An apparent spurt in “administrative processing” by US consulates in India in recent months has unnerved Indian IT professionals currently in the United States on H-1B visa and companies that rely on these employees.
The American Bazaar has learned that a number of H-1B visa holders — mostly in the information technology field — who have jobs in the United States, are stuck in India after US consulates placed their applications under administrative processing under section 221 (g) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act.
Once placed under administrative processing, the applications are sent back to the Department of State for conducing additional background and security checks. It takes anywhere from four to eight weeks to finish such checks.
The American Bazaar spoke to two H-1B visa holders, who were placed under 221 (g) by the consulate in Chennai. They were in India for personal visits and needed to get the visas stamped on their passports in order to re-enter the United States.
Both visa holders had been working in this country for close to a decade and their visas were renewed while in the United States. The American Bazaar is not revealing the identities of the two given the sensitive nature of their cases.
The increase in administrative processing also has many companies worried.
In a letter written to its 500 plus employees, a New Jersey-based information technology firm has advised its employees that are on H-1B not to travel outside of the country, saying that the consulate is placing those on these visas under administrative processing “at an alarming rate for no reason at all.”
The letter reads:
I have just been informed by our attorney that they are not advising anyone to travel out of the country at this time. The consulate is issuing 221G forms at an alarming rate for no reason at all, which could result in being stuck indefinitely in India. If you have upcoming plan to travel, we advise postponing them until we have more clarity on the situation at the consulate from the attorney. We understand there may accentuating circumstances that would require you to travel. In that event, we will use all of our best efforts to ensure you travel with all the documents necessary to have a successful visa stamping appointment and be permitted to enter back into the country.
In the meantime, the CEO of a Washington-area information technology consulting firm told the Bazaar that, in recent days, a number of companies have approached him with request to supply workers for short-term jobs of 1 to 3 months because their employees have not been able to return to the United States because they were placed under administrative processing.
“Companies are suffering losses because they are unable to finish time-sensitive projects,” the CEO, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
Similarly, the visa-holders who stuck in India are also suffering financial losses. While a few companies allow their employees that have been placed under “administrative processing” to work remotely, many don’t.
“They have to pay the rent, in some cases, mortgage, and car payments,” the CEO pointed out. “Many have children who are missing school.”
President Trump had vowed to crack down on the abuse of H-1B visas during the campaign. Many of his Republican congressional allies are also opposed to the liberal use of H-1B visas by US and Indian companies. It is not sure whether the current spurt in increased scrutiny has anything to do with any new policies of the new administration.