U.S. Denies Reports That It Is Considering H-1B Visa Cap on India

June 21, 2019

The U.S. State Department disputed a Reuters report that cited two senior Indian officials claiming that the Trump administration has told them it is considering placing a cap on H-1B skilled worker visas available to Indians.

Indians would be limited to 10% to 15% of the yearly H-1B visa quota under the rumored cap.  Currently, roughly 70% of H-1B visas are issued to Indians.

In a not-quite-refutal of the initial report, India's Foreign Ministry said "We have not heard anything officially from the U.S. government."

The legal justifications for a country-specific cap are narrow if not non-existent, according to legal experts.  Lynden Melmed, a partner at Berry Appleman & Leiden and former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said, “It does not surprise me that it is being discussed within the U.S. government, but the statute just doesn't give them any leeway to do that and they are going to have to look elsewhere for leverage.”

Why it matters: Proposed changes to the H-1B and other related visas, such as the H-4, have been in limbo for some time.  While the rumor, if true, is likely intended to create bargaining power in an ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and India, it raises the specter of the administration further clamping down on the H-1B visa through regulatory changes.