H1B visa ban splits thousands of Indian couples and families

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

If a first time new US H1B visa, L1 visa, H2B visa petition has been granted in the US, and you are outside the US, you cannot in most cases apply for a visa to enter the US probably for about six months.   On top of that because of coronavirus COVID-19 non-immigrant and immigrant visa services in most cases are suspended at US Embassies and Consulates anyway.  It is not certain when visa processing will start again, even for those who are not affected by the latest Trump US work visa ban.  

The previous US visa ban of 22 April 2020 for sixty days affecting employment based green card applicants and certain family based applicants applying for visas outside the US, now extended until the end of 2020, was previously not so significant because coronavirus meant that people could not apply for a visa at the US Embassy or Consulate anyway.  The approximately six month ban for many non-immigrant and immigrant visa applications made from outside the US from 22 June 2020 is now having a much bigger impact.

If you are in the US you should think very carefully before travelling out of the US.  If you have been granted a non-immigrant petition in the US to extend your stay then you should be able to stay in the US for the duration of the work visa petition, for example based on an approved H1B petition or L1 petition.  What will happen if you leave the US and wish to come back based on an extension granted in the US?  Then you will need to obtain a visa at the US Embassy.   There is some uncertainty over whether you will be able to do this (when visa processing resumes).

Another thing.  What happens if Trump is re-elected in November 2020?  Biden is currently doing much better than Trump.  But we do not really know who will be elected President.  Will there be another six month work visa ban at the end of 2020?

Trump’s controversial US work visa ban, which affects approximately 375,000 temporary visa holders and green card applicants, is reportedly separating thousands of Indian couples and parents from their children. The US President’s latest executive order will be in effect until at least the end of 2020 and is the latest in a series of measures to restrict immigration.

The coronavirus has been used as an excuse, particularly by Trump’s anti-immigrant aide Stephen Miller, to achieve anti-immigration goals that the administration has wanted for years.

Ever since Trump took office, H1B visa holders – most of which work in the tech sector – have felt unsettled about their US immigration status. Nevertheless, thousands continued to travel between the US and their home countries for work assignments, family commitments and visa paperwork which requires them to leave the US.

US visa applicants stuck in India

According to senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, Julia Gelatt, around 375,000 temporary US visa holders and green card applicants will be hit by Trump’s ban. She claims that a significant number of those restricted from entering the US are now ‘stuck in India.’

Trump’s US immigration policies have long been opposed by the tech sector, with some of the industry’s giants – including Amazon, Alphabet and Twitter – slamming the US President’s latest proclamation, along with several trade groups that represent hundreds of other tech companies.

Most Indian tech firms have urged the Trump administration to retract its latest executive order. A major trade group described the ban as ‘misguided and harmful to the US economy.’ A number of Indian tech organisations are now weighing up alternatives to having workers on-site in the US.

One option being considered is the creation of worker clusters in countries such as Canada and Mexico.

Couples and families separated

People with non-immigrant visas are being urged not to leave the US or they risk not being able to re-enter. Those that are overseas are being urged to return to the US as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged that parents are missing the birth of their children, couples have been forced to remain thousands of miles apart and families are being cruelly separated by the ban.

Visa holders left stuck in India are how hugely worried about keeping up their mortgage payments on homes and car loans, while fearing for their job. For some families, who have US-born children and are American citizens, they’re worried about school places, having enrolled their kids in school in the US.

Many of the people stranded in India have valid visas and expected their entry to the US to be as simple as getting a stamp on their passport. However, Trump’s visa ban has changed everything.

Immigrant stories

Stories of US visa holding immigrants highlight the devastation caused by Trump’s latest executive order.

Indian-born software architect, Narendra Singh, who has lived in Dallas for nine years, told The Print – an online Indian news outlet - that he returned to Kolkata, India with his family in February 2020. Their trip was initially delayed as consulates closed to ‘wait out the worst of the pandemic.’

Mr Singh is now working remotely in India, while his wife lost her job in the US in April. Meanwhile, their daughter, who is a US citizen, was supposed to start school toward the end of 2020. However, Mr Singh is braced for the fact that this might not happen.

He said: “I knew there was a chance my visa wouldn’t be extended, but I thought it was secure because it doesn’t expire until 2022. We took specialized jobs, we followed the rules, we got the visas. I just feel betrayed.”

39-year-old Mili Widhani Khatter has lived in the US for the past 12 years with her husband and US-born children. She travelled back to Delhi, leaving her family in the US, to say her final farewells to her dying mother. Mrs Khatter has been stuck in India ever since and has not seen her family in four months.

She said: “My two-year-old son has forgotten how to say ‘mama’ since I’ve been gone. This is the worst punishment you can give a mom. It’s not humane.”

Parents separated from their children now fear what another six months of uncertainty will do to their kids.

Trump claims he is protecting American workers

Trump has maintained that the visa ban has been brought in to protect American workers. However, with numerous studies demonstrating that immigration actually helps US workers into jobs and better wages, immigrant advocates insist that the ban has nothing to do with American workers and everything to do with restricting US immigration even further.

The US President has seized an opportunity, using the coronavirus pandemic to shutout migrants for health and economic reasons. However, many analysts predict that Trump’s measures will backfire, doing far more harm than good in the long-term.

With the US presidential elections on the horizon, Trump is trying to stir his staunchest supporters to win much needed votes as his popularity in the polls, plummets.

Workpermit.com can help with US employment-based visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L1 visasE1 and E2 visasO1 visasB1 in lieu of H1B visas and H1B visas - Workpermit.com can help. 

Workpermit.com is a specialist visa consultancy with over thirty years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Contact us for further details.  You can also telephone 0344 991 9222.