Explained: Trump’s suspension of foreign work visas
The vast majority of H-1B visas - one of the more high-profile categories affected - go to people from India and China. Indians made up 72 percent of the approximately 388,000 H-1B visa petitions approved in fiscal year 2019, which began on Oct. 1, 2018, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. Chinese applicants were 13 percent of the total.
US President Donald Trump on Monday signed an order that temporarily suspended the entry into the United States of certain foreign workers. This move, which the White House said was necessary to make jobs available for Americans, will go into effect on Wednesday and last until the end of 2020. It came despite strong opposition from business groups, including major tech companies The Trump administration said that the ban was necessary to counter the unemployment crisis kicked off by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy. But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” said the text of the order.
The ban covers the following visa categories
- H-1B visas for skilled workers, which are often used by the tech industry
- L visas for executives, managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company
- H-2B visas for seasonal workers, many of which are in the landscaping business
- J visas for cultural exchange, including interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs and people participating in a summer work travel program
The proclamation also blocks family members who would accompany workers on such visas.
How many people will be affected?
According to an estimate by Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, 167,000 workers and their dependents would be blocked between July 1 and Dec. 31, including 72,000 with J-1 visas and 29,000 with H-1B visas.
The vast majority of H-1B visas - one of the more high-profile categories affected - go to people from India and China.
Indians made up 72 percent of the approximately 388,000 H-1B visa petitions approved in fiscal year 2019, which began on Oct. 1, 2018, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. Chinese applicants were 13 percent of the total.
"...This new proclamation will prevent our companies and thousands of other organizations from accessing the talent they need from overseas. With very few exceptions, Indian nationals and others who are granted new H-1Bs or L-1s as well as other visa types after 23rd June will not be allowed to enter the United States until the proclamation expires. Even though our companies have hired tens of thousands of Americans and invested billions of dollars in recent years, they, like others in the sector, utilize such high-skilled individuals to service their clients. This new proclamation will impose new challenges and possibly force more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available.” -- Industry lobby association Nasscom.
Does the ban apply to valid visa holders?
Foreign workers already in the United States with a valid visa will not be affected. People outside the United States with valid visas and travel documents also will be exempt from the suspension, according to the proclamation.
A spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the proclamation would not prevent a visa holder inside the United States from extending the visa duration or changing to a different type of visa.
Whether people with these types of visas outside the United States will be able to renew visas and travel documents was not immediately clear.
What are the other excemptions?
The proclamation excludes spouses and children of U.S. citizens.
Foreigners working in the food supply industry will be exempted.
The proclamation also exempts the entry of foreign workers whose admission is deemed to be "in the national interest."
The visa suspension narrows an exemption for medical workers made by Trump in April to include only people working on research into the novel coronavirus and those involved in health care for COVID-19 patients.
Which work visas are not covered?
The most notable exempted category of temporary work visas are H-2A visas for agricultural workers. The proclamation does not affect a number of smaller non-immigrant work visas categories, including O visas for people of "extraordinary ability or achievement."
(With inputs from Reuters)