Hope for H-1B visa holders as Joe Biden may reverse Trump's work permit rules
12 November 2020
A combination of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as his deputy could work in favour of Indian job visa aspirants with a reversal of outgoing President Donald Trump’s decision to limit employment-based visas – a measure that would help thousands of information technology professionals from India find jobs for their spouses as well while working in the United States.
In fact, reports suggest President-elect Joe Biden plans to increase the number of high-skilled visas, including the H-1B, and eliminate the limit on employment-based visas by country.
The Trump administration’s decision to do away with work permits to the spouses of H-1B visa holders had adversely impacted a large number of Indian families in the US.
"High skilled temporary visas should not be used to disincentivise recruiting workers already in the US for in-demand occupations. An immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favour of only entry level wages and skills threatens American innovation and competitiveness," according to a policy document issued by the Biden campaign.
While Biden’s plan to reverse Trump’s immigration policy may not be achieved in one go, the reforms will be undertaken in phases so as to cause the minimum disruptions.
"Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labour market and not used to undermine wages. Then, Biden will support expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country, which create unacceptably long backlogs," it said.
Most technology companies depend on H-1B visas to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
While H-1B visas expand the available pool of high skilled workers for American companies is a non-immigrant visa and does not burden the state’s social security framework.
Noting that currently, the number of employment-based visas is capped at 140,000 each year, without the ability to be responsive to the state of the labour market or demands from domestic employers, the policy document said that as president,
Biden said he will work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration with built-in mechanism to reduce the number of visas during times of high US unemployment.
The Trump administration had, in June, suspended H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 in order to ensure that the H-1B non-immigrant visas are approved only for qualified beneficiaries and petitioners.
According to the policy document, Biden will also exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programmes in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields in the US who are poised to make some of the most important contributions to the world economy.
Biden believes that foreign graduates of a US doctoral programme should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness, it said.
The Biden administration plans to create a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their growth.
"The disparity in economic growth between US cities, and between rural communities and urban areas, is one of the great imbalances of today's economy. Some cities and many rural communities struggle with shrinking populations, an erosion of economic opportunity, and local businesses that face unique challenges.
"Others simply struggle to attract a productive workforce and innovative entrepreneurs. As President, Biden will support a programme to allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region's economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify there are available jobs, and that there are no workers to fill them," the policy document said.
Biden also believes in keeping families together and allowing eligible immigrants to join their American relatives on US soil as against Trump’s policy of outright rejection of visa applications.
"As president, Biden will support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of our immigration system; by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed; and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate," the policy paper said.
At present, India-US ties are heavily skewed towards security interests and the Trump administration has been trying all the time to safeguard America’s economic interests at the cost of countries that are more reliant on the US.
The new Joe Biden administration is expected to bring in some semblance of balance in bilateral relations.