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US allows H-1B visa holders to return for same jobs they did before ban; spouses, children also permitted

On June 22, as unemployment touched the highest-ever numbers on record in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas till the end of the year.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Trump administration has announced relaxations in some rules for H-1B visa holders allowing them to enter the US if they return to the same jobs they had before the visa ban.

The US Department of State advisory said dependents (spouses and children) will also be allowed to travel along with primary visa holders.

“Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification,” the statement read.

It said the travel is to be supported by a request from a US government agency or entity to meet critical US foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligation.

The Trump administration, with respect to its relaxed rules, has allowed the travel of healthcare professionals, technical specialists, senior level managers and other workers who hold H-1B visas, saying it is necessary to facilitate the “immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States”.

On June 22, as unemployment touched the highest-ever numbers on record in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily suspend H-1B and other work visas till the end of the year.

Trump directed his administration to “reform” the H-1B visa system and move in the direction of merit-based immigration.

The Trump administration will reform the immigration system to prioritise the highest-skilled workers and protect American jobs, said the White House in a statement soon after Trump’s proclamation.

The move came as a major setback for Indian professionals as the technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

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.

Nearly 500,000 migrant workers are employed in the US in the H-1B status. Indians are the single largest group of H-1B visa holders accounting for nearly 74 per cent of all such visas.

In addition to the H-1B visas, the suspension also applied 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.

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.