U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is siding with IT staffing firms that rely heavily on H-1B visa workers in a fight over a new immigration rule that curbs their ability to hire foreign workers.
These staffing firms, which may have more than half of their employees on H-1B visas, have been complaining about a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) memo written last year by Donald Neufeld, an associate director of the agency, that upended their business model.
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The IT staffing companies have long made H-1B workers available to third-party employers for short and long-term projects.
The Neufeld memo, however, requires staffing firms to maintain day-to-day control of H-1B workers at third party sites to remain eligible to hire a visa holding employee. But day-to-day control typically belongs to the third party using the worker and not the staffing firm.
In a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, the USCIS director, Cornyn said IT staffing firms "provide a valuable, short-term solution to their clients, some of whom are federal and state agencies, hospitals, insurance providers, and entities that deal in financial services."
Cornyn said TechServe represents 350 IT consulting and staffing companies, 40 of which are based in Texas. Cornyn accused the agency of overstepping its authority in the Neufeld memo.
The USCIS "should not create a new policy that essentially denies the entire IT consulting and staffing industry access to H-1B workers," said Cornyn.
"Without H-1B workers, many companies who are part of the multi-billion dollar IT industry will either move offshore or simply go out of business - both of which will have a significant impact on the U.S. workforce," wrote Cornyn.
A USCIS spokesman said the agency has received the letter, is looking into it, and plans to respond to the senator. Cornyn is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.
The Neufeld memo was cited by the USCIS as one of the responses it made to a study that revealed a fraud rate in H-1B petitions of more than 13 percent and more than 7 percent with technical violations. "Violations ranged from document fraud to deliberate misstatements regarding job locations, wages paid, and duties performed," Neufeld said in testimony in March on the H-1B visa before House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.