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Tech firm sues US govt over H-1B denial to Indian employee

San Francisco-based Xterra Solutions is suing the US government, claiming immigration officials had improperly denied an H-1B visa to its Indian employee.

The company alleged in its lawsuit that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) improperly denied an H-1B visa to Praharsh Chandra Sai Venkata Anisetty, 28, whom it had hired as a Business System Analyst. The visa denial, made in February, was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with the law,” alleged the suit filed in Northern California District Court.

The Donald Trump government has been targeting firms such as Xterra and several other Indian IT services firms that fall into a class of H-1B employers, and increased its scrutiny of H-1B applications from such firms. It has boosted the rate at which it denies them visas in a bid to cut down on immigration and focus on local job creation.

According to the suit, Xterra, with a dozen full-time workers, is not a heavy user of the H-1B programme, having made only one application each in 2018 and 2017, which was approved. Though Xterra was founded in 2009, government data show no H-1B applications by the company before 2017. In contrast, major outsourcing companies TCS and Cognizant each received about 500 H-1B visas in 2018, data reveal.

“The denial is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, is contrary to established legal precedent, and is arbitrary, capricious and constitutes a clear abuse of discretion,” the company alleged, urging the district court to set aside the USCIS order.

Evidence request

Anisetty’s visa application initially received a request from USCIS for more evidence that the job met one of four requirements under H-1B rules. Xterra said it sent the agency the required proof.

“Xterra submitted an extremely detailed statement of Mr Anisetty’s job duties, which clearly explained the specialised and complex nature of the Business Systems Analyst occupation,” the suit said. “(The agency) erroneously stated in its denial that the record contains insufficient information to establish the specialised and complex nature of the proffered position.”

H-1B is the most sought-after visa, with an annual numerical cap of 65,000. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Indians are its biggest beneficiaries.

Dependent status

Anisetty holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering as well as an MS degree in Information Technology and Management from the University of Texas at Dallas. He currently holds H-4 dependent status through his wife, the principal beneficiary of an H-1B application.

This is not the first time that the USCIS has come under fire. Last October, a US-based IT advocacy group representing over 1,000 small IT companies, mostly run by Indian-Americans, had sued it for issuing H-1B visas for shorter than three-year durations.

Source: The Hindu