Under Biden, Trump-era H-1B ban set to expire
A temporary ban on H-1B visas, enacted by former president Donald Trump, is set to expire on Wednesday if President Joe Biden does not extend it, possibly ending yet another restriction on the non-immigrant work visa programme that scores of Indians use to work and live in the United States and go on to acquire citizenship.
The ban was imposed on June 22 last year as part of an expanded and extended suspension of immigrant and non-immigrant visas — starting with Green Cards in April — to protect American jobs for Americans after millions were laid off due to the economic devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump had on December 31, 2020, extended the June proclamation — 10052 — temporarily banning H-1B for high-skilled foreign workers, H-2B for nonagricultural workers and services, L-1 for intra-company transfers and certain J-1 for research scholars and professors, till the end of March this year.
The White House did not comment on whether the Biden administration will allow the ban to end. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the H-1B programme, directed questions to the state department, which had not responded till this report was filed.
On February 25 this year, President Biden lifted the Trump-era ban on Green Cards, which allows immigrants to live and work permanently in America and set them on course for citizenship, saying it “does not advance the interests of the United States … To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here”. He was, however, silent on the work visa ban.
The H-1B work visa programme allows American companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers to make up for local shortage, which many critics contend saying there is enough local talent available but they are sidelined by less expensive workers from abroad. More than 70% of the 85,000 visas granted annually under the programme go to Indians hired from India or from those enrolled in US colleges.
Tech firms such as Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon rely on foreign talent to shore up domestic workforces, as have US subsidiaries of Indian IT services giants such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro.
Trump changed the selection process for H-1B visa by introducing a pre-registration stage, which came into effect this year, to prioritise H-1B petitions for the most qualified. He also sought to make H-1B visas less desirable for those seeking to use the programme to get permanent residency and eventually citizenship, by rescinding work authorisation — H-4EAD— for their spouses.
The Biden administration doesn’t seem to be interested in pursuing many of these restrictions, as is clear from the cancellation of some of them. The plan to rescind H-4EAD, for instance, has been dropped.
Stuart Anderson of the non-partisan National Foundation for American Policy, which closely tracks immigration, said that the two H-1B regulations remaining from the Trump administration are a department of labor wage rule and the department of homeland security rule to end the H-1B lottery and replace it with a system of awarding from highest to lowest salary when applications exceed the annual limit.