UNITED STATES: The Biden administration will make it simpler for Indians to reside and work in the United States (US) by utilising this week’s state visit by PM Narendra Modi to assist some skilled professionals in entering or remaining in the nation, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
The State Department might announce as soon as Thursday that a small number of Indians and other foreign employees on H-1B visas will be allowed to renew such visas in the U.S. without having to travel abroad, as per one of the sources, as part of a trial programme that could be expanded in the following years.
Indian nationals made up 73% of the roughly 442,000 H-1B employees in fiscal year 2022, making them by far the most frequent users of the H-1B programme in the United States.
Another American official stated, “We all recognise that the mobility of our people is a huge asset to us. And so our goal is to approach that in a sort of multifaceted way. The State Department has already been working very hard to find creative ways to make changes to things.”
Regarding queries regarding which visa classes would be eligible or the launch date of the pilot programme, a State Department spokesperson declined to answer. Bloomberg Law broke the news of the pilot programme’s plans for the first time in February.
The pilot “would start with a small number of cases with the intention to scale the initiative over the following one to two years,” the spokesperson added, omitting to define small.
The steps could alter and are not set in stone before they are announced. The White House chose not to respond.
The U.S. government annually offers 65,000 H-1B visas, along with an additional 20,000 visas for employees with advanced degrees, to businesses looking to hire talented foreign workers. The three-year visas can be extended for an additional three years.
According to U.S. government data, the companies employing the most H-1B employees in recent years include Amazon, Alphabet, and Meta in the United States, as well as Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services in India.
The spokesperson stated that allowing some of the temporary foreign employees to renew their visas in the United States would free up staff time for visa interviews at foreign consulates.
The pilot programme will also include some employees with L-1 visas, which are available to those transferring inside a company to a position in the U.S.
A different initiative to clear the backlog of visa requests at American embassies in India is finally making headway, as per one of those sources, and is anticipated to come up in meetings between the delegations of the two nations this week in Washington.
India has long been concerned about the challenges its nationals, notably those employed in the technology sector, have in obtaining visas to reside in the United States. At the end of April, the Labour Department reported that there were more than 10 million unfilled positions in the US.
Some H-1B visa holders in the U.S. have been among the thousands of IT professionals fired this year, forcing them to scramble to find new jobs within a 60-day “grace period” or return to their home country.
The Biden administration has been working for months to make it easier for Indians to obtain visas to circumvent Congress’ lack of political will to enact comprehensive immigration reform. In part to more effectively compete with China, President Joe Biden wants to bring together the two biggest democracies in the world.
United States visa services are still trying to clear a backlog after Washington stopped nearly all visa processing globally in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The visa backlog has resulted in the separation of some families for an extended period of time, with a few taking to their social media handles to lament their situation.