For tech companies relying on foreign workers, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services makes the Department of Motor Vehicles look good.
The DMV is infamous for slow service, but the USCIS is getting ridiculous. For example, one company applied for an H-1B visa to employ a foreign worker but the agency mailed out the approval almost three weeks after it expired.
That's one reason an advocacy group representing more than 1,000 IT companies is suing the immigration agency. You could say it's about time.
According to the new lawsuit, the immigration agency has been dragging its feet for years. Now the plaintiffs want to make the government accountable.
"The USCIS has been making arbitrary rules and memos for over eight years,"said Gopi Kandukuri, president of IT Serve Alliance. "It's our top priority to set things right and hold USCIS accountable to follow the regulations set by the Unites States Congress."
H-1B visas typically allow American companies to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations for three years at a time. Tech companies employ tens of thousands H-1B workers -- many from Indian and China -- each year.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege USCIS has recently begun a practice of shortening H-1B visas. They are often good for only days or months at a time; some expire before they arrive.
Forbes reported the new policy is producing "absurd results," and companies are finding it difficult to do business.
"This is a major problem because it is almost impossible to run a business when you don't know if you're going to have your employees for any reasonable period of time," said the plaintiffs' attorney, John Wasden.
Lawyers say they have to file repeated extensions of time, costing employers more fees and less certainty. That's worse than the DMV because there you just have to wait a long time.