h-1b lawsuit

Stellar IT Solutions has filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of its Indian American workers, whose H-1B renewal application was denied by USCIS. The agency has dramatically increased its number of Requests for Evidence and has been denying a greater number of applications from Indian nationals. (Stellar Software Networks photo)

Stellar IT Solutions, a Maryland-based staffing and outsourcing company, has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services saying the agency had no basis to deny the renewal of an H-1B visa to an Indian American man, who has worked through the company for nearly seven years.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 28 in DC District Court. USCIS had not responded to the suit by press time Sept. 3.

According to the complaint, software engineer Kartik Krishnamurthy had applied for a renewal of his H-1B visa in August 2017. Following a trend that began with the advent of the Trump administration – and its ‘Buy American, Hire American’ mandate – USCIS responded four months later to the renewal application with a “Request for Evidence,” as it has begun doing with the majority of H-1B and H-4 applications and renewals.

The agency told Krishnamurthy he had until April 17 to respond. But, according to the lawsuit, USCIS denied Krishnamurthy’s application on March 20, a month before the deadline to respond to the RFE. Stellar, which also does business as Steller Software Networks, responded to the RFE on April 17, hoping the matter would be re-opened. USCIS did reopen the case in May, but continued to deny Krishnamurthy’s application.

Krishnamurthy – who holds dual master’s degrees in business administration and management information systems – is now considered undocumented, as he remains in the country. He started working with the company in 2011, and had received a previous extension.

Stellar Software Networks alleges that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration's denial of a visa for Krishnamurthy was "arbitrary and capricious." It noted that Indian workers were more frequently subjected to RFEs, and their applications were denied at a much higher rate.

The lawsuit noted that USCIS – in its letter of denial – stated that Stellar had failed to provide “a statement of work detailing the project's outline description, duration, role and the beneficiary's duties to demonstrate the end-client will actually use computer occupations for daily assignments.”

Stellar also allegedly failed to establish that Krishnamurthy’s degrees were relevant to the project he was to undertake. Stellar refuted both claims.

The lawsuit seeks a court order overturning the visa denial.

(See an earlier India-West story here.)

In related news, a group of business leaders, including Indian American Indra Nooyi who recently resigned from her post as CEO of Pepsico, signed a letter addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen which stated that new restrictions in immigration policy were hurting American companies.

The letter, released by the Business Roundtable and reported first by Fortune magazine, states that recent policy changes to employment-based immigration are “causing considerable anxiety for many thousands of our employees while threatening to disrupt company operations.”

“Due to a shortage of green cards for workers, many employees find themselves stuck in an immigration process lasting more than a decade. These employees must repeatedly renew their temporary work visas during this lengthy and difficult process. Out of fairness to these employees — and to avoid unnecessary costs and complications for American businesses — the U.S. government should not change the rules in the middle of the process,” noted Business Roundtable, a non-partisan organization which has expressed support for many of President Donald Trump’s initiatives, including the re-structuring of the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA.

But the letter noted that the administration can now deny a renewal that was previously approved “without explanation.” It also noted that applicants whose petitions are denied will be placed in immediate deportation proceedings.

“Our employees are concerned that they will face removal proceedings even if they have complied with immigration laws and intend to promptly depart the country,” wrote the organization.

Business Roundtable wrote that it is working with members of Congress to reduce the green card backlog. “The reality is that few will move their family and settle in a new country if, at any time and without notice, the government can force their immediate departure–often without explanation. At a time when the number of job vacancies are reaching historic highs due to labor shortages, now is not the time restrict access to talent.”

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