While suspending US immigration visas for two months, President Donald Trump in the executive order said non-immigrant visas such as H-1B will be reviewed after 30 days.
This has added to the distress of techies waiting to go to the US but who are yet to get their visas stamped, or stuck due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers,” the order said.
According to reports, there are about 22 million American workers who are unemployed. The US Tech Workers group has raised concern that H-1B visa workers are replacing American workers and hence, the temporary work visa ban is more important than restrictions on the green card.
Indians are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa programme. A majority of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued every year go to India. Currently, there are about 600,000 Indians in the green card queue through the H-1B route, some of them waiting for over a decade. Policy research firm CATO.org estimates it would take 54 years on average to get a green card.
While it is worrying that the US has talked about reviewing the H-1B after 30 days, experts said it’s best to wait and watch.
Travel is currently largely suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Visa holders who were supposed to travel in March and April will anyway have to wait for 3-4 months before they can resume.
However, it is unclear how this will impact those who have applied for the lottery as the result will be known only a few months later.
Shivendra Singh, Vice President and Head, Global Trade Development, NASSCOM, the industry body, pointed out that tech workers in the critical infrastructure power services in the hospitals, remote education and other areas during recovery phases, should be considered essential workers.
The DHS and Department of Labour should consider these as well and get recommendations while reviewing non-immigrant visas, he added.
Another immigration consultant pointed out that considering that Indian tech workers account for the majority of the workforce, the government is unlikely to impose harsh restrictions on the visa.
Netra Chavan, who runs the largest Facebook group for H-1B and H4 visa holders, said while the current visa holders are safe, those who are looking to travel to the US should plan well considering a possible amendment.
Five Key takeaways
– Indians living in the US with a valid visa are safe
– The ban on the green card is only for 60 days. This will be reviewed again towards the end.
– The ban will impact only those applying for a visa from outside the US and not those residing in the country now- There will be no impact on investor immigrant visa programme i.e. EB-5 visas