The US is reportedly working to temporarily ban the issuance of some work-based visas like H-1B, popular among highly-skilled Indian IT professionals, 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.
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 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 reported Friday.
“The order is expected to focus on visa categories including H-1B, designed for highly skilled workers, and H-2B, for seasonal migrant workers, as well as student visas and the work authorization that accompanies them,” it said.
More than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last two months due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has brought the US economy to a standstill.
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.
The monthly jobs report on Friday said that the unemployment rate in the US for the month of April rose to 14.7 per cent.
This is the highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series, seasonally adjusted data are available back to January 1948, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
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.
Meanwhile, it is reported that President Trump has been asked by five lawmakers to temporarily suspend new H-1B and practical training visas.
Their proposals do not call for suspending the visas of those already working here and the senators who asked for the year-long hold on Thursday asserted it would benefit the H1-B workers here facing layoffs.
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.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the US government announced 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.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last Friday said the 60-day grace period for responding to its requests will include requests for evidence; continuations to request evidence (N-14); notices of intent to deny; notices of intent to revoke; notices of intent to rescind and notices of intent to terminate regional investment centers; and filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
The USCIS can issue a maximum of 65,000 H-1B work visas every year to highly skilled foreign workers. It can issue an additional 20,000 H-1B visas to those highly skilled foreign workers who have obtained masters or higher degrees from an American educational institution.
Under the existing law, the US can issue a maximum of 1,40,000 employment-based green cards every year with a per country cap of seven per cent.