United States cracks down on tech worker visas

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United States cracks down on tech worker visas

Overseas programmers targeted in H-1B rules change.

Overseas computer programmers may find it harder to obtain work visas for the United States, after the Trump administration introduced changes to the H-1B permits program.

The H1-B scheme has been a source of controversy, with large multinational outsourcing firms accused of importing tech workers en masse and paying them less than local labour. President Donald Trump promised greater scrutiny of the H-1B program during his election campaign.

Now, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued new guidelines [pdf] that require computer programmers that apply for H-1B visas to prove the jobs they will perform are complex, specialised and unique.

The USCIS guidelines update seeks to differentiate between entry-level computer programmers, and more senior workers with specialised skills.

Under the new rules, entry-level programmers must provide further evidence that their qualifications directly apply to the "specialty occupation" they seek an H-1B visa for.

The USCIS also said it would step up measures to detect H-1B fraud, and prosecute employers caught abusing the scheme.

"... too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged.

"Employers who abuse the H-1B visa program may negatively affect US workers, decreasing wages and opportunities as they import more foreign workers," USCIS said,.

USCIS has set up an email address for the submission of tips, alleged H-1B visa violations and other information. 

The agency will conduct site visits at employers, more interviews and investigations of H-1B applicants.

Despite the tighter new rules, the cap on H-1B visas has not been reduced and remains at 85,000 for 2017.

Australia operates the similar 457 skilled workers visa program which too has come under fire for alleegdly displacing local labour with cheaper overseas candidates.

Labor last November introduced a bill to Parliament that would force companies advertise for workers locally before recruiting overseas, unless the position to be filled requires a bachelor's or higher degree or five years or more of relevant experience.

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