March 3, 2021
Skilled work visa during pandemic-sparked economic crisis would be “very difficult” to manage.
NEW DELHI: Indian IT professionals may have to wait longer to receive their H-1B visas as the Joe Biden administration seeks to prioritize immigration visa cases first.
H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows US corporates to employ workers from foreign countries in specialty occupations that require technical or theoretical expertise.
Information Technology (IT) companies in US depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
However, the US government plans on boosting number of green cards at present as it wants to expand other avenues for high-skilled workers.
The move has been supported and welcomed by business interests who have since long sought reforms of H-1B and other programs.
Reforms after end of Chinese Virus COVID-19 pandemic?
House Democrats may introduce immigration measures in a graded manner, giving priority to popular measures like helping refugees, agriculture workers and people brought to the US illegally as children first, leaving no leverage to push through less popular measures like increasing immigration for skilled workers.
However, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is of the view that a skilled work visa during pandemic-sparked economic crisis would be “very difficult” to manage.
While Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who introduced Biden’s bill, said any additional foreign worker visas would only get support as part of a broader bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“We have prioritized the processing of immigrant visas. Full stop,” Julie Stufft, consular affairs acting deputy assistant secretary for Visa Services said at a briefing.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) has gone ahead with its H-1B application allocation process for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2021.
Last month, it received enough applications to allocate 65,000 H-1B visas and another 20,000 H-1B visas to those who have completed their higher education from US universities.
Former US President Donald Trump had imposed a ban on issuance of new H-1B visas, stating that the government needed to protect US workers amid high unemployment rate in the country due to the Chinese Virus COVID-19 pandemic.
The freeze on various categories of visas was ordered by Trump through two proclamations on April 22 and June 22 last year.
In January this year, the freeze was extended till March 31, 2021.
As of now, the order banning issuance of new H-1B visas is valid till end of this month and will expire if Biden does not issue any fresh proclamation.
On February 24, the Biden administration issued a proclamation revoking Trump’s orders that blocked individuals from entering the United States on immigrant visas. But it has not yet lifted the freeze on H-1B, J-1, and L-1 visas, which still remain in effect.
However, Biden administration plans to focus on boosting the number of green cards and expanding other avenues for highly-skilled workers at present.
Backlog of US immigration visas
A green card – also known as permanent residency card – is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
Currently, there is a backlog of nearly 473,000 qualified family-based Green Card requests.