H-1B workers who were in the U.S. in valid status when the June ban was announced were exempt from the ban and could procure a visa, and most of these individuals qualified for the dropbox, interview waiver application. However, even for them it has been a difficult period as U.S. consulates the world over are not fully functional due to COVID-19.
The current administration in the U.S. seems to be determined to make things difficult for businesses and immigrants even in the last 20 days in office. Ignoring data related to the unemployment of IT workers, according to reports, President Trump extended the June 2020 travel ban on new H-1B and L-1 workers (among others) and the April 2020 ban on almost all permanent immigrant categories. Both these have been extended until March 31, 2021. President Trump once again exercised his powers under section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act – this according to some critics is the use of a power to further personal ideology.
President Trump imposed these bans with a claim to protect American jobs and the extension of the bans are also based on this premise. However, there is ample data to show that the unemployment rate in computer occupations is very low. In fact, the overall unemployment rate is almost 50% of what it was at the time the bans were issued. In the 30 days prior to the June ban there were more than 600,000 computer related vacancies based on advertising data. Further, ironically, last week President Trump made several public statements about how well the U.S. economy was doing and the reducing rate of unemployment.
On October 1, 2020 a U.S. Federal Court exempted several employers, based on membership of organizations, from the June ban. In National Association of Manufacturers v. DHS, (the NAM Judgement) any H-1B or L-1 applicant (among a few others) who is either sponsored (as an exchange visitor) by, petitioned by, or whose petitioner is a member of, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is no longer subject to the June ban. The named plaintiffs include: the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, TechNet, and Intrax, Inc. This decision has been appealed by the government and the next hearing is on January 19, 2021.
As per the June ban, no new H-1B or L-1 visas could be issued unless they were for employees of employers covered by the NAM Judgement. This affected all the FY 2021 H-1B cap beneficiaries who could have started working as early as October 1, 2020 or soon after once their petitions were approved and visas were granted. These individuals could have been granted visas after December 31, 2020 when the June ban expired. However, they will now have to wait until the end of March 2021 before they can be granted visas.
H-1B workers who were in the U.S. in valid status when the June ban was announced were exempt from the ban and could procure a visa, and most of these individuals qualified for the dropbox, interview waiver application. However, even for them it has been a difficult period as U.S. consulates the world over are not fully functional due to COVID-19. For instance in India, visa appointments are not available for several months, even for dropbox applications.
Many expect that soon after the new administration assumes power on January 20. 2021 the new president will overturn the April and June bans. This is not a complex process and can be brought into effect very quickly. However, this author is of the opinion that the new administration will tread cautiously as overturning these bans might send a wrong message to the American public – one that shows that the new administration is not mindful of unemployment and threats to American jobs.
Though there is no basis to show that H-1B or foreign workers directly impact unemployment the perception will be based purely on presidential action. Very few will bother to analyze data to determine the veracity of the outgoing administrations claims about unemployment.
The writer is managing partner at Law Quest,an immigration and employment law firm