US President Donald Trump has extended the freeze on the most sought-after H-1B visas by Indian IT professionals, along with other types of foreign work visas and green cards through March 31 to protect American workers, citing continued weakness in the U.S. labor market due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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, ensuring that his sweeping limits on legal immigration will remain in place when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on January 20. He said that the reasons for which he had issued such a restriction have not changed. The extension of the restrictions, which include a freeze on new H-1B and H-4 visas used by technology workers, continues Trump’s aggressive campaign to limit various types of immigration to the U.S. during his term. The continuation of the restrictions is the latest effort to bar the entry of immigrants to the US. Restricting immigration has been a focus of the Trump administration since its first days when it issued the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and it has continued into Trump’s final year in office as the White House uses the coronavirus pandemic as cover.
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.