H1B visa issues raised by Modi in first Biden meeting


Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi & US President, Joe Biden.

Photo by PMO India on narendramodi.in

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Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, raised issues around the US H1B visa during his first-ever meeting with US President, Joe Biden. Access to the US H1B visa for Indian nationals has been made increasingly difficult in recent years, especially under the former Trump administration. 


Modi, who was joined at the Oval Office meeting with Biden by his counterparts, Scott Morrison of Australia, and Yoshihide Sug of Japan, described his meeting with the US President as ‘outstanding’. 

The Indian Prime Minister spoke to Biden on getting more Indian professionals into the US. In particular, he focused on the US H1B visa scheme, which many Indian tech firms with operations in the US rely on to hire highly skilled foreign labour.


White House fact sheet

Following Biden’s meeting with Modi, the White House promptly released a factsheet, showing that US immigration had so far issued a record 62,000 visas to Indians in 2021. 

Meanwhile, a US federal judge recently moved to scrap all H1B visa rules imposed by former US President, Donald Trump. The judge ruled that limits placed on the H1B visa by Trump were ‘invalid’ because they were implemented by former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting secretary, Chad Wolf, who was not lawfully appointed to the role.

Trump planned to switch the H1B visa selection process from a random lottery to a system that would prioritize higher-wage jobs. However, business groups complained that this would make it harder for employers to hire graduate students as they would not qualify under the rule proposed by the former US President.


US Chamber of Commerce

Back in 2020, the US Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit against the Trump-era directive, which resulted in a district court temporarily ordering a stay on the rule. 

The Chamber of Commerce argued that the rule ‘violated the US Immigration and Nationality Act’, which states that non-US citizens should be issued an H1B visa in ‘the order that in which petitions are filed for such visas’.

Trump introduced the rule under the guise of ‘protecting American jobs’. However, it was argued by those opposed to the rule that it would impact their ability to hire doctors and university graduates on H1B visas.

Meanwhile, a study by the National Foundation for American Policy said that the change would have made it more difficult for physicists, microbiologists and medical scientists (among others) to gain H1B petitions, since their wages would have been closer to the bottom two levels of the prescribed H1B wage levels.

Schools would have also been affected as they would have been unbale to hire teachers on H1B petitions in middle school or high school, since around 90% are paid salaries below the required level specified under the proposed rules.

H1B refusal rates decline

According to recent United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, H1B visa refusal rates for India’s top IT firms have declined. In the first six months of the 2021 financial year, denial rates for new H1B visa applications stood at 7.1%


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