April 07, 2017
This week, the Trump administration acted on promises to crack down on H-1B visas as the Departments of Labor and Justice released statements communicating their intent to focus on alleged abuses of the visa while the Department of Homeland Security published two memoranda outlining new policies that will likely primarily affect outsourcing companies. The actions were timed to coincide with the week the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began to accept H-1B visa petitions (it took only four days for applications to hit the 85,000 via threshold). The new policies are expected to primarily impact outsourcing firms which rely heavily on the H-1B visa. The media releases by DOL and DOJ warn employers "not to discriminate against U.S. workers" and signal increased scrutiny of H-1B use intended to root out the same, respectively. Meanwhile, USCIS released new guidelines stating, "the fact that a person may be employed as a computer programmer and may use information technology skills and knowledge to help an enterprise achieve its goals in the course of his or her job is not sufficient to establish the position as a specialty occupation," requiring rather that an employer demonstrate that a computer programming position requires special skills and knowledge. A separate USCIS memorandum promises increased scrutiny and site visits to H-1B petitioners and workplaces of H-1B workers, focusing on "cases where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data, H-1B-dependent employers... and employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location."