US President Donald Trump has extended the freeze on the most sought-after H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas by three months to protect American workers, saying while therapeutics and COVID-19 vaccines are recently available, their effect on the labour market and community health has not yet been fully realised.
The decision will impact a large number of Indian IT professionals and several American and Indian companies who were issued H-1B visas by the US government for the fiscal year 2021 beginning October 1.
The freeze on various categories of work visas was ordered by Trump through two proclamations on April 22 and June 22 last year.
Hours before the freeze was set to expire on December 31, Trump issued another proclamation on Thursday to extend it until March 31.
He said that the reasons for which he had issued such a restriction has not changed.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
They would now have to wait at least till the end of March before approaching the US diplomatic missions to get stamping.
It would also impact a large number of Indian IT professionals who are seeking renewal of their H-1B visas.
President Trump said that the effects of COVID-19 on the US labour market and the health of American communities is a matter of ongoing national concern, and the considerations present in the two previous proclamations have not been eliminated.
“The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to significantly disrupt Americans' livelihoods.
“While the November overall unemployment rate in the United States of 6.7 per cent reflects a marked decline from its April high, there were still 9,834,000 fewer seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in November than in February of 2020,” Trump said in his proclamation.
The current number of new daily cases worldwide reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, is higher than the comparable number present during June, and while therapeutics and vaccines are recently available for an increasing number of Americans, their effect on the labour market and community health has not yet been fully realised, he said.
“Moreover, actions such as States' continued imposition of restrictions on businesses still affect the number of workers that can be hired as compared with February of 2020,” Trump said, adding that his latest proclamation may be extended if necessary.
Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters