US President Donald Trump suspended H-1B, L and other temporary work permits, which he said is aimed at protecting local workers who are facing unemployment due to the spread of Covid-19. The decision was blasted by the US tech industry, which said it would hurt innovation and delay the recovery of the US economy.
“We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens,” Donald Trump in a statement
The suspension will be effective till December 31.
Trump said that between February and April of 2020,more than 20 million United States workers lost their jobs in key industries where employers are currently requesting H-1B and L workers to fill positions. Also, the May unemployment rate for young Americans, who compete with certain J nonimmigrant visa applicants, has been particularly high — 29.9 percent for 16 19 year olds, and 23.2 percent for the 20-24 year old group.
“The entry of additional workers through the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs, therefore, presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said in the order
Indian nationals receive nearly 70% of the 85,000 H1-B visas issued each year. The restrictions will apply only to new work visas and not to existing holders who are in the United States currently. Those visa holders who are outside the US will not be able to return to the US.
Sundar Pichai, the Indian born Chief Executive of Google and Alphabet said he was disappointed with Donald Trump’s order to restrict immigration including H-1B visas.
“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’ll continue to stand with immigrants and work to expand opportunity for all,” Pichai said on the microblogging platform Twitter.
The US tech industry blasted Trump saying that the restrictions will slow down innovation and undermine the technology industry.
“The technology industry is working overtime to keep Americans connected during a global pandemic by providing food delivery services, telehealth care, collaborative business solutions, and ways for families and friends to stay connected. Looking forward, technology will continue to be crucial to the rebuilding of our (US) economy, TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore said. ” Today’s executive order only hinders the ability of businesses to make decisions on how best to deploy their existing workforce and hire new employees. This will slow innovation and undermine the work the technology industry is doing to help our country recover from unprecedented events.”
The move will impact US tech firms more than Indian IT services providers, which have, over the last few years, reduced their dependence on H-1B visas and hired more people locally.
The share of visas garnered by US firms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft has been rising steadily. In fiscal year 2019, seven of the top ten recipients of H-1B visas were US companies. The share of Indian companies among the top 10 visa recipients has dropped to 24% in 2019 from 51% in 2016, according to data from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
India’s software lobby group Nasscom asked the US government to reduce the time to 90 days instead of till the year end.
“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 utilize 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,” Nasscom said in a statement.