Number of issued O visas tripled in the past decade: US Senator

Unlike most of the visa categories, O visa programme has no restriction on its numbers.

The Dollar Business Bureau

A top US Senator on Tuesday alleged that the potential applicants for H-1B visa are being guided to apply for O visa programme instead of the H-1B, which is numerically restricted and meant for highly-skilled workers to avoid legal limitations on employment visas.

H-1B visa is issued to international guest workers having high skilled capabilities, while O visas are intended for those having extraordinary capabilities or who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement record.

Unlike most of the visa categories, O visa programme has no restriction on its numbers.

Mentioning some media reports, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley, said that the number of visas issued under the O visa programme in the last decade has increased three-fold.

The increasing numbers of the visas along with such type of reports raise concerns about integrity of both the visa programmes in future, he said in a letter to John Kelly, Secretary, Homeland Security.

“Visas intended for exceptional individuals are not a substitute for H-1B visas. Any attempt to flout the extraordinary requirements of the O visa programme because an applicant can't acquire an H-1B potentially constitutes visa fraud and ultimately damages both visa programmes,” said Grassley.

“I am raising my concerns to Secretary Kelly so that he can prevent potential abuse and ensure that the integrity of both the O visa and the H-1B remain intact,” he said.

In the letter, Grassley said that the latest news articles point out that certain foreign nationals should opt for applying O visas in order to get around order of President Donald Trump on H-1B because visas under the O category has no cap on the numbers and are mainly restrictions free.

“These articles tenor raises concerns about the abuse of O visa application process by individuals who might fraudulently assert qualifications, which they do not have, to bypass the restrictions on other visa programmes for employment,” he said in the letter which was released to the media.

He said that O visa is given to overseas workers with extraordinary capabilities in the fields of science, business, education, arts or athletics or having a "demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement" in "motion picture and television productions".

"In spite of the rarity of such extraordinary qualifications, the number of issued O visas have increased three times in the past decade, from only about 30,000 in 2006 to nearly 100,000 in 2016,” said Grassley in the letter.

Given the period of validity of up to three years, around 300,000 workers could be working under the O visa programme in the US currently,” he mentioned.

The Dollar Business Bureau - Jul 20, 2017 12:00 IST