Donald Trump mulling H-1B visa suspension amid rising unemployment
United States President Donald Trump could suspend a large number of work visas to protect the unemployed Americans in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The suspension could extend to the H-1B visa, which is hugely popular among Indian tech employees. However, those already working in the US would hardly be affected, the daily said citing unnamed sources.
The coronavirus pandemic took 116,035 lives in the US and also battered the economy. On Thursday, the Labor Department announced 1.5 million Americans filed new unemployment benefits claims last week. Another 700,000 people who were self-employed claimed benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. More than 44 million have sought state jobless benefits since mid-March when the pandemic spread its wings there.
In May, the devastating effect waned a bit as the US regained 2.5 million jobs. Trump, who often fancies himself as a wartime president, said, "This is better than a V (shaped recovery). This is a rocket ship." But yesterday's data suggests things aren't improving. And now Trump could suspend visas, which could extend into the new financial year that begins on October 1.
H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that lets US companies hire professionals from countries like China and India in occupations that require theoretical and technical expertise. Nearly 500,000 H-1B visa holders work in the US. Several visa holders have already lost jobs in the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, they aren't entitled to unemployment benefits. In May, reports first suggested that such a step is in offing.
If the employment visas are suspended it "could bar any new H-1B holder outside the country from coming to work until the suspension is lifted, though visa holders already in the country are unlikely to be affected," the daily said. Along with H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 visas could also be suspended. The White House, however, said a decision hasn't been taken yet.
"The administration is currently evaluating a wide range of options, formulated by career experts, to protect American workers and job seekers especially disadvantaged and underserved citizens — but no decisions of any kind have been made," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said.
Amid speculations, US Chambers of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue wrote to Trump suggesting against taking such a decision, arguing that companies would need both domestic and foreign workers when the economy rebounds. He said L-1 and H-1B visas are crucial for American businesses. Policies that could put unwarranted pressure on companies would not help in creating jobs, he explained to Trump.