The Department of Homeland Security could end a rule in which workers that are in the country on H-1B visas are allowed extensions on those visas while their green cards are pending, Axios reported on Friday.
The website noted that hundreds of thousands of foreign workers could be affected, including major technology companies such as India-based information technology firms that use the visas to hire for technical roles.
A draft of the rule change is expected mid-February when DHS is scheduled to publish new rules in the Federal Register, sources told Axios.
One technology industry source told Axios that DHS could face legal issues for not following a formal process for the change, or for exceeding authority.
Green card regulations require no more than 7 percent of visas to go to any one country —so hundreds of thousands of India natives may face a 15-year or more wait to get a final decision on their green cards, the report said.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement criticizing the possible change, Axios reported.
"It would be tremendously bad policy to tell highly skilled individuals who are applying for permanent residency and have been working in the U.S. for several years that they are no longer welcome," said a U.S. Chamber of Commerce spokesperson in the statement.
Dean Garfield, president and CEO of Information Technology Industry Council told the website: "Unnecessarily ending or restricting this system would cause economic disruptions for U.S. businesses — for companies of all sizes and across all industries—that depend on these employees to help fill our very real skills gap at a time when we are trying to ignite economic growth."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, rejected the possible change, telling India's Economic Times that "imposing these draconian restrictions on H-1B visa holders will tear families apart, drain our society of talent and expertise, and damage our relationship with an important partner, India.
"The proposal could lead to the deportation of an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders, many of whom are small business owners and job creators who are helping to build and strengthen our U.S. economy"