Comments by Sanwar Ali:
The Indian Foreign Minister thinks that there should be greater access to US visas for Indian nationals. Currently under Trump it is going in the other direction with greater restrictions on Indians and others gaining work visas. There is a widely publicised work visa ban with many people unable to obtain US work visas. One thing that many people do not realise is that you can still submit US visa petitions at the USCIS in the US. However, in many cases, you will not be able to apply for an US visa at an US Embassy until early next year (we think!).
There are some exceptions to the visa ban. You can, for example, apply under the E2 visa category and O1 visa category. Many nationals including Indian and Chinese nationals cannot apply under the E2 visa category. The O1 visa category is only suitable for a small number of people with “extraordinary ability”. Following enormous pressure on the Trump administration, there have been some relaxations to the US work visa ban.
A US visa policy that backs Indian talent will be good for both countries, according to India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Jaishankar told a virtual conference: “A more knowledge-driven, global economy will require more trusted talent, which is an opportunity for India.”
“This is an opportunity for India, and it is an opportunity which should be reflected to some degree in American immigration policies. Immigration is a win-win for both countries,” Jaishankar added.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Trump shutdown several US work visa categories until the end of 2020 at least, with rumours circulating that this could be extended into 2021. The ban scuppered the flow of Indian IT talent into the US, with America-based Indian IT firms relying heavily on the H1B visa program which was suspended.
Indians granted most H1B visas
According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, Indians accounted for 72% of the approximately 388,000 approved H1B visa petitions in the 2019 fiscal year.
During the virtual conference Mike Pence, the US Vice President, told delegates that the US was working to fix its ‘broken’ immigration system ‘once and for all.’ The Trump administration’s plan is to introduce a merit-based US immigration system.
Pence said: “We want people to come to this country that are ready to participate and ready to contribute as people from India have done and as people from the US have done in India.”
Trump recently relaxed his controversial work visa ban, primarily for healthcare professionals and researchers working on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19, cancer and any other communicable diseases.
Severe backlash against Trump US work visa ban
The decision to allow some workers into the US on non-immigrant visas came following a severe backlash against the Trump administration from big companies and industry bodies.
In mid-July, five trade bodies – including the US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers - filed a lawsuit, alleging that the suspension denied US companies the talent they need.
Meanwhile, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Justice Action Center, and the Innovation Law Lab filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the presidential proclamations on behalf of families, employers, and organisations.
174 Indian nationals filed a further lawsuit, which included seven minors, claiming that the work visa ban ‘hurt the US economy and split families apart.’
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