Indians with an interest in moving to or staying in the United States have been placed in a precarious position since Donald Trump took over the helm in 2017, and in the first few months of 2019, the situation seems to be worsening.
Policy measures of the Trump administration have made it more difficult for people to secure H-1B visas. Not just technical professionals are affected. Also spouses, children and students seeking opportunities to study in the US will find their prospects dampened.
The latest measure was the revoking of H-4 visa holder’s right to secure work and the altering of the rules concerning H-1B visas and students pursuing degrees from the US College.
Changes to the H-1B Visa
The changes to the H-1B visa are clearly a tactic to lock out Indians and is similar in nature to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which squarely offends the Latino community and the ban on a number of Muslims nations.
Although the concept of Trump is pegged on putting “America first” in its agenda through bringing back jobs to its citizens, experts argue that the move is shortsighted. There are currently an insufficient number of qualified science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers in the US and people from India can and have historically filled the gap.
The move to bar the Indians who are well equipped to help the American economy, will ultimately end up damaging American firms and overall economic performance.
Experts argue that policy measures have already rocked small companies and startup businesses in the US.
Engineering specialists are scarce and imposing rule to reduce numbers is likely to exacerbate the already existing shortage and will ultimately lead to competitive barriers for small startups businesses argues by Collin Earl CEO of software provider Agiloft
In the year 2015, the percentage of H-1B applications approved dropped by 11% from 96% to 85%. The delay in the immigration services is attributed to a 60% rise in Request for Evidence (RFE) events by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The increase in the procedural paperwork to secure an H-1B visa has raised the costs associated to hiring foreign workers which have led to rise in the uncertainty.
Business owners who may have had larger investment concepts involving foreign workers will now more readily hire citizens or persons with green cards noted the Director of CamAm Investment Services for Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Abhinav Lohia.
Experts have issued a warning on the America hostility towards the foreign workers looking for an opportunity to work. Currently, many have turned to the neighboring Canada whose process to acquire a visa is much shorter to secure approval compared to the US since it offers a cheaper alternative for many. It is estimated 80% of applications are finalizing within six months in Canada.
Japan is also offering a safe haven for skilled professionals looking for permanent residency. The European Union is also increasingly an attractive destination for Indian tech talents.
Spouses are stuck
On 20th February, the department of homeland security has come up with a draft rule revoking the H-4 employment authorization document (EAD) that allows spouses of the holders of H-4B to work in the US for four years to the office of management and budget.
If the right to access gainful employment is revoked, then it would be unlawful for some 100,000 people to continue working in the US despite the already approved green card petition as mentioned by Doug Rand a co-founder of Boundless Immigration a company charged with mandate to help families navigate the immigration processes.
The record in the year 2015 indicates that Indians hold nearly 80% of the 125,000 H-4 visas issued and women account for 90% of all the dependent visa holders.
Revoking this H-4 EAD will render many families jobless and will result in difficulty to cover financial obligations such as mortgages. Some of the people moved from the H-1b to H-4 in order to begin their own companies.
These individuals are considered to have taken away jobs that belong to the American citizens according to some critiques. However, Rand argues that they are American workers as they assist or benefit companies and businesses in America.
The order of the H-1B lottery was recently changed as the scheme now is meant for people who hold advanced degrees from American universities. Other qualification such as the undergraduate level seems to be a pipe dream unless the student uses alternative ways in order to secure the H-1B making it impossible for them to secure visa.
Additionally, candidates on optional practical training (OPT) visa are hired based on fact that they will not need sponsorship in the near future. This is with regards to the application for green card or pending EB-5 VISA. The EB-5 category to secure a residency visa one is required to have invested a minimum of $500,000 into the country.
Due to all these technical processes geared towards making it hard to secure green card, there are now fewer foreign born student enrolling in US universities due to the bleak job opportunities available.
Experts also argue that the emphasis by the US on master graduates is not going to produce the required talents as the best of their top university are spread outside of the US. Instead of focusing on their own graduate, they need absorb the best talent with the best degrees in order to drive their economy forward.
EB-5 Investor Visas Advantage over H-1B
Interrogating the situation, US citizens and green card holders stand to gain more through the job opportunities. However, migrants in possession of any visa other than H-1B have less to lose. Those individuals who do not rely on the H-1B and apply for the O-1 visa have a secured spot if they meet the criteria. This is due to the shorter time taken to process the visa. Those individuals with the EB-5 investor visas will also have a significant high advantage in seeking employment.
The current trend demonstrates this benefit as most of the student in the international schools in India are already enrolled to the US colleges and are filing EB-5 visa applications to avoid the H-1B visas. Similarly, there has been a rise in the number of applications of the H-1B and H-4 visa holders. It is in the best interest of the US to keep these opportunities open in order to attract international talent.
Immigrants also create a high number of jobs. In total, 51% of the large tech companies have been set up by the first-generation immigrants. These companies have gone ahead to create thousands of jobs and have contributed to billions of dollars to the economy of the US. This was pointed by Rohit Mittal, the COE of Stilt, a company that helps in facilitating loans for immigrants, non-US citizens, international student and other visa holders as a way of alternative policy. If the immigrants are not welcomed and embraced in the US, the country stands to lose a lot of talent.