The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is on the verge of announcing significant changes to H-1B visa regulations, set to reshape the landscape for employers and professionals, particularly those from India. These new regulations are scheduled for release on July 8, initiating a public commentary period before they become official.

Among the proposed changes is the introduction of a $4,000 fee for extending H-1B visas and a $4,500 fee for extending L-1 visas. These fees are similar to the existing 9/11 Response and Biometric Entry-Exit Fee, which currently applies only to initial visa petitions and changes in employers.

Originally proposed by the USCIS on October 23 of last year, the new rule is currently undergoing a 60-day commentary phase. According to reports from Forbes, the Biden administration may finalize the rule by the end of this year or after the upcoming election. These changes could disrupt the plans of many Indian H-1B visa holders and prospective applicants, impacting thousands who aspire to live and work in the US.

One particularly contentious aspect of the proposed regulations is the redefinition of specialty occupations. The new definition would require job roles to demand specific degrees closely tied to the job’s specialities. This is reminiscent of a policy from the Trump administration, which faced legal challenges over concerns that it excluded many skilled international professionals. Under the revised definition, individuals with degrees in business administration might be classified as holding a ‘general degree,’ potentially making them ineligible for specialty occupation status.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering imposing substantial fees on employers for H-1B and L-1 visa extensions, particularly targeting companies with over 50 percent of their workforce on these visas. These visas enable US companies to bring in skilled talent for specialized roles that are difficult to fill locally, highlighting their importance in the American job market.

Indians, who hold the majority of H-1B visas, are likely to be significantly affected by these proposed changes. Companies relying on visa extensions may face considerable financial consequences, leading to a reevaluation of their hiring strategies for foreign employees.

As the USCIS prepares to release these new regulations, the potential impact on both employers and international professionals remains a key point of discussion. The proposed changes underscore a broader effort to balance the need for skilled foreign labor with the administration’s regulatory objectives, setting the stage for a potentially transformative period in US immigration policy.                                        

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