US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

H-1B: Trump’s latest visa proposal and its impact on India

Nearly three out of every four H-1B visa holders are Indian citizens. According to the USCIS, there were as many as 419,637 foreign nationals working in the US on H-1B visas as on 5 October, 2018 . Of these, 309,986 are Indians

After facing a huge backlash from the top US lawmakers and leaders of the corporate sector, Trump administration has assured that the Americans would get an opportunity to respond to its proposal of revoking work authorization to H-4 spouse visas. The Donald Trump administration has been tightening the H-1B visas rules, which allow foreign workers to take jobs in the US for several years.

The Trump administration’s latest visa proposals will have a huge impact on Indian residents as every three out of every four H-1B visa holders are Indian citizens.

Here’s a lowdown on Trump’s latest visa proposals and how would it impact Indians:

Public consultation on H-1B spouse work permits

H-4 visas are issued only to very close or immediate family members of the H-1B visa holders. It includes the employee’s spouse and children less than 21 years of age. Trump has assured that the public would get an opportunity to respond to its proposal of revoking work authorisation to H-4 spouse visas after they raised their concerns over the move, which will impact thousands of Indians. H-4 visas are issued to the spouses of H-1B foreign workers. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa through which many Indians workers are employed in US companies. It allows the US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. It is the most sought-after visa among Indian IT professionals.

Google, Facebook claim H-1B visas being held up

Top tech firms like Facebook, Google and Microsoft have alleged that H-1B visas are being held up by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

No H-1B visas for lower-skilled jobs

The Donald Trump administration wants only the highly skilled foreign workers as opposed to what it has now evolved into an “outsourcing" role. “The president’s overall instinct - and he said this publicly a number of times - he wants to find ways to make sure that people who graduate in a highly skilled area like technology stay in the country. He finds that a very positive part of the overall immigration," White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination Chris Liddell told a Washington audience on Thursday.

During the Washington Post’s live discussion on new technology, when asked about the president’s thoughts on H-1B immigration, Liddell said, “He (Trump) has talked about merit immigration, clearly that (H-1B) fits in merit immigration." At the same time, he acknowledged that legislatively, the issue might get caught up in a border discussion.

From an Indian angle

Nearly three out of every four H-1B visa holders are Indian citizens. According to the USCIS, there were as many as 419,637 foreign nationals working in the US on H-1B visas as on 5 October, 2018 . Of these, 309,986 are Indians, the USCIS said in its report

A staggering 93% of the total H-4 visa holders in the US having work authorisation are from India, a Congressional report on the spouse visa had said. Work permits for H-4 visa holders were issued under a special order by the previous Obama administration in 2015.

As of December 25, 2017, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had approved 126,853 applications for employment authorisation for H-4 visa holders. These counts all approvals since May 2015 when the rule was implemented. This number includes 90,946 initial approvals, 35,219 renewals, and 688 replacements for lost cards.

Two powerful Democratic women Senators — Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — had urged the Trump administration not to go ahead with its decision to revoke authorisation to immigrants those on H-4 visas as such a move would have an impact on about 100,000 women.

Also read: US bill proposes flexibility to H-1B workers to switch jobs

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