New Delhi: India on Thursday conceded that the recent decision by the United States to suspend the H1B visas till the end of the year is “likely to affect movement of Indian skilled professionals”, but said it is “assessing the impact of the order on Indian nationals and industry in consultation with stakeholders”. Pointing out that “the US has always welcomed talent, India also said it “hopes” that Indian professionals will “continue to be welcomed in the US in the future”.
Reminding the US that “high-skilled Indian professionals bring important skill sets, bridge technological gaps and impart a competitive edge to the US economy”, New Delhi said, “they have also been a critical component of the workforce that is at the forefront of providing COVID-19 related assistance in key sectors, including health, information technology and financial services”.
In a blow to Indian techies, US President Donald Trump had on Tuesday suspended the H1B visas till the end of the year. The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialised fields. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year. According to some estimates, before the coronavirus pandemic hit the globe, the US issued 85,000 H1-B visas every year out of which Indians reportedly get about 60,000 visas. Therefore, the US move could now severely affect the Indian industry especially the IT sector.
In a statement, the MEA said, “We have seen the Proclamation issued by President Trump on June 22 temporarily suspending entry of certain categories of non-immigrant visa-holders & their family members till December 31, 2020. This is likely to affect movement of Indian skilled professionals who avail of these non-immigrant visa programmes to work lawfully in the US. We are assessing the impact of the order on Indian nationals and industry in consultation with stakeholders.”
The MEA further said, “People-to-people linkages and trade & economic cooperation, especially in technology and innovation sectors, are an important dimension of the U.S.-India partnership. High-skilled Indian professionals bring important skill sets, bridge technological gaps and impart a competitive edge to the US economy. They have also been a critical component of the workforce that is at the forefront of providing COVID-19 related assistance in key sectors, including health, information technology and financial services.”
It added, “The US has always welcomed talent and we hope our professionals will continue to be welcomed in USA in the future.”
The US had on Tuesday said, “The 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) had significantly disrupted Americans’ livelihoods and that the overall unemployment rate in the United States nearly quadrupled between February and May of 2020 — producing some of the most extreme unemployment ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
The US had further said while “the May rate of 13.3 percent reflects a marked decline from April, millions of Americans remain out of work””and that “American workers compete against foreign nationals for jobs in every sector of our economy, including against millions of aliens who enter the United States to perform temporary work”.
The US had added, “Temporary workers are often accompanied by their spouses and children, many of whom also compete against American workers. Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy. But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorising such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”