Former US President Trump signed the Proclamation Suspending Entry to Aliens Who Present a Risk to the US Labor Market After the Coronavirus Outbreak in June 2020. The proclamation, which prohibited the issuance of visas such as H-1Bs, expires on March 31, 2021, and President Biden has chosen not to renew it.
H-1B visas are designed to recruit highly qualified employees, especially in the information technology sector in the United States. The visa programme has been a big draw, especially for Indian students, many of whom come to the United States to study to work there after graduation.
According to Goldman Sachs numbers, Indian graduates accounted for 70% of H-1B visa holders in the United States in 2015. The Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedhara confirmed that this percentage would continue in 2019.
NAFSA observes that, with the expiration of Presidential Proclamation 10052,
“Visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed or scheduled for an interview will have their applications prioritised and reviewed in compliance with the current staggered resumption of visa services guidance.” Visa applicants who have previously been denied visas due to the restrictions imposed by Presidential Proclamation 10052 can reapply by submitting a new application with a new fee.”
Indian enrolments down in 2020
Given how focused many US educators are on Indian students, the suspension of the H-1B programme was profoundly worrying for us. In 2019 and 2020, Indian students accounted for about 17% of all student visas granted in the United States.
SEVIS statistics also show that the number of Indian students in the United States dropped by 41,761 (-16.8 percent) in 2020, with the most significant declines in August/September (following former President Trump’s proclamation).
The resumption of the H-1B programme would almost certainly renew Indian students’ demand for US education, which would be particularly beneficial in a situation where COVID is wreaking havoc on international enrolment in all destinations.
Information on the Visa Suspension in 2020
Last June, the Trump administration framed the ban as critical to protecting American workers’ jobs amid the pandemic. At the time, President Trump said that American employees “were harmed by no fault of their own due to coronavirus, and they should not be forced to sit on the sidelines while being displaced by new international labour.”
According to the presidential proclamation, “I have agreed that the admission of such aliens as immigrants and non-immigrants by 31 December 2020 will be adverse to the rights of the United States.” His administration finally agreed to extend the ban until March 31, 2021.
Since then, research has shown that unemployment in the tech industry remained low during the pandemic, questioning former President Trump’s justification for suspending the H-1B visa.
Last year, then-presidential nominee Joe Biden released the following statement in reaction to the proclamation:
“To the contrary [Presidential Proclamation 10052] harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”
On social media, many Indian students shared their shock at former President Trump’s proclamation. There were even demands from India for students to return to India and contribute their talents there.
The IT industry would welcome the return of the H-1B visa
The suspension of the H-1B programme posed a problem for sizeable Indian technology firms, which had been accustomed to recruiting technical employees returning from the United States after their H-1B visas expired. The information technology industry adds $191 billion to the Indian economy, and the United States is the sector’s primary market.
As soon as it appeared that President Biden would overtake former President Trump in the 2020 US race, stocks in India’s leading IT companies started to rise. Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCL Technologies, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra are among these large corporations.
The upward trend was primarily driven by the belief that a Biden administration would enact more favourable policies impacting India’s tech sector.
Visa programmes should be resumed, according to the sector
While the resumption of H-1B and other working visa programmes is good news, many US academics, agents, and incoming students are currently dealing with a more pressing issue in that many US embassies, and consulates are providing only restricted visa facilities, if any at all, at this time.
The American Council on Education and hundreds of other stakeholder organisations sent a joint letter to the government on March 18 urging it to take immediate action on the subject.
“Given the processing time for visas, we believe there are actions that need to be taken now to allow enough time for processing and international students to make plans to travel to the United States safely,” said the letter. “March and April are critical months for the processing of visas for the fall 2021 semester. International students worldwide must make their country choices and begin the visa process in April to ensure they can arrive at the beginning of the fall semester. By taking action on these immediate issues, you can also deliver a welcoming message to current and prospective international students, which can help restore the U.S. as a destination of choice, as well as supporting an important economic activity as the U.S. economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Similarly, Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of the Alliance of International Trade, praised President Biden’s decision to let Presidential Proclamation 10052 lapse. Still, he urged further action to enable exchange programmes in the United States to rebound from the pandemic. The J-1 visas needed for international students to participate in American exchange programmes are currently not being issued due to COVID travel bans. Mr Zherka noted that “an estimated 6500 jobs and US$303 million were lost by [exchange programme employers] and others in related fields last year due to the pandemic.” He urged the administration to “except J-1 visas from the travel bans and prioritise the processing of these visas.”