03/04/2017 10:43 PM IST | Updated 04/04/2017 10:17 AM IST

This New US Visa Policy Memo Will Set Off Panic Alarm In India's IT Industry

Entry level computer programmers cannot be treated as uniquely skilled, new policy says. H1B Visas could get affected.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

The US department of Citizenship and Immigration Services released a memo on 31 March removing the special rights of computer programmers to be automatically considered eligible for the H1-B visa. This is another step taken by the Trump administration to tighten the restrictions on H1-B visa.

This means that all the programmers have to submit additional documents to prove that the job requires special skills. This will affect the process of obtaining the visa.

The subject line of the policy memorandum says, "Rescission of the December 22, 2000 Occupational Outlook Handbook", indicating that the older provisions will be rescinded.

The memo has been issued for the training and guidance of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees, who are in charge of deciding and granting visas to foreign nationals.

The new memo says that the older one drawn up by Terry Way, former director of the Nebraska Service Center -- the government arm that deals with America's immigration and citizenship issues -- is 'obsolete' on this day and time. The new memo points out that the one preceding it was based on the 1998-99, 2000-01 Occupational Outlook Handbook -- a publication brought out by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. This handbook documents 'information about the nature of work, working conditions, training and education, earnings and job outlook for hundreds of different occupations in the United States'.

Questioning the older memo's decision to call all computer programming jobs, 'specialty occupations', it argues there is no specification in the handbook about the level of difficulty and complexity of a job and all the coding jobs are considered equal.

"Rather, the 2000-01 edition did not make such a distinction and described all programmers as sharing a fundamental job duty, i.e., writing and testing computer code. According to the current version of the Handbook, this is still the case," the memo says.

The new memo argues that according to the old handbook even the entry level programming job is considered to be under 'specialty' jobs.

"The memorandum also does not properly explain or distinguish an entry-level position from one that is, for example, more senior, complex, specialized, or unique. This is relevant in that, absent additional evidence to the contrary, the Handbook indicates that an individual with an associate's degree may enter the occupation of computer programmer," the new order said.

It also insists that the applicant should have to prove that his/her job is really specialised and not any basic information technology-related work. "Based on the current version of the Handbook, 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," it says in the conclusion.

Recently, the US government said that there would be no change for India in the H1-B regime. The premium processing for the visa is also ending today with the US government putting the freeze on the process at the moment.