Washington, DC – The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied a comment on the legal challenge, filed on May 20 by two major American organizations against the US administration, demanding more transparency in the H1B selection process through a lottery system.
Responding to a question from Indian American Times, Carolyn Gwathmey, Public Affairs Officer, USCIS said in a short statement, “It is USCIS policy to not discuss ongoing litigation.”
Earlier Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, Director, Office of Press Relations, US Department of State told Indian American Times, “This portion of the H-1B application process is handled by the Department of Homeland Security. I refer you to DHS for questions on how the petitions are selected.”
Trudeau in her statement added, “The Department of State strives to be transparent. Our website, travel.state.gov, and the websites of our embassies and consulates provide visa applicants with the information they need to be prepared for their interview.”
The much sought-after H-1B visas, a hot commodity especially for Indian IT professionals, hit the headlines recently when the American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) teamed up on a lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS seeking information about the government’s administration of the H-1B lottery.
Commenting on the move, Ramesh Khurana, an eminent immigration lawyer said, “The complaint filed in the US District court by AILA and AIC asks for openness as to how the lottery system works. The USCIS has so far resisted all such efforts to disclose the opaque process. It is a question about the fairness of the so called random selection process of the most important business visa.”
Under the lottery process repeated every year, US employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit petitions to USCIS on the first business day of April for the limited pool of H-1B nonimmigrant visa numbers that are available for the coming fiscal year.
“The demand for such visas has been almost three times the numbers statutorily available. The H-1B quota is oversubscribed during the first five business days of opening of yearly numbers,” noted Khurana.
If USCIS determines at any time during the first five business days of the filing period that it has received more than enough petitions to meet the numerical limits, the agency uses a computer-generated random selection process (or “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to satisfy the limits, taking into account a percentage of the petitions selected which will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise rejected.
USCIS has never been forthcoming in describing the selection process, alleged the two organizations. “The users of the visa have a right to know the H-1B allotment process to avoid the resulting frustration. There is no need to shield the process and on the other hand it should be open to public inspection,” added Khurana.
Petitions not selected are returned to the petitioning employers. US employers, foreign nationals including thousands of Indian origin professionals seeking H-1Bs, and immigration lawyers are keenly interested in how USCIS administers the lottery process.
Echoing this frustration, Attorney Khurana said, “It has become very frustrating for the intended beneficiaries of H-1B visa petitions and the businesses who want to hire them for the growth of US economy and create more jobs. Many highly US educated persons are likely to go back to their home countries as a result of frustration.”