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Change in US policies: OPT, H-1B visa (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II)

US is undertaking changes to H-1B visas rules making it difficult for foreign workers to obtain H-1B visa. 

Changes Expected:
1. It proposed to roll back the permission to work now available to spouses of H-1B visa holders and to replace the current lottery system that selects the 85,000 annual H-1B visa beneficiaries. 

2. Changes in the H-1B visa programme seeks to raise the minimum salary under the scheme to $1,30,000 from the current $60,000.

Repercussions of proposed changes
The proposed change will allow companies to hire foreign talent when it is locally unavailable, it plugs the loophole that allows them to undercut local employees by bringing cheaper replacements from abroad, could hit Indian and American IT companies which use H-1B visas to hire foreign skilled workers, including Indians. The big question is whether companies would be willing to pay such huge amounts to non-technical professionals. 

H-1Bvisas:
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States. It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the U.S. H-1B visa are widely used by Indian IT companies to place skilled workers in the U.S.

Another controversial draft pending in US legislature: High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017
Confusion prevail among Indian students on the United States campuses and those on Optional Practical Training (OPT) with the newly proposed legislation — the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 Draft of an executive order under consideration for presidential signature proposes restrictions on the Optional Practical Training (OPT) work, a job training opportunity available for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Masters from a U.S. university. 

Present status of STEM preogrammes
The standard duration of Optional Practical Training (OPT) jobs is one year, but with extensions allowed by consecutive administrations it can now extend up to three years for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) masters. “STEM OPT extension is especially appealing to Indian students, who are concentrated in master’s programmes in engineering and computer science.
Implications on Indian students

The law, if passed ,is likely to impact the future plans of students pursuing Information Technology (IT) courses in US varsities or those on Optional Practical Training.
Around 1.7 lakh students are on OPT and the proposed law may make it difficult for them to acquire H1B status. 



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