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Tighter rules for Indian H-1B applicants

By Neha Alawadhi
April 29, 2019 18:17 IST
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It has been the preferred visa for Indian IT companies and has helped them keep costs down and gain a margin advantage over multinational players by sending engineers to the US.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

The United States immigration agency officials are more likely to issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to Indian H-1B visa applicants than to people from other countries, a recent analysis by VisaGuide.World has found.

An RFE is an additional inquiry that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services can ask for when it requires additional evidence to make a decision on an H1B case.


An RFE can be for information about either the beneficiary or the petitioner, or both.

According to the data collected by the web portal, 72.4 per cent of Indian applicants and 61.2 per cent of applicants from the rest of the world received an RFE.

In 2018, 309,986 applications for H1B visa, or 73.9 per cent of the total H-1B applications for the year, were from India.

The H-1B work visa is most commonly used by Indian technology professionals to work at client sites in the US.

It has been the preferred visa for Indian IT companies and has helped them keep costs down and gain a margin advantage over multinational players by sending engineers to the US.

However, IT services firms have been accused of misusing the lottery-based system, which allows 65,000 visas for the general category and an additional 20,000 to those with a US Master’s degree from an accredited institution.

The US, under Donald Trump's administration, has been tightening the rules around H-1B visas.

The US in January announced a new H-1B visa filing rule, effective April, under which priority would be given to foreign workers with advanced degrees from American universities.

Another rule change proposed in November last year effectively reversed the way H-1B visas are counted, increasing the chances of advanced degree holders getting H-1B visas.

Industry body the National Association of Software and Services Companies had said in May last year that the new rules being proposed by the US government would result in increased oversight for Indian IT firms.

As a result, Indian IT companies have upped their hiring in the US market, which is pressuring margins, but they have largely figured that they can no longer rely solely on H-1B visas for transfer of skilled labour.

The analysis also finds that only 20.4 per cent of applicants were women, but at 63,220 petitions in 2018, the number is almost 1.5 times higher than the petitions by the women of all other nationalities combined.

From China, the second highest applicant country, 45.2 per cent of applications were filed by women.

It also found that in 2018, only 1.9 per cent, or 8,129 of the applications, were from Schengen countries.

The portal expects Indians to continue to account for the highest number of applicants this year and the number of women applicants to increase because of the risks of H4 visa holders.

A number of potential H4 visa holders may turn to the H-1B visa programme, as a way to join their spouses working in the US, it said.

Significant changes introduced to H1B visa

April 2017: US says H-1B visas will be issued to only the most-skilled foreigners or highest-paid beneficiaries

March 2018: Premium processing for H-1B petitions is suspended, again extended in August

July 2018:  USCIS adjudicators granted right to reject H-1B applications that do not provide the necessary required information when submitted

October 2018: The US initiates deportation of H-1B holders with expired visas

October 2018: The DHS proposes revision of “specialty occupations” definition for the H-1B visa

January 2019: The USCIS announces it will require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with USCIS

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Neha Alawadhi in New Delhi
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