Trump’s work visa freeze a setback for Indian IT services companies

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BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: US President Donald Trump’s executive order on Monday to temporarily freeze a range of work visas including those in the H1-B category is expected to be a huge setback for Indian IT services companies that widely use these to transfer highly-skilled workers to that country.

Indian IT industry’s apex body Nasscom has criticised the the order saying it is “misguided and harmful to the US economy…We urge the administration to shorten the duration of these restrictions to 90 days. Lengthening these burdensome restrictions on U.S. companies that are trying to recover from the economic fallout of the covid-19 pandemic will only serve to harm our economy.”

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“Finally, we hope that the administration will rethink its stated plans to move forward on a series of regulatory changes that would place additional restrictions and costs on visa programs while doing little more than amplifying the harm already being done to the U.S. economy,” it added.

Business groups also expressed concerns about the measure, which they argued would discourage qualified workers from coming to the US.

“Restrictive changes to our nation’s immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation,” US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement.

In the order issued, Trump has extended the suspension of Green Cards till the end of the year and expanded it to also cover non-immigrant work visas such as H-1B, which, through a separate reform regulation at some future date, will also undergo a series of permanent overhauls to make it merit-based by prioritising highest salary applicants.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive, Alphabet, expressed his disappointment. “Immigration has contributed immensely to America’s economic success, making it a global leader in tech, and also Google the company it is today. Disappointed by today’s proclamation – we will continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all,” Pichai said in a tweet.

Experts believe the order hints at more immigration restrictions to come, although such curbs are unlikely be issued through an executive order.

“Further policy is likely to be issued through the federal rulemaking process which could take several months. President Trump has made it clear that he sees restricting immigration as a key campaign issue, so it is likely that as the election draws closer we will see further action on these issues,” said Rebecca Bernhard, partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

Senior Trump administration officials said the suspended work visas were intended to ensure Americans had the first shot at jobs in the aftermath of record job losses caused by covid-19 related lockdowns. According to immigration data, India has been the only country that takes 70% of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually.