New service visa proposed by NASSCOM (India) to end H-1B visa abuse

India's software industry body Nasscom has proposed a new category of service visas for the USA to replace the controversial H-1B visa category.
The service visa will enable companies to send their employees to the US on work for a certain period and it will not lead to immigration or permanent residency.

Nasscom has initiated dialogue with key Congressmen and industry groups, such as TechAmerica, Compete America and the US India Business Council, for the proposed change in visa. Nasscom is also encouraging a more comprehensive debate on the issue of immigration abuse rather than limiting it only to H-1B or L1 visas.

“We do not wish to encourage the abuse of visas for immigration. Our objective is to get the work done and bring back our people. There are 11,000-12,000 Indians who go to the US for work and their average stay is less than two years,” said Som Mittal, president, Nasscom. He said the service visa, along the lines of the work permit that Europe currently has for overseas workers, would help address the concerns of H-1B visa abuse.
In April this year, US senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durban proposed a legislation to limit both H-1B and L1 visas and force firms with over 50% of their staff as H-1B and L-1 visa holders to hire US locals, sending alarm bells throughout the Indian IT industry. Nassscom’s move, if successful, will protect the interests of the Indian IT industry by allowing them to continue sending their employees to the US on service visas for the duration of the work. “There is a need to differentiate between matters of trade and immigration,” said Mr Mittal.

“The service visa will enable US companies to avail the best of Indian talent without worrying about immigration issues. It will not have residency or permanent citizenship implications,” said Ganesh Natarajan, vice-chairman, Zensar Technologies.
Technology firms, both Indian and multinational, are one of the largest users of H1-B visas. In the past few years, there have many unsuccessful attempts to restrict the use of H1-B visas through legislations that have proposed a limit on the number of visas that can be issued.
According to industry estimates, there are about 12,000 employees from Indian IT firms and 10,000 from American IT firms that go to the US every year on these visas.

This year, however, because of the slowdown and the reduced demand for technology services, only around 45,000 H-1B visas have been issued compared to the total available 65,000 H-1B visas. “Usually, the entire H-1B quota is filled up in a matter of days.

This year, there are only four months left to go and the quota is still not filled”, said a senior IT industry executive.

U.S. flying immigrants back to Mexico

Illegal immigrants are being flown deep into Mexico to discourage dangerous desert crossings in the heat as well as to cut down on re-entry, federal officials say.

Twice-daily flights from Tucson to Mexico City are intended to keep immigrants away from border towns where they would likely run into smugglers who want to sneak them back into the U.S.

“This is where the probability of losing their lives can really increase. We offer that opportunity for them to get out of that cycle,” said John Torres, a special adviser to the assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security flights began last week for the sixth consecutive summer and will end Sept. 28.

Tucson is the only spot in this country where the flights depart. Arizona is the busiest illegal entry point into the United States.

Since 2004, more than 82,000 Mexicans have been returned as part of the repatriation program. The number, however, represents just a small portion of illegal immigrants in this country.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants die crossing the border each year from heat exposure, vehicle and train accidents, fatigue, banditry and other causes.

Smugglers, who can earn an average of $1,500 for each customer, use remote and dangerous migration routes where enforcement is weaker, a tactic that contributes to the deaths.

The Mexican government picks up some costs of the program, while the U.S. pays $6 million under a contract with carrier Miami Air.


Immigrant parents face a lengthy wait to be with their children

Evelyn Santos began her quest for a green card nearly two decades ago, hoping someday she and her family could leave the Philippines and start a better life in the United States.

The opportunity came in 2007, but with a painful caveat: Her two elder sons were now too old to qualify as dependents, so they would have to stay behind.

The mother moved to Northern California with her husband and two younger children, and filed a new round of paperwork hoping to get at least one of her older sons into the country without another decade of waiting.

"I have a joke with my son — am I still alive when you come here?" said Santos, 55, a supermarket clerk who lives in Livermore. "I am always praying somebody can help us in the government so we can bring my kids here."

Immigration attorneys say thousands of immigrants are stuck in a similar situation. In countries such as the Philippines, Mexico and China, relatives of U.S. citizens and residents sometimes wait a decade or two for a family-sponsored green card because of country-based immigration quotas.

Santos is one of several immigrants across the country suing the federal government to try to get their adult children into the country without another lengthy wait.

Under U.S. immigration law, children 21 and older cannot immigrate under their parents' applications for green cards.

Immigration attorneys say a 2002 law aimed at preventing children from "aging out" due to lengthy processing means these grown children should be allowed into the country soon after their parents file new paperwork on their behalf.

But the government argues that many of those who got too old during the wait are now new applicants and must start from the beginning.

"They want them to go from the front of the line, where they almost made it, and go to the back of some other line that may be 10 to 20 years away, said Carl Shusterman, an attorney representing immigrants in one of the lawsuits. "It is like double jeopardy."

Robert Reeves, an immigration attorney who filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit in federal court in Santa Ana, said he believes 20,000 immigrants living in the United States face similar problems bringing their children here.

Roughly a dozen individuals have filed separate lawsuits in California, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, immigration attorneys said. The complaints argue that the 2002 law allows grown children to use the parents' date of application as a starting point.

The government disagrees and says the law only holds for grown children who were sponsored directly for green cards from the very beginning or for those listed on the application of a foreign parent who was sponsored by a legal resident spouse.

The government contends that Congress passed the law to help current U.S. citizens and residents reunite with their families, not to help future immigrants bring their families here.

The plaintiffs argue that the law reads more broadly than that, and should include adult children whose parents had differing forms of sponsorship, including that by siblings.

The country's immigration appeals court recently ruled in favor of the government in a case in which a Chinese man immigrated in 2005 based on an application filed by his sister. The man tried to get a green card for his daughter, who had aged out, and sought to have her application marked with the initial 1992 filing date. But the court ruled the application was new and his daughter would have to wait.

Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, declined to comment on the dispute.

Immigrant advocates say the government should not require families to wait so long to immigrate together, claiming it discourages legal immigration. Nor should aspiring immigrants be forced to choose between their children and reuniting with their siblings and parents in the United States.

But some argue these are choices immigrants should have to make. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the lengthy wait times are a symptom of much bigger problems in the country's immigration system.

"There is a deeper policy problem here, which is that we overpromised and underdelivered on legal immigration," said Krikorian, who favors stricter limits on family-based immigration.

"What the advocacy groups are trying to do is fix that system in a way that is beneficial to their constituency group, but it's not solving the problem."

The dilemma has prompted many immigrant parents to urge their adult children to remain single while the lawsuits are pending or until they get green cards. That's because permanent residents cannot apply for their married children to get green cards and must wait to become U.S. citizens to be able to do so.

Teresita Costelo, a 61-year-old cashier in Long Beach, waited 14 years to rejoin her mother and siblings here and does not want her two elder daughters in the Philippines to suffer the same fate.

"I told them, 'Don't marry yet, because I am petitioning you!'" Costelo said. "Just stay single."

Norma Uy, who immigrated to Washington state from the Philippines, waited 23 years for a green card but nearly stayed behind because her two adult daughters could not come with her.

Eventually, she and her husband and their then-19-year-old son packed their bags and arrived in 2005 to start their new lives. The 57-year-old Uy, a trained pediatrician in the Philippines who now works as a nurse, said she encouraged one daughter to come here to study and hopes the other might do the same.

Above all, she wants them to get green cards so they will be able to stay together.

"I know my children will have a better future here," Uy said. "We will have a peaceful life here."


20,000 slots still vacant for H1B visas

For the first time in several years the H1B visa programme, once the most sought after among Indian professionals, is unlikely to reach its cap of 65,000 before the start of the 2010 fiscal with nearly 20,000 slots lying vacant thanks to the tattered US economy.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it has received approximately 49,000 H1Bpetitions till August seven counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap, more than four months after it started accepting applications for visas for the 2010 fiscal begining this October.

This is in contrast to the previous years when the USCIS had to resort to computerised draw of lots as it received petitions outnumbering several times more than the Congressional mandated cap of 65,000 within the first few days after it started receiving H-1B applications.

The figure of 20,000 slots in the vacant category has remained almost the same for the past two months. This is also due to a large number of rejections of H-1B petitions.
Indian IT professionals have been a major beneficiary of H-1B visas, figures released in the past have said.

An additional 20,000 H-1B can also be issued to those foreign professionals, who have masters or higher degree from the US. Though the USCIS received 20,000 petitions, it continues to accept applications in this category.

For the fiscal 2010, the USCIS started receiving H-1B petitions from April 1. In the first five working days, it received 42,000 H-1B petitions. In the month and half since then, USCIS has received just 7,000 more H-1B petitions.

This is mainly attributed to the current economic crisis and the tougher measures being adopted by the USCIS and the State Department in sanctioning of H-1B visas.In 2007 and 2008 the caps were reached in the first few days itself - April 2 and April 1-5 respectively.

In 2007 and 2006, the H-1B cap in the general categories were reached on May 26 and July 26 respectively, while in 2005 it was reached on August 10. In 2004, the USCIS had to wait till October 1, before it stopped accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal 2005, while the fiscal year 2004, it took 10 months to reach the cap.

The cap could not be reached in 2001, 2002 and 2003, when the Congress had mandated 195,000 H-1B visas instead of 65,000. For the years 2000 and 1999, the Congress had sanctioned 115,000 H-1B visas. While for the fiscal 2000, it was on July 21, cap exceeded.

From 1992 to 1997, when the Congress had mandated 65,000 H-1B visas, the cap was not reached.