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Suspension of H-1B & Non-immigrant Visa Programme Big Blow to American Industry: US-India Trade Body

Image used for representation
(Reuters)

Image used for representation (Reuters)

President Donald Trump had issued the proclamation to temporarily suspend a number of popular non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B, H-4, H-2B visa, J and L visas.

  • PTI Washington
  • Last Updated: June 23, 2020, 11:35 PM IST
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The suspension of H-1B and other non-immigrants visa by President Donald Trump is a big blow to the US industry and will undoubtedly impact the already fragile economic recovery process in the country, an India-centric American business advocacy group said on Tuesday.

President Trump on Monday issued the proclamation to temporarily suspend a number of popular non-immigrant visas, including the H-1B, H-4, H-2B visa, J and L visas. It will come into effect from June 24. The proclamation also extends till the end of the year his previous executive order that had banned issuing of new green cards of lawful permanent residency.

The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum President and CEO, Mukesh Aghi, in fact, urged the Trump Administration to strengthen the program by increasing the number allotted visas and by tightening the existing loopholes in the program.

"Coming on the heels of the COVID crisis, the suspension of the non-immigrant visa program is a big blow to the US industry and will undoubtedly impact the already fragile economic recovery process here in the US. It also has the potential to do permanent damage to the US's reputation of attracting the best and the brightest," Aghi said.

In today's uncertain economic times, stability and predictability in the non-immigrant visa programs will ensure that businesses can operate with the continuity they need to meet their obligations and contribute to America's economic strength, innovation, and competitiveness, he asserted.

Temporary workers add tremendous value to the US economy, bringing necessary skills and expertise to supplement the US workforce. They add to America's competitiveness, not detract from it. Temporary workers also contribute to the local economies they work and reside in by spending in local stores and paying taxes, he argued.

Aghi said entrepreneurial immigration in the US-India corridor creates win-win opportunities for both countries.

In a recent survey, a sample of 12 Indian-born startups showed they created 634 high-paying jobs in the United States, and over 6,200 jobs worldwide. For every H1/ L1 visa issued to these startups, they created 40 jobs in the United States at a median income of USD175,000.

"We therefore urge the US administration to strengthen the program by increasing the number of allotted visas and by tightening the existing loopholes in the program," Aghi said, a day after Trump issued a proclamation to suspend issuing of H-1B visas, which is popular among Indian IT professionals, along with other foreign work visas for the rest of the year.

Trump said the step was essential to help millions of Americans who have lost their jobs due to the current economic crisis. The proclamation is expected to impact a large number of Indian IT professionals and several American and Indian companies who were issued H-1B visas by the US government for the fiscal year 2021 beginning October 1.

Top American Republican Senator Lindsey Graham also came out in support of legal immigration.

"Legal immigration is a positive for the American economy, and visa programs allowing American companies to secure qualified, legal labor throughout the world have benefitted economic growth in the United States," he said in a tweet.

However, Congressman Mo Brooks from Alabama supported the proclamation. "I'm pleased President Trump heeded the advice of my colleagues and I who recently asked for a halt to importing cheap foreign labor." he said.

US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia argued that the proclamation ensures that certain nonimmigrants can be excepted from the suspension where necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.

Trump's actions are supported by important actions being taken at the Department of Labor to reform the H-1B visa program. The Department is strengthening wage protections and addressing abuses in the H-1B program, such as when non-US workers are hired by one company to displace US workers at another company, he said.

"The Labor Department is also increasing its cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security to identify businesses that misuse the H-1B program to the detriment of American workers," Scalia said.

The proclamation unveiled by Trump temporarily pauses the issuance of certain new non-immigrant visas until December 31, 2020, which could be extended as necessary.

Trump has also directed to use all available tools to transition to a merit-based immigration system, ending often-exploited avenues for fraud and abuse. New provisions include non-displacement provisions, which prohibit companies from laying off American workers only to replace citizen employees with foreign nationals, and new efforts to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining work permits, the Department of Homeland Security said.

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