h-1b lawsuit

The non-profit trade group ITServe Alliance, comprised primarily of Indian Americans, has filed a lawsuit against US Citizenship and Immigration Services stating that tightening up of restrictions for H-1B workers are stifling the tech industry. (h1btech.com photo)

A non-profit trade group representing more than 1,000 IT recruiting firms filed suit Oct. 11 against US Citizenship and Immigration Services, claiming that stricter regulations arbitrarily imposed by the Trump administration have made it harder for U.S. employers to hire and retain H-1B workers.

The Dallas, Texas-based ITServe Alliance, comprised primarily of Indian Americans, noted in its lawsuit that prior to the advent of the Trump administration, USCIS could process H-1B applications – selected via a lottery each year and capped at 85,000 – within six to eight months.

However, the organization stated that in the last 18 months, USCIS is taking eight months or longer, with a greatly-increased number of Requests For Evidence which lengthen the already-lengthy process. “The processing was so slow that many employees lost the work authorization status and had to stop working,” noted ITServe Alliance.

In the case of H-1B extensions, USCIS approved some for very short periods – as low as one day – so that employers had to reapply and file new fees of several thousand dollars, claimed ITServe Alliance. Extensions previously were standardly approved for up to three years.

In many cases, approval notices have been sent after the H-1B work permit has expired and the worker has returned back to the home country, claimed the plaintiffs.

“Like every employer in the IT industry, ITServe members have difficulty hiring enough U.S. workers to meet the demand. Our members seek H-1B visas to fill the gap between the supply and demand for IT professionals in these specialized fields,” ITServe Alliance president Gopi Kandukuri said in a court filing.

These changes seem vindictive to ITServe members who have hired H-1B visa-holders, he said. The cumbersome process has made employers less willing to hire H-1B workers since it is unclear when they can begin work and how long their extension will last.

“Much of our workforce is constantly under a pending request for (an) extension and could at any moment be forced to leave this country after performing the same job for years,” said Kandukuri.

“The delays, and expenses created by Defendant's policies are compounded by the fact that it has recently changed how it adjudicates and determines what is a ‘specialty occupation’,” stated ITServe Alliance. The Trump administration last year knocked out several types of work in its list of specialty occupations.

In July, ITServe had filed another lawsuit against USCIS against the Trump administration’s decision to restrict foreign workers to operate only from their employer’s premises and not on third-party sites. (See related India-West story here.)

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