On Monday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to halt visas for foreign workers temporarily till the end of the year. Trump’s order specifically targets H-1B and H-4 visas, which are given to employees in the technology industry and their families, as well as those applying for ‘green cards’ or permanent residency in the US. As many as 5.25 lakh people are likely to be denied entry. Skilled technology personnel from India will take the biggest hit. They come under the H-1B category, which gives them rights to residency for six years and purchase of property.
Indians today account for around 2.78 lakh H-1B visas of the 3.88 lakh available, or 72% of the total. Fortunately, current visa holders will escape the axe, but those who had travelled abroad may not be able to re-enter the US. The Trump order will also hit Indian tech giants like Wipro, Infosys and TCS, which use the H-1B visa to send staff from India and develop their business and projects in the US.
Trump has argued that the US has a “moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens”. However, it is an open secret that the US administration is using the current adverse pandemic conditions to tighten the country’s immigration laws. Far from taking away American jobs, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has pointed out: “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today.” Thomas Donohue, CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, has echoed Pichai saying putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, and IT experts would stop talent reaching US shores and ultimately harm the country’s economy.
For India, it is a denial of global opportunities for our most skilled personnel and therefore an unfair restriction on market freedom. India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have good back-channel relations with the Trump administration, and it is hoped that these will be used for a rollback of these restrictive measures.