In view of the massive unemployment in America due to the Coronavirus pandemic, US President Donald Trump is considering suspending a number of employment visas including the H-1B, popular among highly-skilled Indian IT professionals, according to a media report.
H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies in the US to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
Nearly 500,000 migrant workers are employed in the US in the H-1B status.
The proposed suspension could extend into the government’s new fiscal year beginning October 1, when many new visas are issued, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, quoting unnamed administration officials.
“That could bar any new H-1B holder outside the country from coming to work until the suspension is lifted, though visa holders already in the country are unlikely to be affected,” the daily reported.
The White House, however, said that no final decision has been made and the administration is considering various proposals.
“The administration is currently evaluating a wide range of options, formulated by career experts, to protect American workers and job seekers especially disadvantaged and underserved citizens – but no decisions of any kind have been made,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.
In addition to the H-1B visas, the suspension could apply to the H-2B visa for short-term seasonal workers, the J-1 visa for short-term workers including camp counselors and au pairs and the L-1 visa for internal company transfers, the financial daily reported.
Meanwhile, the US Chambers of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue on Thursday wrote a letter to Trump, expressing concern over his reported move on temporary work visas.
“As the economy rebounds, American businesses will need assurances that they can meet all their workforce needs. To that end, it is crucial that they have access to talent both domestically and from around the world,” Donohue wrote in a letter to Trump.
He also noted the importance of H-1B visa holders, who have a work visa valid for multiple years, for various industries, including technology, accounting and manufacturers.
Last month, it was reported that the US is reportedly working to temporarily ban the issuance of some work-based visas like H-1B as well as students visas and work authorisation that accompanies them as unemployment in the country soars to highest ever numbers on record in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The president’s immigration advisers are drawing up plans for a coming executive order, expected this month, that would ban the issuance of some new temporary, work-based visas,” The Wall Street Journal had reported.
The IMF and the World Bank have projected a negative growth rate for the country.
White House officials say that the US economy is likely to grow at negative 15 to 20 per cent in the second quarter.
In April, President Donald Trump had said that he was suspending immigration for green card seekers for 60 days, arguing the controversial move would help Americans find work again after Coronavirus caused a surge in unemployment amid the current lockdown.
However, in a major relief for professionals and immigrants from countries like India, the US government had in May given a grace period of 60 days to H-1B visa holders and Green Card applicants, who have been served notices for submission of various documents, taking into account the massive novel Coronavirus outbreak in America.
A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
Fearing massive layoffs in America due to the Coronavirus crisis that is hitting businesses around the globe, foreign technology professionals on H-1B visas had demanded the Trump administration to extend their permissible post-job loss limit to stay in the US from the existing 60 to 180 days.
Indians are the single largest group of H-1B visa holders accounting for nearly 74 per cent of all such visas.
In addition to American firms, several Indian technology companies rely on the H-1B workforce to operate in the US.
(With PTI inputs)