Indians in America see relief as draconian policy of H-1B visa is shelved

Jonathan Withington, Media Relations Chief at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed Hindustan Times that the Trump administration was not going to consider the proposal that could lead to deportation of H-1B visa holders, including 500,000 to 750,000 Indians. Officials in USCIS stated that even if there should be any changes in section 104(c) of AC 21, they would not be compelled to leave the country. After they complete the 6-year limit, the employers can seek extensions based on section 106(a)-(b) of AC 21.

The earlier proposal to end a visa grant was formulated based on the policy of, “buy American, hire American” by Donald Trump to create jobs for the American population. This initial policy had led to increased anxiety among the Indian IT firms in America. Now this reconsideration has come as a major relief to the community who could have been deported earlier.

“This is a significant development. We are delighted about this news. We are grateful to USCIS for this,” stated an official in Immigration Voice. They hailed their efforts to protect H-1B visa holders from India.

India Today mentioned that this move happened due to increased displeasure that is seen in the business community. The Department of Homeland Security said that they did not consider the change and will not deport foreign workers.

Sources-Hindustan Times, India Today

Premium processing of US H-1B visas resumes

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommenced processing H-1B visas five months after it had suspended the services temporarily to manage the rush of new petitions. The premium processing of the H-1B work visas will be in all categories but subject to the limit set by the Congress.

The upper limit set for FY 2018 is 65,000 H-1B visas. In addition, work has also begun on the annual 20,000 petitions to hire employees with a US higher educational degree. This service is only available for the pending request and not new submissions.

USCIS takes 15 days to clear the visa under premium processing. According to the Times of India, “If the 15-calendar day processing time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application,” the USCIS said.

The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows US companies to employ foreign workers possessing theoretical or technical expertise in speciality occupations. The visa is popular among the Indian IT professionals as technology companies use it to hire employees each year.

Sources: NDTV, TOI

US issues new visa rules for six Muslim countries and refugees

The Trump administration has set out a new set of guidelines for six mainly Muslim countries as well as refugees. One major rule is that the immigrants need to have a close relative in the United States in order to obtain a US visa. The supreme court has put in place a partial travel ban which the then republican candidate, Donald Trump, promised during his campaign.

These set of guidelines came to light when the department cable was leaked to the press and is yet to be confirmed, according to a report by Al Jazeera. The countries which fall under this new visa rules are Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. Refugees, irrespective of their nationality, fall under this visa rule. The term ‘close relative’ here is defined as a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son or daughter-in-law or sibling.

Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid invitations to the country may be exempt from the ban.

While the new travel restrictions will be enforced strictly by the visas will not be revoked from existing visa holders.

According to the cable which was obtained by the AP News, the laws will be put in place on June 29, 2017.

Image Source: Getty

Sushma Swaraj: The firebrand Twitterati

India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj who champions the 140 character ‘twitter diplomacy’ in India, is not simply called a ‘global thinker’ –by the Foreign Policy Magazine– just like that.

On January 12, when Swaraj rebuked Amazon in two succinctly worded tweets– for selling doormats bearing the imprints of the Indian national flag– it garnered mixed reactions from all quarters on Twitter.

She not only demanded an apology from the e-commerce conglomerate on Twitter but also threatened to stop issuing visas to the company’s employees and cancel those already granted.

While some argued Swaraj meted the tweets unwittingly, as products bearing national flags are common abroad, some others defended her stance; given her political leanings and the inadvertent rage for disrespecting the sacrosanct National flag.

So now, the entire episode has branched out into two different discussions, that ultimately snowballed into one important question- Should politicians use social media as a legitimate clearinghouse? And if so, to what extent?

If we were to take a cue from the U.S President Donald Trump, it most certainly is coming of age.

The positives about social media diplomacy are that it factors in transparency and immediacy, that all other forms of governmental processes fail to encompass.

The fact that Amazon pulled down these products the very same day is proof of what social media is capable of.

Amazon India’s Vice President Amit Agarwal profusely apologized to Sushhma Swaraj and clarified that these products were in fact listed by a third-party seller in Canada and not Amazon. But this wasn’t the only matter of concern for those who condemned her war of words.

