US body asks Trump to suspend H-1B program amid layoffs
A United States workers' body has approached President Donald Trump demanding the suspension of this year's H-1B and H-2B visa programs. US Tech Workers, an anti-H-1B non-profit, has sought the suspension of the visa programs since the coronavirus pandemic has caused massive layoffs in the US. Meanwhile, H-1B visa holders have started a petition seeking an extension of stay in the US post-unemployment
What are H-1B and H-2B visas?
The H-1B program allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations requiring theoretical/technical expertise (IT, engineering, science, etc.). Companies hire tens of thousands of employees through the program from India and China. The H-2B program allows US employers or US agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to hire foreigners for temporary non-agricultural jobs. The workers are mainly hired from Latin American countries.
By April end, estimated 50-70 million Americans to be unemployed
For the week ending on March 21, a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment claims. Reportedly, by the end of April, the Department of Labor is looking at an estimated 50-70 million Americans unemployed. Another estimate projected a 32.1% unemployment rate. The economic crisis in the US is expected to worsen with more layoffs anticipated as the coronavirus outbreak is yet to peak.
US records world's highest number of coronavirus cases
In the US, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has already led to over 4,000 deaths, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. The US has also recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections, at 1.9 lakh.
US Tech Workers seeks suspension of H-1B, H-2B visas
Seeking the suspension of the H-1B & H-2B visa programs this year, US Tech Workers has sent letters to Trump's office, his Chief of Staff, and all Members of Congress, the organization said. The letter stated, "We ask that you stand up for the productive class of this country and protect the interest of American workers."
'Concerning that DHS is accelerating delivery of H-1B, H-2B workers'
The letter also said, "With the historical displacement of workers, compounded by the current crisis, it is very concerning that the Department of Homeland Security is working to accelerate the delivery of H-1B and H-2B workers to the United States."
'Urge you to pause the H-1B visa program'
Further, the letter said, "We urge you to pause the H-1B visa program that would bring in 85,000 workers this year and suspend the recently approved addition of 35,000 workers for the H-2B visa." It added, "Battling both a pandemic and the resulting fallout to our economy from the coronavirus is no time to approve employment visas for more foreign workers."
H-1B electronic registration complete: USCIS
Meanwhile, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it has already reached sufficient electronic H-1B registrations to meet the annual cap of 85,000 this fiscal, ending September 31, 2020. The lottery selection process is now complete. A total of 65,000 H-1B visas are issued yearly, excluding additional 20,000 H-1B permissions for foreign workers who post-graduated in the US.
H-1B visa holders seek extension of post-unemployment grace period
The layoffs have also sparked similar fears among foreign professionals holding H-1B visas in the US. H-1B visa holders in the US have started a petition on the White House website, seeking the extension of a post-unemployment grace period to 180 days. Currently, it is mandated that H-1B visa holders must find a job within 60 days of being unemployed or leave the US.