NEW YORK – Apart from the coronavirus pandemic, and some restrictions on new H-1B visas and issuing of Green Cards overseas till 2021, it’s turning out to be surprisingly good year for skilled immigrants and students on visas. For the first time since assuming office, President Trump had to reverse course, accept defeat on some immigration blocks he imposed through executive orders, and proclamations.
The recent reversal of course for the Trump administration in doing away with visa bans and threat of visa revocation, pertaining to H-1B visa workers and their dependents, and international students on an F-1 visa, has shown one thing clearly: concerted activism, lawsuits and appealing to common sense to a majority of Americans does work.
The end result: students and dependents won. Trump administration lost.
That’s solely the reason why new rules issued this week will allow dependents of H-1B workers stranded overseas to rejoin their family in the US as and when US consulates open, flights resume; and students allowed the leniency to stay on in the country if they are forced to choose only online classes.
For now, the federal regulation, 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G), which restricts the number of online credit hours that foreign students can count towards fulfilling the “full course of study” requirement to one class or three credits per semester, is in the background. That regulation, as pointed out by The Hill, may still come back to haunt students on a visa.
However, these are unprecedented times of living in the age of a pandemic, and the Trump administration did the right thing by not trying to have a prolonged legal fight over both the issues.
For legal immigrants on a visa, the year could end on a really high and ‘victorious’ note, if Vice President Joe Biden were to assume office in the White House – and keep the promises he’s making right now on his campaign trail. It’s another matter that Trump made these promises too, showing a glimpse of ‘heaven’ to immigrants on a visa, on his 2016 campaign trail.
Trump this week did make news on the immigration front himself by promising comprehensive reforms soon, that would include a path to citizenship for ‘Dreamers’ and merit-based selection of applicants for work visas.
It was Biden, however, who stole the thunder by issuing a statement from his campaign, which if it turns true would soon help most immigrants from India get a Green Card.
Biden’s comprehensive reforms, outlined as “Plan for Securing Our Values as a Nation of Immigrants” says that in the first 100 days, he would create a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants, including ‘Dreamers’, support expanding the number of H-1B visas, and importantly for those languishing in the Green Card pipeline, eliminate the limits on employment-based visas by country, “which create unacceptably long backlogs.”
“Currently, the number of employment-based visas is capped at 140,000 each year, without the ability to be responsive to the state of the labor market or demands from domestic employers,” the campaign statement said.
Biden promises to work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration “and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high US unemployment.”
“High skilled temporary visas should not be used to disincentivize recruiting workers already in the US for in-demand occupations,” Biden’s plan said. “An immigration system that crowds out high-skilled workers in favor of only entry level wages and skills threatens American innovation and competitiveness.”
It added: “Biden will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labor market and not used to undermine wages.”
Biden also wants to give an instant Green Card to international students who get a doctorate from the STEM field, an idea which had been mooted by Trump himself on his campaign trail.
“Biden believes that foreign graduates of a US doctoral program should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness,” his plan said.
Biden goes a step further and wants to also empower local administration in giving a Green Card to immigrants, which would help rural areas and those small towns facing a dwindling population, and in desperate need of professional and skilled workers.
“Biden will support a program to allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify there are available jobs, and that there are no workers to fill them,” the plan said.
Laura Huffman, President and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, speaking on behalf of the Metro 8 Chambers in Texas, wrote an opinion column in the Houston Chronicle this week, which argued not to suspend H-1B visas, as the Trump administration has done. With Texas now in play for Democrats, immigration issues does matter.
She pointed out that in the two years following the 2008-09 recession, 40 percent of net jobs created in the United States were in Texas, and immigrants helped drive growth.
“Today, with a daunting economic crisis on top of a devastating global pandemic, we face unprecedented challenges. But with proper leadership and smart, business-friendly policies, we can emerge prosperous,” she wrote.
For now, America’s loss of immigrants may be Canada’s gain ultimately, noted MarketWatch.
More US tech startups’ operations are likely to expand to Canada with the new immigration restrictions in place. People.ai, an artificial intelligence-driven sales management platform provider based in San Francisco, is opening an office in Toronto, which will allow its foreign workers to be relocated to Canada if they are forced out of the U.S., said founder and chief executive Oleg Rogynskyy, the report said.
In 2019, 22 venture-backed San Francisco Bay Area startups opened offices in Canada, more than the total number from 2009 to 2016, according to research by Inovia Capital, a technology-focused venture capital firm. Coursera and Postmates set up both offices and remote engineering hubs in Canada last year.
Through the first six months of 2020, 10 more startups were in the process of setting up offices in Canada, said Antoine Nivard, Inovia Capital’s principal, the MarketWatch report said.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)