Trump Administration Guidelines Make H-1B Visa Renewals Harder

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The Trump administration has brought more restrictions on the issue and extension of non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L1, popular among Indian IT professionals.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is now rolling back its 13-year-old policy with this directive, the previous memorandum of April 23, 2004 put the burden on the agency.

In what could turn out to be more trouble for Indian and other foreign professionals wishing to work in the United States and Indian IT firms having major USA operations, the Trump administration is making it more hard to obtain extensions for H-1B/L-1 work visas.

United States made the seeking of H-1B visas tougher.

But in a memorandum released late on Monday, USCIS rescinded the earlier policy and instructed its officers to apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests, consistent with policies to protect the interests of American workers.

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"This memorandum makes it clear that the burden of proof remains on the petitioner, even where an extension of non-immigrant status is sought", USCIS said in a memorandum issued on October 23. This comes at a time when External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj on told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the US must not take any decision that adversely impacts Indian people. Currently, they have to prove to the federal authorities, during every extension, that they are eligible for the visa they are applying for. "The burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner", the USCIS said.

The new rules change the previous policy wherein an H-1B visa extension request was considered pretty much a done deal with minimum official processes involved.

The new changes were announced even as a comprehensive review of the H-1B program is underway, in congruence with the Trump administration's Buy American, Hire American policy. A report in Times of India mentions that Swaraj, talking about their discussion, said, "This is most evident in our mutually beneficial digital partnership, driven by our skilled professionals".

American Immigration Lawyers Association president William Stock said the change was being made retroactively and would affect people already living in the country and not just new visa applicants.

Not only H-1B and L-1, Trump administration has also tightened the processes for TN visa, which is for Canadian and Mexican citizens as well as the O-1 visa, issued to those with "extraordinary abilities".