Trump freezes H1-B visas, affecting foreign workers and students

US Pres. Donald Trump, Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

News: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an order suspending work visas, including the H-1B category coveted by white-collar Indians, till the year-end and extending restrictions on Green Card holders for another two months.

Here are five components of the story:

  • Trump said of the 13 lakh H-1B visa workers in the US, over 8 lakh direct beneficiaries are estimated to be Indians. He also suspended most categories of H-2B, H-1B, H-4, J and L visa programmes till December-end as these presented a “significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions.’’
  • Trump has exempted physicians and other healthcare professionals doing Covid-related work, investors under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Programme and spouse of a US citizen. In the Green Card category, exemptions continue for certain Afghan and Iraqi citizens working for the US.
  • Without these curbs, the US argued, it faced a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, along with many tech giants say that this isn’tthe right time for this move.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has become a justification for Trump’s longtime intent to restrict immigration, a demand of a part of his base as well as of some in the Democratic Party who have reservations about the impact of immigration on wages.
  • “The ban on H-1B visas, which are often used to fill very niche positions that are not easily found in the American workforce, will ultimately prove to be counterproductive and is an example of using a nuclear bomb to address a bar fight,” said Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers.
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