Why Trump's H-1B visa freeze will hurt India most
Indians receive around 75% of H-1B visas
Illegal immigration has long been the subject of heated debate in the United States.
Now President Donald Trump is making "legal immigration a scapegoat" in view of the upcoming elections, says Poorvi Chotani, managing partner at Law Quest, an immigration law firm with offices in the United States and India.
"How can the US restore more than 17 million jobs lost through the pandemic by keeping just over half a million foreign workers away for the rest of the year?" She said to me.
Ms. Chotani is alluding to the H-1B Visa program, which currently welcomes 85,000 immigrants annually, many of them for skilled jobs in the technology industry. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump suspended this and other work visas that foreigners could work with in the U.S. by the end of 2020.
The move will hit India hard.
Three-quarters of the annual H-1B visas are still issued to Indian-born workers, although the seven largest Indian technology companies now only receive 6% of the total visas under this program.
Rise of the American Indians
"This is a testament to the skills of Indian citizens. And it has little to do with immigration. The H-1B is about the temporary movement of highly skilled workers. It has no impact on net immigration," said Shivendra Singh, vice president of Die global trade development at Nasscom, the trading group of the Indian technology industry, says.
The H-1B visa program is also the reason for the "advancement of Indians to the most educated and highest-earning group, immigrants or natives in the United States," say the authors of The Other One Percent, a study of Indians in America .
U.S.-based researchers Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapoor, and Nirvikar Singh found that in the early 2010s, approximately 60% of the 100,000 Indian-born people who travel to the U.S. through qualified routes each year participated in the H-1B program . They were mainly employed in computer jobs.
Almost half a million H-1B visas issued between 2004 and 2012 went to Indians. Together with their relatives, they made up more than a quarter of the Indian-American population, which currently corresponds to around 3 million.
President Trump has made hard immigration an important part of his campaign
According to the researchers, the newcomers spoke different languages and lived in different places from former Indian immigrants.
Hindi, Tamil and Telugu speakers grew in size. Traditional Indian-American clusters in New York and Michigan have been replaced by larger clusters in California and New Jersey. In many ways, the qualified Visa program led to the birth of a "new American Indian card".
The future looks uncertain now.
For a long time, critics said these visas had allowed Silicon Valley companies to outsource American jobs to low-paying foreign workers. The proportion of Indian companies among the ten largest visa recipients has decreased.
"There has been a downward trend for Indian companies as local attitudes have increased and global delivery models and skills have changed," said Singh.
Bridging the skills gap
What confuses the Indians is the goal of Mr. Trump's move, which has already met resistance from technology companies like Google.
Mr Trump says the move will create jobs for Americans who will be economically affected by the Covid 19 pandemic.
"The problem is in the details. It's like all jobs are a perfect substitute for each other and skills and training don't matter. As if the technology sector that hasn't suffered much is the same as the hospitality sector that has suffered badly a foreign technician who has stopped at the border spares an American worker a restaurant job? "Sanjoy Chakravorty, a professor of geography and urban research at Temple University, told me.
Indian experts also say that Mr. Trump has reduced legal immigration even if there were enough jobs. And at a time when the United States is really staring at millions of people out of work because of the pandemic, unemployment in computing has actually decreased from 3% in January to 2.5% in May. By May 14, there were 625,000 computer professions vacant in the United States.
"The numbers tell a very different story. The H-1B employees close a critical skills gap. And now they are becoming important employees in the post-Covid recovery process in all areas - cybersecurity, online education, vaccine research and so on," says Mr. Singh.
Many in India say that Mr. Trump's measure is part of a plan to permanently change immigration laws to discourage foreign workers.
The H-1B Visa Program currently accepts 85,000 immigrants annually
Ms. Chotani believes that an H-1B visa will be more expensive for Indian companies - overseas employees pay up to $ 6,460 for each visa application. As a result, US technology companies will pick up more of these visas, hire graduates from US universities, and recruit directly from local companies and overseas.
In the future, these visas could only be limited to highly paid foreign skilled workers and could keep away those who deal with middle and low-level back office services.
"This, too," says Mr. Singh, "will cause disruption because much of this work is done in teams with a senior manager who is an immigrant with a team of local employees."
The future of the H-1B Visa program has always been difficult to predict and has been prone to immigration pressure. Steve Yale-Loehr, a Cornell law professor, told the New York Times that this was "the biggest crackdown on work visas I've seen in my 35 years of practice."
It is unclear what will happen next. Given the pandemic that shows the world how to work remotely, will the post-Covid future lead to a drastic reduction in visas and more skilled workers working from home as companies reduce their dependency on visas? Will short term "technology visas" facilitate relatively long term visas like H-1B?
"The immigration system has been under revision for a long time. With the upcoming US presidential election, things have now been marginalized. Everything is driven by populism, which is exacerbated by the pandemic and rising unemployment," said Ms. Chotani.
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