H-1B visa programme explained and what it means for Indians

Updated on Jun 23, 2020 10:23 AM IST

US President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday to extend the suspension of Green Cards till the end of the year and expand it to also cover non-immigrant work visas such as H-1B.

US President Donald Trump speaks during his first re-election campaign rally in several months in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak, at the BOK Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20.(Reuters Photo)
US President Donald Trump speaks during his first re-election campaign rally in several months in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak, at the BOK Centre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20.(Reuters Photo)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Byhindustantimes.com | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi

US President Donald Trump has decided to extend the suspension of immigration and expand it to cover H-1B, most sought-after visa programme among the Indians.

The decision has been taken to ensure Americans have the first shot at the jobs in the wake of record job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The executive order signed by Trump will be in place at least until the end of the year. Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to enact his long standing goal to limit immigration into the United States. Republican Trump is running for re-election on November 3 and has made his tough immigration stance a central pitch to voters.

A senior Department of Homeland Security official said the proclamation will not affect valid visa holders already in the United States.

What is the H-1B visa programme?

It is a non-immigrant visa programme for highly skilled foreign workers. Indians are the largest beneficiaries of the programme, getting more than 70 per cent of the 85,000 given out annually by the United States.

The H-1B is the largest guest worker programme in the United States, and an important channel for high-skilled immigrants to get into the country. It allows companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require technical expertise in areas that are difficult to fill. The H-1B programme has benefitted the tech industry enormously.

The process to get the H-1B visas

The programme is employer-driven. This means that companies tell the US government that they need these visas for certain specialised roles. The companies also promise the new workers under the programme will not be given salaries less than their American counterparts. And that the foreign workers will not adversely affect the working condition of other workers.

The criticism

President Trump and immigration hardliners argue that the present system is being abused to bring foreign workers on low wages to displace Americans, instead of attracting the really talented as its original mandate. The Trump administration also points towards a “loophole” in the system that allowed companies to hire foreign workers and then “domestically outsource” them to other companies, replacing their American workers. They do so by bypassing a rule prohibiting the hiring of a foreign worker if it directly led to the firing of an American worker. Outsourcing through a third-party personnel system is critical to the business model of Indian IT services companies.

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