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Biden lets Trump era H-1B visa bans expire; Indian IT professionals to benefit

US President Joe Biden on Thursday let the ban on foreign workers visas, in particular H-1B, lapse as the notification issued by his predecessor Donald Trump expired, a move which is likely to benefit thousands of Indian IT professionals.

Amidst a national lockdown and the COVID-19 crisis, Trump in June last year issued a proclamation that suspended entry to the US of applicants for several temporary or non-immigrant visa categories, including H-1B, arguing that these visas presented a risk to the US labour market during the economic recovery.

On December 31, Trump extended the order to March 31, 2021, noting that an extension was warranted as the pandemic continued to disrupt American’s lives, and high levels of unemployment and job losses were still presenting serious economic challenges to workers across the US.

Biden did not issue a fresh proclamation for the ban on H-1B visas to continue after March 31. He had promised to lift the suspension on H-1B visas, saying Trump’s immigration policies were cruel.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The expiry of the Trump’s proclamation would now result in the issuing of H-1B visas by American diplomatic missions overseas that would result in US companies bringing in talented technology professionals inside the country.

H1-B Visa

No new proclamation was issued by Biden till Wednesday midnight, resulting in the automatic end to the ban on issuing fresh H-1B visas.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House will not renew a ban on H-1B and other work-based visas imposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is set to expire on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Republican Senator from Missouri on Wednesday urged Biden to issue a fresh proclamation to continue with the H-1B visa ban.

I write today to urge you to extend the freeze on temporary foreign worker entries into the United States that, without intervention, will expire today, Senator Josh Hawley wrote in a letter to Biden.

The presidential proclamation suspending the entry of certain temporary workers into the US has protected Americans suffering from the pandemic-induced economic crisis. With millions of struggling Americans out of work and millions more desperate to make ends meet now is not the time to open the floodgates to thousands of foreign workers competing with American workers for scarce jobs and resources, he wrote.

In his letter, Hawley wrote that the unemployment rate remains at 6.2 percent with nearly 10 million Americans out of work and looking for a job. The pandemic has been especially devastating for low-income and working-class Americans, many of whom have borne the brunt of the crisis and stand to lose the most from misguided policy decisions, he said.

In periods of high unemployment, it makes no sense to allow a struggling labour market to be flooded with a wave of foreign competition, he said.

What makes even less sense is to willingly introduce further competition for the US workers at the same time that a disastrous illegal immigration crisis grows on our southern border. As at the border, failure to take meaningful action is, in itself, a policy decision with detrimental impacts for American workers.

I urge you to extend the temporary foreign worker entry suspension until the national unemployment rate has meaningfully declined, and until your administration has conducted a thorough review of non-immigrant visa programmes to ensure that American workers are fully and effectively protected from harm, Hawley added.

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