Trump considers suspending H-1B, L-1 and other work visas, could hit Indians hard
The Trump administration is considering suspending several categories of employment-based visas including H-1B for high-skilled foreigners and L-1 for internal company transfers, both very popular with Indian companies with US operations and Indians seeking to work in America.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported this move, said President Donald Trump has not signed off on the proposal, which is part of a package of changes to other work-related visas and authorizations for foreigners yet, and things could change. An executive order is expected in some weeks.
The plan also includes ending Obama-era work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders cleared for Green Cards, which would impact mostly Indians. The Green Card waiting line is the longest for Indians because of a country-limit of 7% on the number of Green Cards — around 1 million annually — that can be issued to people from any one country.
Charges for H-1Bs could also be increased substantially to $20,000 from current $460, as processing fee or some kind of a surcharge.
The package seeks, additionally, to end or scale back work authorisation for foreign students, called Optional Practical Training.
The move stems from the administration’s efforts to boost employment in the country, which has experienced record job losses caused by the Covid-19 lockdown. The aim is to ensure Americans have the first crack at jobs that become available as the economy rebounds.
The suspension will extend into the new fiscal year that starts on October 1 and will likely impact new H-1B workers who typically apply then.
The White House did not deny the move and a spokesman told the WSJ in a statement, “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.”
President Donald Trump has already suspended all immigration in view of the Covid-19 epidemic, including Green Cards. Non-immigrant work visas were spared, but not any longer if this the package of changes being considered goes through.
The United States issues 85,000 H-1B visas every year; 65,000 to foreign workers hired from abroad and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in US institutions of advanced learning. More than 70% of these visas tend to go to Indians either hired by American companies such as Google, Apple and Microsoft or Indian companies with US operations such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro.
This distinction between those hired abroad and here in the United States has blurred lately as the administration has chosen to hire more foreign students even in the open category to address criticism that the short term visa is being misused to bring foreign workers who are not really high skilled but are cheaper alternatives to Americans. For the same reason, the H-1B visa rejections and request for more paperwork have gone up.
L-1 visas for intracompany transfers, which have also been very popular with Indian companies who send executives from India to staff positions for their US operations, have also seen more scrutiny and curbs over a period of time.
The tightening of rules for both H-1B and L-1 has routinely been brought up by Indian officials with their US counterparts, but without much success. And now this.
The plan has been in the works for some months now and it is expected to be presented to the president for his approval soon.
Healthcare professionals and workers are expected to be exempted from the suspension. The move is facing opposition from several quarters, including colleges and universities, the WSJ reported.
Some Republican lawmakers have also cautioned against a hasty decision on the matter.
“American businesses that rely on help from these visa programs should not be forced to close without serious consideration,” nine Republican senators including Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn wrote in a letter to the president in May.
“Guest workers are needed to boost American business, not take American jobs,” the letter added.