Yet another embroidery of the Trump era has been jettisoned by President Joe Biden on All Fool’s Day. Abrogated on April 1 was the nonimmigrant visa that allows companies in the United States to employ foreign staff in what they call “speciality occupations” that require theoretical or technical expertise.
While, according to surveys, the ban had little or no impact on domestic employment in America, the IT sector in India is reported to have welcomed the move. The White House has allowed a ban (imposed in 2020) on H1-B skilled workers and certain other temporary visas to expire on March 31. H1-B visas, that are used more by Indian professionals than any other citizens abroad, were suspended by Mr Biden’s predecessor in June last year, ostensibly to protect American jobs, that had languished because of the pandemic. It is quite another story that efforts, if at all, to contain the dreaded disease and minimise the casualty toll were by and large ineffectual under Mr Donald Trump.
Also affected by the ban were visas for intra-company transfers (L1), exchange visitors ( J1), temporary nonagricultural workers (H-2B) and dependents of H1- B holders (H4). In a word, this is a cross-section of potential visa-holders, notably those who would visit the US on State Department programmes, or junkets if you will. While a large section of foreigners faced the prospect of closed doors, it is open to question whether Biden’s decision to let the ban “expire” will translate to open sesame across the Atlantic.
The White House did not make an official statement on the abrogation chiefly because President Biden was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan ~ an eight year scheme pertaining in the main to infrastructure.
Jobs and migration are closely intertwined. While the stated reason why Trump had banned this category of visas was to protect American jobs in the face of unprecedented unemployment last year, the ban did not have its intended impact, according to the preliminary findings of a Wall Street Journal survey.
Businesses employing foreigners “struggled to fill jobs (aka the burgeoning vacancies)” despite very high domestic unemployment. The Indian IT industry entity, NASSCOM, said it applauded the decision to let the visa ban expire.
According to a statement issued in the immediate aftermath of the decision: “…allowing the suspension to lapse makes great sense for the United States. As the courts seemed to agree, there was no credible evidence that the visa holders do harm to the US labour market. Quite the contrary, these individuals are a vital part of the US workforce and their presence enhances and helps enable the US economy, innovate, and grow jobs across the country. NASSCOM believes this will help US businesses access talent critical to the economic recovery phase in the post-Covid world.” Mr Biden has choreographed a bold decision to spruce up the economy of the United States of America and the job market generally.