Shilpa Phadnis, TNN | Sep 12, 2013, 01.24AM IST
BANGALORE: The number of approved L-1 work visa petitions fell from its peak of 52,218 in the 2007 financial year to 33,301 in the 2011 fiscal. It has declined each year since 2007, a recent report of the US department of homeland security (DHS) said.
Many Indian companies have complained over the past years that the number of rejections of L-1 petitions had increased significantly. The overall numbers now suggest exactly that. The US was clearly tightening its visa issuances given its high unemployment rate and the public uproar against immigration.
Indian companies, however, continue to be the biggest users of these visas. In 2011, Indians got 26,919 L-1 visas, or 81% of the total approved. Companies from UK, Japan, Canada and Mexico followed. Between FY 2003 and FY 2010, these five countries accounted for 75.7% of L-1 entries into the US.
L-1 is a non-immigrant visa that facilitates temporary transfer of foreign workers in managerial, executive or in the specialized knowledge category to the US. It's used normally for an intra-company transfer — to the parent company or its affiliates. TCS was the biggest L-1 employer with 25,908 L-1s between 2002 and 2011, followed by Cognizant and IBM India with 19,719 and 5,722 respectively.
The DHS, which did a detailed analysis of the L-1 visa regime, indicated that the decline in issuances was partly because there was no uniformity in the way 'specialized knowledge' was interpreted by immigration officials.
Since the L-1 visa originated in 1970, it has undergone multiple iterations in the form of laws and policies governing specialized knowledge. "The L-1 definition contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act does not clearly distinguish between employees with and without specialized knowledge. As a result, decision making for specialized knowledge petitions is inconsistent, and unsuccessful petitioners do not understand why their petitions are denied," the report said.
"Opponents of the L-1 visa program feel that it drives down salaries, reduces employment opportunities for domestic technology workers, and allows unscrupulous petitioners to exploit the foreign beneficiaries," the DHS report said.
The DHS has made several recommendations including asking the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) to publish a new guidance to clarify the interpretation of specialized knowledge.
"This guidance should be sufficiently explicit to give adjudicators an improved basis for determining whether employees of a petitioning entity possess specialized knowledge," it said.
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