visas are targeted towards skilled and unskilled workers. The H-2B Work Visa for Skilled and Unskilled Workers Application Guide is comprehensive, detailed, and easy to understand. It contains everything one needs in order to successfully apply for a H-2B Visa.