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USCIS faces lawsuit over very short H-1B visas

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New Delhi: A non-profit trade association representing over a thousand IT firms has moved a US court challenging recent policy decisions under Trump administration that have resulted in H1-B visas being granted for a shorter tenure.

In its lawsuit, IT Serve Alliance said that US laws prescribe a three-year duration for an H-1B visa but the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced new rules that resulted in grant of visas for only a few days or months, Times of India reported.

It gave examples of cases where visas were granted for a period of only 12 days and in some, where notices of approval were sent after the approved visa-tenure had already expired.

To illustrate, the petition showed an example where an H1-B visa was granted from June 15 to August 10, 2018 (56 days), but the approval notice was sent on August 29, rendering the entire exercise pointless. Other visas granted for a very short time were for just 28 days and 54 days.

Contending that USCIS did not even have the jurisdiction to make the rules governing grant of these visas, the petition called the changes unlawful.

The US, under Donald Trump, has introduced a host of new policies to curb H1-B visas, popular among Indian immigrants, in line with his America first policy. India has raised the issue with the US repeatedly, but despite assurances to the contrary, the crackdown has continued.

The policy changes include suspension of premium processing for H1-B visas, leading to a longer waiting period and initiation of deportation process of people whose legal status to stay in America has expired for reasons such as denial of visa extension application.

The rule granting shorter tenure visas was introduced by USCIS in February 2018, TOI reported. The memorandum mandated that visa applications be accompanied by a host of evidence in the form of detailed customer contracts and itineraries of employees.

USCIS also obtained discretion to limit approval period to that duration of time, for which it could be proved that the employee will be placed in a specific project that needs specialisation.

The lawsuit states that the requirements in the memorandum such as of submitting a detailed itinerary are beyond the scope of the USCIS’s role and are unlawful.
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