Relief for techies: Freeze on H-1B visas, imposed by Donald Trump, expires

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on March 31, 2021

Biden may not extend it as part of the overall plan to change immigration laws

In a move that would bring cheer to Indian techies looking for a career in the US, the ban on H-1B visas is set to expire today. The ban was imposed by former President Donald Trump last year. The new administration under Joe Biden is expected to let the ban expire as part of the overall plan to change the immigration laws.

President Trump’s Travel Ban (PP 10052, the Travel Ban), which had sought to bar the entry of certain foreign nationals into the US on H-1B, L-1, and J-1 visas (including their dependants), was issued in June 2020 and was initially set to expire on December 31, 2020. But the travel ban was extended further until March 31, 2021.

The proclamation listed certain exceptions, but for the most part, the ban applied to applicants seeking to enter the US on a new H-1B, L-1 or J-1 visa. This Travel Ban largely affected those, H-1B cap-subject, FY 2021 applicants who had approved petitions but were unable to apply for H-1B visa stamping due to the ban’s restrictions.

“As a result, all the thousands of Indians who had been approved for H-1B business visas for FY 2021 and could have started working in the US from October 1, 2020, were ineligible to apply for H-1B visas.

They have been waiting for these past several months, ostensibly creating great loss to their sponsoring employers, who could have begun using their services and increasing revenue in the US,” said Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner, Law Quest, a global immigration and Indian employment law firm.

Though the Biden administration has not issued any update, extension, or guidance with regard to this ban as yet it appears that they will not extend the ban any further. Hence, unless President Biden announces anything today (US time) the Travel Ban will no longer apply or be in effect from April 1.

“This is good news for Indian IT companies (especially, as their US arms sponsor thousands of technology workers on H-1B visas) since this means that applicants who were subject to the travel ban would now be able to apply for stamping at the US consulates (subject to each consulate’s current processes, Covid related limitations, and procedures),” said Chothani. Sonam Chandwani, Managing Partner at KS Legal and Associates, said the imposition of freeze on the most sought after H-1B visa by the Trump-administration disrupted the lives of numerous Indian techies and US tech companies. “With this freeze expiring today it percolates a sense of renewed optimism among immigrants under the tutelage of Biden administration. Further, the recently proposed Bills facilitate unification of families and Indian workers accounting for a lion’s share in the H1b via holder category are likely to be major beneficiaries of the same,” Chandwani said.

Meanwhile, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced the completion of the H-1B cap lottery process for the fiscal year ended 2022. It has announced that it has received enough E-registrations to reach the H-1B quota of 85,000.

Published on March 31, 2021

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