Computer programmer not to qualify as a specialty: United States

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The United States decided that being a simple computer programmer would no longer be considered a specialized profession, which is essential for the issuance of an H-1B work visa, a decision that could have far-reaching implications for thousands of Indians who apply for such a visa.

The ruling rescinds US guidelines that are more than several and a half decades old, which were issued in the context of meeting the needs of the new millennium.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has ruled that an entry-level computer programmer position would not generally be considered a position in a “skilled profession.”

The clarification of what constitutes a “skilled profession” replacing and overriding its previous guidelines of December 22, 2000 was issued by USCIS in a new policy memorandum on March 31.

The move could have far-reaching implications for thousands of Indians applying for H-1B work visas for the next fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017, the process of which began yesterday.

Issued just one business day before USCIS begins accepting H-1B visa applications, the policy memorandum titled “Resolution of the December 22, 2000 Guidance Note on H1B Computing-Related Positions,” sent shock waves through businesses and immigration attorneys, as their application was based on the 2000 guidelines on what constitutes a specialty profession.

“The fact that a person can be employed as a computer programmer and can use their information technology skills and knowledge to help a company achieve its goals in the course of their work is not sufficient to establish the post as a specialized profession, ”the USCIS policy memorandum ruled.

“Thus, an applicant cannot rely solely on the (current version of the) Handbook (which describes the skilled profession) to meet his onus when seeking to sponsor a grantee for a computer programmer position. Instead, a petitioner must provide further evidence to establish that the post in question is part of a specialized profession, ”the memorandum said.

According to USCIS, the memorandum of December 22, 2000 titled “Guidance Memorandum on H-1B Computing-Related Positions” is not a precise articulation of current agency policy.

“USCIS is overturning it to avoid inconsistencies in the H-1B and H-1B1 judgments between the three service centers currently adjudicating the H-1B petitions,” he said.

USCIS argued that the 2000 memorandum was based on the 1998-1999 and 2000-01 editions of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is now obsolete.

The 2000 memorandum, he said, did not accurately describe the essential information in the manual which recognized that some computer programmers were qualified for these jobs with only “2-year degrees.”

While the memorandum mentioned beneficiaries with “2-year” degrees, it incorrectly described them as “strictly involving code entry or revision for an employer whose activity is not IT-related”.

The Handbook did not support such a statement, he said.

As such, “it is inappropriate to conclude on the basis of this information that USCIS” would generally regard the programmer position as a specialty occupation, “the memorandum told USCIS staff involved in the award. H-1B requests and petitions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Occupational Outlook Handbook identifies 10 different types of computer and information technology (IT) occupations.

Topping the list are computer and information researchers with doctorates or professional degrees, who normally invent and design new approaches to computer technology and find innovative uses for existing technology.

They study and solve complex problems in computer science for business, medicine, science, and other fields.

The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows US businesses to employ foreign workers in occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise. Tech companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees every year.

In 2015, their median salary was $ 110,000. He is followed by Computer Network Architects (whose median salary in 2015 was $ 100,000), Computer Programmer ($ 79,530), Computer Support Specialist ($ 51,000).

The median salary for computer systems analysts was $ 85,500, followed by database administrators ($ 81,000), information security analysts ($ 90,000), network and computer systems administrators ($ 77,000), software developers ($ 100,000) and web developers ($ 65,000).


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