US court rejects move to stop extended student visas

August 17th, 2008 - 9:56 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) An attempt to halt the Bush administration’s move to extend student visas from one year to 29 months - a move it said would give them a better shot at getting the H-1B visas - has faltered in court. The opponents of H-1B visas for highly skilled professionals coveted by Indians argued that the extension, put in place earlier this year, is a backdoor visa increase and will hurt US workers. But New Jersey District Court Judge Faith Hochberg earlier this month denied a preliminary injunction sought by the Programmers Guild, the Immigration Reform Law Institute and other groups, Computer World reported.

Indians have cornered bulk of the 85,000 H-1B visas of late with Indian outsourcing companies accounting for nearly 80 percent of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the H1B programme, according to US federal government data.

The H1B visa programme is designed to allow US companies to hire foreign professionals in technology, engineering, and other speciality fields when such workers are in short supply in America.

In his ruling on the lawsuit initially filed in May, Hochberg noted that the petitioners could not show they had been directly hurt by the student visa extension. “Instead of alleging concrete injury, plaintiffs assert a generalised grievance with a particular government policy,” the judge wrote.

The judge ordered the two parties to file briefs as to “whether this case should be dismissed for lack of standing.” Those briefs are due by Nov 14.

Although the H-1B opponents can appeal the injunction, no decision on doing that has yet been made. Computer World cited John Miano, founder of the Summit, New Jersey-based Programmers Guild, as saying the extension opponents are now working on a response.

In its lawsuit, the Programmers Guild said its members “will experience further job displacement, denials of job opportunities, wage depression and increase[d] job competition by a DHS estimate of 12,000 to 30,000 foreign workers.”

Hochberg said that the plaintiffs were expressing “general dissatisfaction” with the policy, which does little to separate them from “the public at large” in having grounds to claim injury.

Moreover, Hochberg wrote that there are “competing interests” to the claim by the plaintiffs “that granting the preliminary injunction is consistent with the public interest in preserving jobs and wages for American workers.”

The judge wrote that the preliminary injunction “would cause extreme hardship to lawfully present guest students, such as being forced out-of-status and facing deportation.”

Proponents of the student visa extension argued that it was needed to allow students to seek an H-1B visa. The 85,000-visa cap, which includes 20,000 allocated to those with advanced degrees, is being reached in early April each year - prior to the close of the academic year. That makes it difficult for new graduates to get a new visa before their old visa expires.

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