FAQ: Will Trump’s Immigration Ban Affect Indians With H-1B Visas?

Trump clarifies policy relates to Green Card applications, so non-immigrant visas like H-1B should be unaffected.

Updated22 Apr 2020, 04:26 AM IST
World
4 min read

In an abrupt late-night announcement, US President Donald Trump on Monday, 20 April (in the US), tweeted that he would be signing an ‘executive order’ to temporarily suspend immigration into the country.

He said that he was making this decision in “light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy”.

Trump’s announcement created a sense of uncertainty among Indians in the US and the impact it will have on the ecosystem, amid the COVID-19 outbreak. It was only late on Tuesday, 21 April, that clarity was offered on what exactly this suspension of immigration meant.

What does suspension of immigration mean?

Following the clarification on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, we now know that Trump has decided to put a 60-day pause on the issuance of Green Cards , with certain as yet unspecified exemptions. As this only relates to Green Cards, it means the US will not be accepting new applications (or processing existing applications) for permanent residency.

Is the suspension already in place?

No. Trump is yet to sign the executive order declaring a temporary suspension of immigration, and has said it is still being ‘crafted’, including the exemptions that it will include.

Watch this space for more details when the executive order is out.

Will Indians be affected by this?

We can gauge the exact impact only when the executive order is out. However, on the basis of the additional clarification by Trump, it is likely to affect those Indians who are in queue for a Green Card.

According to CATO.org, an American immigration policy research firm, about 5.5 lakh Indians are waiting for their Green Card in the US, as of 2018.

In the same year, 59,821 Indian citizens were granted Green Card.

Indians, Chinese, and Mexicans form the largest number of immigrants to the US for the last few years until 2018.

Shivendra Singh, Vice President and Head, Global Trade Development, NASSCOM, told MoneyControl that that they are trying to get details on the executive order. “Once we get the details, we will respond to the same,” he added.

The Associated Press has reported that sources in the US administration have indicated that the order will apply to foreigners seeking employment-based Green Cards, and relatives of Green Card holders (ie, not American citizens). If an American citizen is trying to bring a family member into the US on a Green Card, they may still be able to do so.

What are the broad immigration routes taken by Indians?

Some broad visa routes that Indians usually take for permanent residency in the US are:

  • EB-1: Employment-based permanent residency for “priority workers”
  • EB-2: Permanent residency for members of those professions holding advanced degree
  • EB-3: Permanent residency intended for skilled workers and professionals
  • EB-5: Permanent residency for those with a minimum investment in for-profit enterprise that creates and retains a certain number of jobs

But what about the popular H-1B visas?

The H-1B visa, most sought after among the Indian IT professionals, is technically a ‘non-immigrant’ visa, as it is valid for a limited period of time, i.e. five years. This work visa, which allows the US companies to employ foreign workers, is the most common route taken by Indians for work in the US.

On the basis of the clarification that the policy relates to green cards, this should mean that Trump’s announcement will not impact H-1B visas.

This is interesting given the stated claim of this suspension is to protect American jobs – in light of that aspect, it will be important to still see the fineprint of the order and see if it seeks to affect H-1B visas in any way.

Almost two-third of the H-1B applications for 2020-2021 are from India, a total of 184,000 applications from the country. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has left at least 22 million people unemployed, said a recent Wall Street Journal report.

So, should Indian techies in US be worried?

Indian techies and others who have gone on non-immigrant work visas should not need to worry about this new policy, on the basis of the new clarification, though again, we stress that it will be important to see what the actual order says.

However, such visa holders also have another problem.

Foreign IT professionals, a majority of them Indians with H-1B visas in the US, have urged the Trump administration to extend their permissible stay from 60 to 180 days after job loss, amidst the massive layoffs in America due to the coronavirus pandemic.

H-1B workers have a 60-day grace period of unemployment time during each authorised validity period to stay in the US legally. They must find new work within 60 days. Otherwise, they have to leave the country.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on 14 April announced that non-immigrants could apply for an extension of stay or change of status permit. While it has not clearly indicated relief for those unemployed, the others holding H-1B visa are more guaranteed of extension.

“Where applicable, employment authorisation with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time,” said the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services .

(This story will be updated when the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump is out.)

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Published: 21 Apr 2020, 11:45 AM IST
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