Trump Admin’s Latest H-1B Tweak Could Deport Thousands of Indians

Trump’s administration is considering a proposal that could end the extensions granted to H-1B visa holders. 

3 min read
File image of President Donald Trump.

As part of its “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, the Trump administration is considering a proposal, in terms of its H-1B programme, which could potentially affect thousands of Indians and their families.

According to the report, the proposal is looking to end the provision of granting extensions to those H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (green card) have already been accepted.

It adds that the proposal is currently in the form of an internal memo, which is being circulated in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that oversees citizenship and immigration.

The existence of the memo was confirmed by sources in both the US and Indian governments, those part of the industry and those who are likely to face action under the new rules, the report adds.


"The act currently allows the administration to extend the H-1B visas for thousands of immigrants, predominantly Indian immigrants, beyond the allowed two three-year terms if a green card is pending," the report said.

"The idea is to create a sort of 'self- deportation' of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans," it said, quoting a source briefed by Homeland Security officials.

The agency is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to carry out the President’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, including a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes
Jonathan Withington, chief of media relations for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

How Will This Affect Indian H-1B Visa Holders?

According to the report, somewhere between 500,000-750,000 Indian H-1B holders could be affected if the proposal comes through, considering that they will be forced to return home.

The report also mentions that the United States usually grants about 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visas every year — 65,000 to foreigners who are hired abroad and 20,000 to foreigners who are enrolled in advanced degree courses in colleges and schools in the country. Considering that an estimated 70 percent of these H-1B visas go to Indians, a refusal to extend the same will definitely cause a huge impact on their lives and professional futures, as well as that of their families.

“If implemented, this could lead to large scale deportations, mostly of Indians, throwing hundreds and thousands of families into crisis,” an unnamed official of Immigration Voice told AP as reported by Hindustan Times.

The official added that the proposal is aimed at getting Indians to kind of ‘self-deport’ themselves, considering that they wouldn’t have any jobs, especially within the tech sector in the country currently dominated by Indian immigrant workers.

An H-1B visa is activated for three years, following which it maybe given an extension. If the proposal falls through and these holders are denied their extensions, then it would leave them with no choice but to go back to their homeland. Before, with the extensions, those whose requests for the Green Card had been approved, could have waited in the country till they were granted the same.

"This would be a major catastrophic development as many people have been waiting in line for green cards for over a decade, have US citizen children, own a home," said Leon Fresco, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department in the Obama administration who now represents H-1B workers.

Fresco estimates more than one million H-1B visa holders in the country are waiting for green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Why Is the Trump Administration Considering This Proposal?

According to AP as reported by Hindustan Times, “The subsequently forced 'self-deportation' of thousands would "open up those jobs for Americans”, which again is the primary aim of Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” initiative.

One of Trump’s promises during his electoral campaign was that he would get Americans their rightful jobs back from immigrants who had ‘taken them’ in a way, and this seems to be his way of following up on the same.

The report further adds that the proposal in question is based on the ‘power of discretion’ that is given to USCIS officials, so they can decide on the time-period of the extensions to be given to H-1B holders waiting for Green Cards. These could be anywhere between one to three years, with three often being chosen as the maximum. They could also choose to grant some visa holders as many extensions as needed.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times)


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