MUMBAI: Industry body, National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), has called out the suspension of H1-B visa for skilled workers "misguided towards the US economy".
Donald Trump on Monday issued a presidential proclamation, temporarily blocking the entry of foreign workers coming to the US on certain visas, including the popular H-1B visa for skilled workers, until the end of the year.
The proclamation is the latest in Trump’s series of crackdowns on legal immigration during the coronavirus pandemic to combat staggeringly high unemployment levels in the country.
The order will prevent foreign workers from coming to the US, especially from the information technology (IT) industry. It will also restrict H-4 visa for H-1B recipients’ spouses from entering the world's largest economy.
It has also suspended L visas for managers and specialised workers being transferred within a company, including business executives, scholars and people participating in cultural, work exchanges on J-1 visas, and temporary workers in non-farm sectors on H-2B visas.
Nasscom said thousands of US corporations, universities, medical facilities, research institutions, directly and through their associations, have asked the US President to not take such an action as it will harm its economy once it reopens and recovers.
The order will prevent Indian firms and thousands of other organisations from accessing the talent they need from overseas.
“The proclamation issued today barring the entry of certain non-immigrants into America and setting new conditions for others is misguided and harmful to the US economy," said the statement.
With very few exceptions, Indian nationals and others who have been granted new H-1Bs or L-1s as well as other visa types after 23 June will not be allowed to enter the US until the order expires.
“Even though our companies have hired tens of thousands of Americans and invested billions of dollars in recent years, they like others in the sector utilise such high skilled individuals to services their clients. This new proclamation will impose new challenge and possibly force more work to be performed offshore since the local talent is not available," said Nasscom.
The National Foundation for American Progress found that the unemployment rate for computer professionals actually went down from 3% in January 2020 to 2.8% in April 2020, according to its analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. The US administration claims this order will open up 525,000 jobs for Americans. As per various estimates, it is the American tech companies that have a larger dependence on the H1-B visa, compared to the Indian firms.
“We urge the Administration to shorten the duration of these restrictions to 90 days. Lengthening these burdensome restrictions on US companies that are trying to recover from the economic fallout of the covid-19 pandemic will only serve to harm our economy," wrote Nasscom.
Indian technology companies provide essential services to hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, state and local government agencies, financial institutions, technology and communications firms, grocers, manufacturers, and thousands of other businesses across the US. Without their contributions, the economic slowdown could worsen, industry may take a hit and the timeline for treatment and cure of covid-19 may stretch.
“…Under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the covid-19 outbreak, certain visa programs authorising such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers," said the proclamation.
The proclamation exempts immigrants already in the US, existing visa holders, temporary workers in food production industries, and health care workers and researchers fighting covid-19.