Applicants who want to renew their non-immigrant American visas – including the H-1B work permits – will now face the same level of scrutiny as those seeking fresh visas, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a policy memorandum on Monday.

Requests to extend visas will be checked for eligibility again, even if all details in the application are unchanged from the original one.

Indians account for the maximum number of H-1B visas-holders – the non-immigrant permits that allow companies in the US to employ foreign workers in occupations that need specialised skills. IT firms rely heavily on this work visa to hire employees from overseas every year.

The new norms revoke a 13-year-old policy, which asked officers to approve extension requests based on a previously approved application – as long as the key elements in the request were unchanged and no material error or fraud had been found in connection with the earlier application.

Justifying the new policy, the US immigration department said that because of the 2004 policy, officers had to take extra steps to ascertain that the facts in the renewal application were indeed the same as the original one. This “improperly shifted” the burden of proof to the agency and was also “impractical and costly to properly implement”, it added.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L Francis Cissna said that the updated rules gave “clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of US workers”.