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The White House has allowed a 2020 ban on H1-B skilled worker and certain other temporary visas to expire on March 31.


GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests, Indian diaspora)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is H-1B Visa?
  2. What is a Green Card?
  3. Why was the ban on certain H1-B visas imposed in 2020?
  4. Impact of the 2020 U.S. Ban on Visas
  5. The Current decision taken by the U.S. administration and its impact

What is H-1B Visa?

  • The H-1B is a United States visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it is one of the most popular visas for foreigners visiting the US for business or trade purpose.
  • It is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
  • Speciality occupations include specialized fields like IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc. which usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • US employers wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment prefer H1B visa because its application is quicker than applying for a US Green Card.

What is a Green Card?

  • A green card is a colloquial name for the identification card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to permanent residents, who are legally allowed to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. Green cards got their nickname because they were green in color from 1946 to 1964.
  • In 2010 they became green again, but the nickname persisted during the intervening decades of blue, pink and yellow “green cards.”
  • The green card is a permanent resident ID issued to immigrants in the U.S.
  • The green card lottery gives away up to 55,000 annual permanent visas to other countries.
  • Permanent residents can be fined or jailed for not having their green card on their person.
  • Green Cards must be renewed every 10 years.

Why was the ban on certain H1-B visas imposed in 2020?

  • The ban was imposed by the Trump administration in June 2020 with the aim to prevent temporary workers across industries from entering the country and was later extended till March 31, 2021, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
  • While the H1-B and other work visas have been criticised for allowing cheap labour in the US against the local workforce of the country, the visas have been useful to the country as a way of getting skilled and trained workers.
  • Owing to this, tech industry leaders like Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Tesla CEO Elon Musk criticised Trump’s move.

Impact of the 2020 U.S. Ban on Visas

  • Indian IT companies are amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the US H-1B visa regime, and have since 1990s cornered a lion’s share of the total number of visas issued each year.
  • As of April 1, 2020, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said Indians had applied for 67 per cent of the total H-1B work visas for the current financial year.
  • This could result in a significant impact on margins and worker wages of Indian IT companies which send thousands of low-cost employees to work on client sites in the US.

The Current decision taken by the U.S. administration and its impact

  • As US President Joe Biden promised during the run-up to the 2021 elections, the administration allowed the Trump-era proclamation to expire.
  • The White House did not make an official statement on the suspension’s expiration.
  • Visas for intra company transfers (L1), exchange visitors (J1), temporary non-agricultural workers (H-2B) and dependents of H1-B holders (H4) were also impacted by the expiring ban.
  • The move is expected to help Indians as the major share of the H1-B visas are used by Indian professionals.
  • The H1-B visas, which are approved for a period of three years, are a hiring pool for IT companies as it helps the companies keep their expenses in check.
  • With the expiration of the order, those who were impacted by the travel ban will now be able to resume work in the US.
  • The order will also allow US diplomatic missions, which are present in different countries, to issue fresh worker visas.
  • It will thereby give permission to US-based IT companies to begin hiring foreign workers again.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023