In a move that has potential repercussions for Indians living and working in the US, President Donald Trump said he will “temporarily suspend” immigration into the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic set to trigger economic recession, Trump said the step would protect jobs for American nationals.
South Block sources told The Indian Express that it remains to be seen what category of visas will be suspended, and what will be the cut-off date. India is monitoring the developments in Washington related to this decision, sources said.
“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump posted on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Last week, more than 5.2 million American workers joined the tally of unemployed. The latest figures from the US Labor Department brings the four-week total of unemployed to about 22 million, roughly the net number of jobs created in a nine-and-a-half-year stretch that began after the last recession.
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
Trump’s move also comes days after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised the issue of extension of H1B visas of Indians stuck in the US because of the lockdown. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had earlier asked US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo to extend visas of Indian students and skilled professionals stranded in the US. The US had agreed to the requests.
In India, NASSCOM, which represents the IT and BPO industry, tweeted on Tuesday: “NASSCOM seeks details on the Executive Order of the President of the United States suspending immigration temporarily.”
The number of Indians and Indian Americans in the US is estimated at around 4 million, which accounts for almost 1 per cent of the country’s population and includes a large number of professionals, entrepreneurs and educationists with considerable influence in US polity, economy and society.
The US is also one of the most favoured destinations of Indian students for higher education. More than 2 lakh Indians are currently pursuing various courses in the country. In 2019, about 9.8 lakh Indians received US visas across various categories, including 43,000 in the student category.
The New York Times reported that a formal order temporarily barring the provision of new green cards and work visas could come as early as the next few days. The report said the administration would no longer approve any applications from foreigners to live and work in the US for an undetermined period of time.
“Workers who have for years received visas to perform specialized jobs in the United States would also be denied permission to arrive, though workers in some industries deemed critical could be exempted from the ban…,” the report said.
Due to the pandemic, almost all visa processing by the US State Department, including immigrant visas, has been suspended for weeks. The US embassy in New Delhi, and its consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, have shut visa operations since the lockdown was announced on March 23.
The number of visas issued to foreigners looking to immigrate to the US has declined by about 25 per cent in the past three years, from 617,752 in 2016 to 462,422 in the 2019 fiscal year, it said.
Of the H1B visa holders, Indians are one of the biggest beneficiaries. In 2019 fiscal year, 2,78,491 Indians were granted H1B visas out of 3,88,403 — 71.7 per cent. China was a distant second with 13 per cent, followed by Canada at 1.2 per cent.