Tech & Work

Suit filed against Department of Homeland Security over changes to H-1B visa

A group of individuals has filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security over a new rule that would increase the on-the-job training period for those in the country on H-1B visas.

Ten individuals (mostly programmers) have filed suit in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey against the Department of Homeland Security over a new rule designed to ease foreign students' transition to an H-1B guest worker visa.

The new regulations extend the on-the-job training period for foreign students with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics degrees from 12 months to 29 months. This move is seen by the plaintiffs as encouragement for some companies to discriminate against U.S. workers in that employers can now use the OPT program to train foreign students for 2½ years, rather than invest in this country's own domestic IT labor force.

Those of you who have followed the H-1B guest worker program saga know the political skirmishes that surround it. Critics say this latest rule is trying to circumvent the 65,000 annual cap of people allowed to get the H-1B.*

In April, the Department of Homeland Security cited concerns raised by representatives of high-tech industries that the "inability of U.S. companies to obtain H-1B visas for qualified F-1 students in a timely manner continues to result in the loss of skilled technical workers to countries with more lenient employment visa regimes, such as Canada and Australia."

Opponents say the regulation is hurting Americans and breaking the law. An attorney on behalf of the lawsuit, Mike Hethmon, issued the statement: The department "has both overstepped its authority and caused injury to American workers — just as the economy heads downward."

* OPT extensions  actually deal with American educated foreign students. They have a separate quota of 20,000. This extension deals exclusively with those 20,000 students, not the majority 65000 professionals.

The suit is on behalf of 10 individuals — mostly computer programmers — and three worker advocacy organizations: the Programmers Guild, the American Engineering Association, and Bright Future Jobs.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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