Earlier, in June 2016 Amazon committed to investing $5billion over the next three years in India.

The naysayers, however, alleged that Swaraj’s reckless spewing of threats might just throw this business interest into jeopardy.  The question that begs to be asked here is, should we not be protective of our sovereignty?

about the Indian sensibility? Especially if they want to do business in a country like India?

And as far as discretion is concerned, had she said the same thing in a private e-mail to Amazon, wouldn’t they be offended then?

It is true that in matters of national, commercial and economic interest, words need to be weighed and a more formal platform needs to be chosen, but the case in point here is completely different and therefore wholly justified.

Social media diplomacy is indeed a dramatic break from traditional diplomacy. But what remains to be understood is that social media emerge as an efficient tool for diplomacy, only when one learns to decipher between what is worth engaging with and what isn’t.

Image source: NDTV Images

Government proposes common QR code solution for payments

To ease out situations for people in this demonetisation period, the government has planned to introduce common Quick Response (QR) code for payments. To promote cashless transactions, the government has asked MasterCard, Visa and RuPay to have a common QR code for payments. A common QR code will help the stores across India in accepting digital payments without using card swiping machine.

According to this process, the shopkeeper will unveil a common QR code which can be scanned, using a specific mobile application. The smartphone app will be linked to any of these 3 payment networks—MasterCard, Visa and RuPay and will directly transfer the money from consumer’s account to storekeeper’s account.

Off lately Paytm has been a preferred mode of digital payment and it has recently introduced QR code app for offline shopkeepers. Similarly, Visa owns Mvisa, MasterCard has Masterpass QR service and RuPay is yet to launch its own QR code services.

After setting a target for banks to install one million additional card swipe machines this is government’s another big step towards promoting cashless payment. Payment through multiple gateways is the biggest advantage of QR code based solution.

SOURCE : TOI , Gizbot


Visa free travel for Indian and Afghan diplomats

It was a sigh of relief for the Indian and Afghan diplomats after an accord was signed between India and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah signed a pact for visa – free travel for both the countries. During the session they discussed key bilateral and region

Abdullah Abdullah who arrived on Sunday ,on a five day visit in the country. His visit to India comes after Prime Minister Modi had visited Kabul in December while the inauguration of Afghan parliament was being carried out with India’s aid. Later Abdullah will be addressing a conference to counter terrorism in Jaipur on Tuesday.

The External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas swarup tweeted “ Promoting stronger diplomatic ties during Chief Executive Dr. A Abdullah’s visit, India and Afghanistan sign agreement on visa free travel for diplomats. He later thanked the Indian Prime Minister for providing consistent assistance in various speheres include including defence and for meeting the developmental needs of the country.India has helped Afghanistan by giving them three multi – role Mi – 35 helicopters in December for combating terrorism in the war.

Later, he also had a detailed discussion with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the security issues concerning the country. They also discussed the role of international community to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan and to defeat challenge of terrorism, sources said.

Sources: Hindustan Times , The Hindu

Barack Obama passes Immigration Reform Law

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United States President Barack Obama has said that he will exercise his executive powers to make sure that the Immigration Reform law is passed. This is an important and welcome announcement for Indians living in the US and those who are on long green card queues along with their families.

Under the new law, authorisation will be provided to highly-skilled workers and their spouses awaiting (LPR) Lawful Permanent Resident status, also known commonly as the green card. The Department of Homeland Security(DHS) would make the necessary changes for the workers to acquire and change jobs more easily. The DHS is also working on giving the spouses of H-1B visa holders work permits so long as the H-1B visa holder has a valid and approved LPR application.

President Obama’s announcement is also a welcome step for foreign science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students at US Universities as they may be allowed to stay for 12 months in the US as part of the Optional Practical Training  programme following graduation.
L-1 visa holders on the other hand will face the axe as they now need their companies to sponsor their visas. This is being done to protect American workers who suffer from immigrant workers going to the United States and claiming their jobs.


Source: Economic Times